People make judgments about you based on what they can find about you on the internet. This means the things you post (and what others post about you) on social media can have a real impact on key areas of your life, such as your career, your education, your finances, and even your relationships.
Luckily, there are several ways to safeguard your online reputation and put your best foot forward on social media.
1. Be your best self online
If you’ve ever spent any time on social media, then you’ve witnessed people calling other people names, threatening them, and generally being horrible. While it’s easy to condemn people who do these things, you shouldn’t assume you could never fall into this pattern of behavior yourself.
This is because the anonymity of online interactions prevents you from seeing how your words and actions affect the person or people you’re communicating with. As a result, you are free to step outside the bounds of propriety because there are few or no consequences to doing so.
To avoid acting badly online and preserve your online reputation, you should always think twice about a post before you publish it. Ask yourself: Is what I’m saying kind, necessary, helpful, or true?
If what you’re posting doesn’t meet these requirements, then don’t post it. This is because once you’ve posted something, it’s out of your hands. Even if you immediately regret your post and quickly delete it, someone else might have already taken a screenshot of it, which they can then spread across the internet.
2. Build your brand
Your social profiles are often where people will first encounter you. Therefore, if you’re looking for a new job, new clients, or a new romantic relationship, it’s important to ensure you’re making the best possible first impression.
One way to do this is to create a compelling personal brand and then use it consistently. This means using the same profile photo, colors, and messaging across all your social channels. This way, when someone finds you on Facebook, they’ll instantly recognize you when they encounter you on LinkedIn.
When coming up with your brand, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your strengths?
- What do you have to offer that other people don’t?
- Who is the audience that you are trying to reach?
For example, if you’re looking for a job in finance and the audience you’re trying to reach is hiring managers at financial institutions, then you’d make sure all your profiles contain a brand statement that summarizes your unique value proposition and a short bio that tells the story of your career journey. In the bio, you’d highlights your skills and explain the qualities that make you the perfect candidate for an open position.
Once you’ve done that, you need to ensure that every post on your timeline reflects well on you and promotes your brand.
3. Clean up your profiles
Have you ever been so impressed with someone you’ve heard about, only to look that person up on Twitter and see tweets that make you rethink your previous opinion? This is what happens when you aren’t careful about what you post.
Social posts don’t necessarily have to contain offensive jokes or vicious political diatribes to be off-putting. They might just be off-topic for what you are known for. For example, a person who’s built his brand as a chef will dilute his brand and disappoint many of his followers if he starts trashing a recently released movie instead of providing the cooking tips his followers expect.
To ensure your social media activity doesn’t unintentionally damage your reputation, you need to thoroughly audit your social timelines to see if there’s anything in your posts and comments that might detract from the image you’re trying to project.
Some things to watch out for include:
- Inappropriate photos of you or other people
- Poor grammar and spelling
- Complaints about your boss or coworkers
- Evidence of drug use or excessive alcohol use
- Articles you haven’t vetted for truthfulness
- Angry responses to other people’s comments or posts
- Too much personal information
If you find any of these items on your timelines, then you need to delete them. While this is easy to do if you are the one who posted the content, it’s much harder to do when a post was made by someone else.
In those instances, you’ll need to contact the original poster and ask them to delete the post or untag you so that the content doesn’t appear on your timeline. However, there’s no guarantee they will do so.
4. Choose your friends carefully
On social media (just like in real life) people will judge you for the friends you keep. So, if you’re tempted to follow a controversial figure on social media, you should know that a certain segment of your audience might unfriend you or decide not to follow you because of that association.
You should also be wary of accepting friend requests from strangers. Just like in the offline world, you wouldn’t instantly trust some random person on the street. Therefore, you should think twice before accepting friend requests from people you don’t already know.
To vet new friend requests, you should go to the requester’s profile and see how the person is connected to you and what kind of content they post. Have you ever met them? Are they a friend of someone you trust? Will a connection with this person help or harm your online reputation? Once you are armed with this information, then you can safely make the decision to admit that person to your circle of social media friends—or not.
5. Don’t get into arguments
Nobody wins an online argument. Even if you “win” the fight, you’ll still look bad for engaging in it in the first place.
To keep your reputation spotless, you need to find a way to steer clear of online arguments. A good rule of thumb is to avoid posting about or commenting on polarizing subjects.
If someone does decide to pick a fight with you, your best response is no response. Simply mute that person and move on.
However, if the person threatens you or otherwise attacks you in a way that violates the social platform’s terms of service, you should report the person to the platform.
6. Stay active
Is your Twitter profile completely empty? Or worse, does it only contain two or three ancient posts? Sometimes, it’s better to not have an account at all than it is to own one that you’ve obviously abandoned. This is because unused accounts make you look careless or like you’ve given up, both of which are negative character traits.
So, if you’re going to sign up for a social media account, make sure you take the time to manage it. This means posting regularly and engaging in conversations about topics you want people to associate with your brand.
A good way to stay active (and keep tabs on the online sentiment about your name) is to listen for your name online—especially on social media platforms. You can do this by setting a Google alert that will notify you whenever someone mentions you or by routinely searching the internet for your name.
This will enable you to join in discussions, respond to questions or complaints, and proactively defend your good name against any negativity.
7. Suppress negative content
Once you’ve gone to the trouble of cleaning and polishing your social media presence, you don’t want to let someone else sully your good name by posting something negative about you. Negative content often gets more clicks, which makes search engines rank these results higher in the search results. This means that more people will find these items when they search for your name.
So, if you’ve asked someone to remove an unwanted or unflattering post and they’ve refused, then your best solution is to suppress this information using reputation management techniques.
Reputation management involves creating new, factual content about you that Google will rank highly. This new content pushes down the old, negative content off the first page of the search results, beyond which few people ever look.
For more information about reputation management, just give us a call. We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation about your unique reputation situation.