In the past, we’ve posted here about the importance of monitoring your online reputation. That post was mainly about knowing and responding to what others are saying about you, or about your business, online.
There’s a whole other dimension, however, of online reputation management that doesn’t often get discussed.
It’s the dimension of how you, as both a professional and individual, behave online.
It may surprise you to know that some of the worst hits to your freelancing reputation occur, not as a result of what others say or do online, but actually as a result of what you say or do online.
Sadly, the reputation damage that you do to yourself can often be more severe than the reputation damage that others do to you.
When Caution Is Warranted
While it may make you feel better temporarily, caution is always called for if you are angry. Never publish a post on your own blog or a comment on someone else’s blog if you are mad. Also, avoid venting your anger in social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.
Remember, that it’s very hard to take back words said online. Even if you are able to delete your original words, they may still exist in the memory of someone’s computer or someone may have copied them down.
Likewise, you should be careful when whining about clients and projects (which could make you seem unprofessional, incompetent, or both) or when divulging extremely personal information.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will anyway. Deliberately saying something untrue or malicious about someone else could not only destroy your freelancing career, but it could make you liable for a number of crimes such as defamation of character.
Where to Be Careful
Here is a list of places where you should be extra careful about what you say (I’m sure that you can think of others):
- Posts on your blog
- Comments on your blog
- Comments on someone else’s blog
- Comments on a message board
A Word About Anonymity
Many people say things online that they would never say in person. In part, they become uninhibited because they believe that they can make anonymous comments online and no one will ever know it. Many also have the deceptive perception that if they don’t provide a link back to their own website and use a false name, then no one will ever know who they are.
They may be wrong! While there are many sites where you can leave a comment and not leave a visible link back to your website, someone who really wants (or needs) to know who left a particular comment can usually do it. Most internet service providers keep records of IP addresses used. While this information wouldn’t usually be accessed unless there was a crime, it can usually be traced.
Other companies (yes, even Google) are tracking the sites that you visit online and keeping records. The internet may not be as anonymous as you think.
Ways to Be Positive (and Nice) Instead
A good part of this post has focused on what not to do online. While that information is important, it’s not the whole story. You can also impact your professional online reputation in a positive way by making the right sorts of comments and posts.
Being known as someone who shares valuable information and resources that can be used by others will enhance your professional online reputation. Likewise, being known as someone who is considerate of others and who is helpful can only benefit your freelancing business.
A good way to make sure that what you post affects your professional reputation in a positive way is to ask yourself the following questions before you publish anything online:
- Is what I am about to publish accurate?
- Is what I am about to publish helpful?
- Is what I am about to publish interesting?
If you answered “no” to any of the following questions, it doesn’t necessarily always mean that you shouldn’t put the material online. However, it does mean that you should take a second look at what you are about to publish.
Being kind and helpful can go a long way towards enhancing your reputation.
What Do You Think?
Can what you say online come back to haunt you and your business?
Share your thoughts on this issue in the comments.