Don’t Ruin Your Social Media Reputation

Five things not to do or risk damaging your online reputation.

Aliza Sherman
5-minute read
Episode #61


I've been thinking a lot about the way some people abuse the online tools that many of us are trying to use for good things. Whether you are using the Internet and social media for business or for personal use, there are things that can get you into trouble that you might not anticipate.

What's the Right Way to Use Internet Tools?

Everyone has their opinions about the right and wrong ways of using the Internet and social media tools for communications, marketing, selling, you name it. I always hope we learn our lessons from past mistakes -- both our own and the ones we read or hear about -- however, I see people making the same mistakes over and over again. Different tools, same pitfalls.

How to Avoid Ruining Your Social Media Reputation

Here are 5 ways you can avoid damaging your social media reputation.

1. Avoid Spamming Status Updates

In the old days of the Internet, we all began to fall victim to email spammers who filled our email inboxes with irrelevant unsolicited sales pitches for strange and unneeded products. Today's version of spam comes in many forms, depending on the tool used.

On Twitter, spam can be blatantly commercial tweets -- particularly those repeated often and unnecessarily -- and they're made even more onerous when the spam is retweeted by others. Even worse are the spammy messages automatically and unwittingly sent out by people who sign up for new Twitter apps that broadcast tweets saying "I'm now using the BLANK application and it's GREAT!" Beware of apps that force out one of these promotional messages without giving you a choice of sending them or not.

When you hit people with in-your-face messages or a constant barrage of contact, you can turn a lot of people off quickly. Because the controls of social media tools are in the hands of each individual, anyone can unfollow or unfriend you in an instant. Annoying problem solved for them, a smaller and smaller audience for you.

2. Avoid Friend and Follower Mongering

For some reason, a lot of marketers have the wrong idea about friends and followers and think that the more friends and followers they have, the more effective they'll be at getting their message out there. But social media has turned Internet marketing and communications on its head, and it’s no longer a numbers game. Social media marketing's effectiveness comes from engaging in meaningful connections and conversations with fewer, interested and active friends, fans, or customers.

You can really damage your reputation and your company's good name if you start collecting friends and followers. That kind of indiscriminate numbers bolstering reflects badly on most people, especially when others realize that you don't really want to have a conversation with them but instead just want to broadcast to them or speak at them.

If you're using social media tools for your business, build your friends and followers slowly, strategically, and thoughtfully. Pay attention to your friends and followers, provide them with real value, and respond promptly when they contact you.

3. Don't Automate All Your Activity

Because many social media tools help facilitate communications and collaboration between people, there is the expectation that you are present and engaged when using these tools. There is certainly some wiggle room for automating certain things -- such as post-dated tweets on Twitter now and then or feeding your blog into your Facebook or MySpace pages, but in general, people are looking to interact with people using social media and not to be bombarded with automated messages.

There are many tools out there -- especially Twitter applications -- that allow you to automate your participation such as auto-following, auto-direct messaging when someone follows you, and other canned actions. But if you're all automation and are never really there, people will figure that out soon enough and will no longer pay attention to you.

4. Don't Fail to Vet

One of the continuing perils on the Internet-- that is even greater now that anyone has the ability to publish online-- is not knowing what information is credible or not. Misinformation can spread like wildfire across Twitter, Facebook and the like, and the last thing you want to do is get the reputation of being a conduit for misinformation. Take care when repeating what you hear from others in social media circles.

Before you repeat it, make sure you do your homework.

  • Consider the sources of the information to gauge their credibility;

  • Ask the person who made the statement that you want to repeat where they got their information;

  • Check other more reliable information sources, online or off, to see if the information pans out;

  • And make a careful determination if it's even in your best interest to disseminate the information.

It is too easy these days to repost, retweet, and otherwise repeat what you read online. You can quickly damage your own credibility by hitting the send, submit, or publish button no matter what the content. But when you post content from unidentifiable or potentially unreliable sources, the risk to your credibility skyrockets.

5. Don't Fail to Disclose Information

Another way to quickly lose credibility and damage your reputation is to fail to disclose things on your Twitter page, Facebook page, blog, or other social media site. What kinds of things should you disclose?

You can come under fire from fellow bloggers and users of social media for failing to disclose why you are posting and publishing about something. There seem to be increasingly high expectations that everyone in the social mediasphere should properly reveal their identities, their sources, and who is paying their bills.

For better or for worse, full disclosure seems to be the best way to go when communicating through social media.

That isn't to say that there are no situations in which you shouldn't take money for posting about a product or be a little mysterious or hide your identity for a good reason. But if others feel deceived or let down by you somehow, your reputation can plummet as people spread the word about what they feel you've done wrong.

Bottom Line

As I've said for years, on the Internet good news travels fast, bad news travels faster. With social media, bad news seems to break the sound barrier. With that kind of speed, it's better to be deliberate and thoughtful about how you use social media tools or risk putting your reputation on the line.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

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