The Internet makes our lives simpler in many ways. We can now conveniently send a letter via e-mail, have a teleconference with several friends at once on Google Hangouts, etc. However, along with this convenience comes the need to watch out for one’s digital reputation, because the Web is essentially a "public place" where one can get scrutinized, get talked about or make headlines at any given moment.
So, whether you are an individual blogger who makes a living blogging or you work for a company, you're probably concerned about the image you cut in the cyber space at least to some extent. Thus, here is my list of 5 online reputation slips to avoid, which could save you a lot of headache afterwards.
Annulling Other People's Values
They say that a good bartender never talks religion, politics or sports with his/her visitors. In these subjects, there's no middle ground and chances are you're going to hurt somebody's feelings. The same applies to other sensitive topics that can get people heated up.
Or course, if it's your private Facebook page, it feels just right to speak your mind there - your friends are likely the people who share your views. However, if you're a public figure or you represent a company in social media, you probably want to be more diplomatic.
For example, you probably shouldn't do what Bollywood actress Sonakshi Kapoor did: after India won an important cricket match, she posted a morphed image of a Pakistani player being hit by an Indian player on Twitter, which angered a lot of the star's Pakistani fans.
In fact, the best way to make sure you never hurt anybody's feeling is to do 2 things:
- Learn to really respect other people's views and values. Just live and let leave.
- Keep your private and you public lives separate. For instance, I know many people who use Facebook for private communication and lead their public lives on Twitter, Google+ and other networks.
Making People Feel Bad about Themselves
One of my favorite authors of all time, Fyodor Dostoevsky, once said it was easier for people to forgive those who did them harm, than to forgive those they harmed. People will forgive you if you slip, but they will not forget it if you make them feel like the bad guy.
So, avoid making people feel bad. You're not the voice of their consciousness - leave it up to the latter. To a certain degree, this is just another way of saying "the customer is always right". Well, sometimes the customer is plain wrong, and you shouldn't let it slide. But you shouldn't publicly bash or mock the customer either.
Others may feel that, God forbid, they do wrong by you one day, too - and get publicly humiliated. As my father usually says, "a cultured man is not the one who didn't spill that sauce, but the one who didn't notice".
Ignoring Negative Feedback
Sometimes people post defamatory stuff about other people (or a company) on the Web. How does one deal with negative feedback? Now, the worst thing you can in this case is just ignore it. So, don't do it, ever.
If your first instinct is to just let it be, it's because of your fear of losing the online conflict. Better think about this way: if you don't respond to the person slamming you on the Web, you may as well consider it a lost battle.
So, don't let your psyche trick you into believing the conflict is not worth dealing with (an exception is when your opponent is a complete loony). This is a typical trick our mind plays when it wants to save energy/take a shortcut.
Instead, just follow 2 simple rules - and your will be able to flip pretty much any situation in your favor:
- Never respond to criticism when you're angry. This could make you look like a troll yourself. Respond when you feel you can be clear, composed and argumentative.
- If you're really at fault, but your critic twists the facts - set the facts straight, admit your fault and then say how you’re going to deal with it.
Wondering what others say about you online? Here are some easy-to-use reputation management tools that let you stay informed 24/7/365.
Pretending to Be Someone You're Not
In plain words this is called lying. Sometimes people lie about who they are; sometimes they lie about how they feel or what they think about things. Again, people mostly lie out of fear. When we're little, we learn that lying is one of the ways to avoid punishment, and continue clinging to it as adults to avoid criticism.
But this behavior is often a time bomb that can go off at a very inappropriate moment. In the long run, honesty always works best, even if it may seem that it’s impossible or wrong to be honest in certain situations.
Well, of course there are some exceptions. There are situations when it’s much better to tell white lies (if you're really being pressured for an answer) or not to say anything at all. But we're talking rather about instances when you have a choice: to tell lies or to speak the truth.
Some things to encourage you to speak the truth:
- In most cases, your fear of being criticized is based on assumptions. You assume how people will react to you speaking the truth, but these could be just that - your assumptions.
- Besides, remember that other people's view of you is just their subjective vision of the situation, and even that tends to change with time. Think about whether their opinion will matter to you, say, in 3 year from now.
Being Afraid to Show Your Human Side
In a way, this drawback is linked to online lying, but is rooted in slightly different grounds. Thing is, some people do not understand the specifics of the Web, the social Web in particular.
Nowadays, much of the communication is happening on a more personal level than decades ago. This is something very appropriate these days. Before, seeing what the CEO of your rival company had for lunch was quite incredible, today it’d be plain ordinary.
So, as more barriers are taken down by the very nature of the Web, people expect to see more of your human side. A good example of how being transparent benefits your online (and offline) image is President Obama's election campaign. Now, if it's OK for the President to demonstrate his human side - it's OK for you, too.
So, I've just shared 5 reputation slips to avoid when taking part in different online communities. Do you agree these should be avoided? How else can one create a positive image for themselves online? It would be great to hear your thoughts in comments.
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