Social Media: Your Reputation on Steroids

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Crisis Management, Marketing, Reputation Management, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I was so dismayed tonight – but not surprised — to hear New York U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner’s press conference awhile ago coming clean about his posting of improper photos to various women on social media.

I really don’t want to talk about him. But the whole disgusting affair makes me want to share my thoughts with you about the importance of protecting your good reputation online.Keep your rep angelic

Now consider that my background is in public relations. I’ve spent my career counseling clients about how to communicate their value while maintaining their dignity and credibility. I’ve spent countless hours going over copy, press releases, speeches and other materials to be sure that the chosen words are in keeping with the client’s values and that there’s nothing that could be misinterpreted in a way that would cast doubt on the client’s reputation.

Let’s shift to the online world where we tend to dash off emails and texts and blog posts and where we feel more relaxed than in the more formal communications of yesteryear. Beware. It only takes one off-message tweet or blog post to cast doubt on your positioning, message or culture. Those messages last forever online.

Be in the moment but don’t be impulsive. Take a minute or two to re-read what you’re about to send out to the universe. And listen to your gut. If anything gives you a little raising of the hackles on the back of your neck – EDIT!! Make sure that everything you write is in keeping with your mission, with your audiences’ expectations and your own self respect.

You know, when I am deciding whether to follow someone on Twitter, I go to their profile and read about a dozen recent tweets to see if they have anything to contribute to me and my Twitter stream. Recently I performed that ritual when a new local brand selling a family and environmentally-friendly product followed me.

I scrolled through their previous day’s tweets and found that they re-tweeted a tweet that included a profanity. That tweet communicated bad judgment and lack of sophistication in their marketing. It really turned me off.

But social media marketer that I am, I felt compelled to share a bit of well-meant advice. I sent a direct (private) message that said: Thnx for following. Congrats! Friendly tip…Keep curse words out of your tweets and RTs. It’s counter to your brand image.

I haven’t had a response, but hope they took it in the positive spirit that was meant. My message to you is to make sure to protect your reputation online with every tweet, update and post. We can be open, authentic, and personal. But it’s crucial that we understand where to draw the line online. If you put it out there, it’s out there forever. Make it worthy, make it valuable and do your best to share your finest attributes.


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5 Responses to “Social Media: Your Reputation on Steroids”

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This raises an interesting question – are we responsible for other people’s profanities on their own media – this is a particular problem on facebook (which incidentally, I don’t use for business and which I personally don’t swear on anyway) – but others do etc.

You’re right, Peter. It’s an interesting question. I don’t think we can be responsible for profanities that people post in their own media. But when it comes to our own media, I believe we should take whatever steps we can, add filters where possible, etc to help assure that the level of conversation is up to the standards we’ve set for our companies – and online, even for ourselves personally. What I may say to you when we’re in a personal conversation offline isn’t necessarily what I want to see in print in perpetuity. Of course, when we ‘Like’ or RT something profane that another has posted, and share it with our stakeholders, we’re condoning it in a way and then we own it. This may come off as straightlaced, but when it comes to our reputations online I think we have to be hyper-aware of how easy it is to end up with unexpected consequences. Thanks so much for your good comment.

I definitely agree that it is very important for companies to ensure that they are being portrayed on social networks in a way that conforms with their brand’s ideals- this is an absolute given. I will concede though, with today’s social media being heavily automated (for instance, automatically tweeting RSS feeds and or a certain person’s tweets) and also since social media responsibilities tend to be delegated to interns and new employees (though this is not always the case, it is seen quite frequently) we should take a tweet or a Facebook post that seems like an outlier with a grain of salt. If the company is smart they will delete the post as soon as it is caught and try to mitigate the situation, if not then they are stuck with a piece of self-published press that contradicts their brand image.

Trevor, thanks for your balanced thinking on this. Don’t get me started on tweeting interns!!

I am a new participant in the world of blogging.

But having focused on interpersonal communication professionally for three decades and would like to add that we bring 100 percent of the content of our minds into every moment of our lives.

While only part of our thinking, attitudes and values are actively engaged in any specific moments, all of what we cognitively and emotionally entertain is there all the time. In any moment we become too lax, distracted or emotionally reactive, it may carelessly slip out.

Therefore I suggest that anyone paying close attention to that; the seed of all communications, is far less likely to use poor judgement in blogging, tweeting, interacting on Facebook, LinkedIn or anywhere else – public or private.

I really like your blog and great taste in music!

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