Social media, a very common tool used by millions of people worldwide, can be considered a two-edged sword. It can be wielded as a weapon with the power to destroy a reputation or it can be a tool to defend and build one. Results are often heavily dependent on the skill and intent of the user. Many may not know how to use it properly or become careless of the damage that can be inflicted, often inflicting that harm on their own reputation.
People look to social media to find information on individuals, businesses, or schools for a whole host of reasons. What is seen on social media can have a significant impact on reputation since those searching often make a judgment based on what they find.
Due to the fact that many feel unguarded or less guarded about what they say or do online, people often comment or post things that can reflect poorly on their image without really giving thought to how this might have negative impacts for them in the future. It is important to have a consciousness regarding the correlation between what you put online and perceived image. So how can you enhance your online reputation using social media.
Every action you take online is building your reputation—good or bad. This is not simply confined to your web pages, posts, blogs, or comments, but everything you like, share, pin, and retweet also adds to the picture of who you are and who people perceive you to be. If you want people to see that you are thoughtful, kind, compassionate, intelligent, sophisticated, professional—whatever it may be—your social media content should be carefully chosen to reflect that.
On the reverse edge of that sword, if you are posting things that are offensive, in poor taste, unprofessional, or even illegal, consider how that will reflect poorly on your reputation–perhaps even doing irreparable damage. It is not unheard of for even high-profile individuals such as actor Alec Baldwin or sports analyst Curt Shilling to be fired and/or have long built reputations ruined over things they posted on social media.
If you have any doubts about how a post may be perceived or if it could reflect poorly on you as a person, ask yourself these questions: What does this say about me? Is this how I want to be perceived? Would this be offensive to anyone, including a current or potential employer? How will this reflect on my professional career or the company I work for? If you are unsure of the answer, don’t post it.
There will be those on social media sites that are in fact offensive, hurtful, or even downright rude and obnoxious, causing us to react with disgust. Though it may be a valid reaction, stop and consider your words carefully before making a reply, or even rethink whether making a reply is necessary at all (will it lend anything positive to the conversation). Being drawn into nasty confrontation or a social media “war” with another will only have negative impacts on your reputation. Even if you feel that you are in the right or have a valid point, acting in a manner that can be perceived as confrontational, quick-tempered, defensive, or argumentative will not only reflect poorly on your image, but it is unlikely to convey the message you intend.
What if you have previously posted some content that you now regret? What if there has already been some damage to your reputation? Here are some steps to take to begin the repair process:
By discussing some of the pitfalls of social media, it might seem like a minefield that must be delicately trodden. So, what is some content you should post in order to improve or build a good reputation?
Comment on topics or professional fields that you are knowledgeable about. If you have reliable information or valuable insights on various subjects, share it in a way that can be helpful or piques the interest of others.
Share content that creates conversations. It’s fine to post content regarding interesting personal experiences such a travel, big life events, etc., but vary your content to include others in the conversation. It could be something thought-provoking or a topic that others can identify with.
Find and share positive stories—successes, bravery, acts of kindness. Become known as someone who is in the habit of relating good things and creating a positive online environment for others.
Pictures really are worth 1000 words. Pictures can be very helpful in reinforcing your image. If, in real life, you wanted to be taken seriously as a professional businessperson, would you roll out of bed and go to work ungroomed and in your pajamas? Not likely as you know that this look would not portray the professionalism you want to convey. In the same way, you can share written content on social media to help craft an image, but your pictures should match the message you are trying to convey.
Be likable. Linked closely with being authentic, your online reputation is very much tied to your likeability. Before you post on social media, flip the situation in your mind and ask yourself how you would honestly feel about someone who said or shared this. Would it make them more likable, earn your respect, make you want to hear more, or make you want to unfollow? Those who have a pattern of rude and obnoxious content online quickly lose followers, the interest of others, and a reputable image.
Completely disappearing from social media or only participating infrequently is a personal choice, but not being present means nothing progressive is happening to help you reach your goal. If you want to improve your online reputation, put in the effort to make it what you would like it to be.