How To Be Genuine and Nice in a Web 2.0 World (and Why It’s Important)

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
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Digg

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.


  1. says

    Well, it depends on which country you’re living in. The “politically correct” way of life is typically American or British. In other countries, it’s sometimes good to rant or swear: you’re getting some attention and affirming yourself. I’m not saying you should always rant about everything but some ass kick is OK from time to time ;-) You just have to do it with style and some valid arguments.


  2. says

    Very good article, many people don’t behave in real life either, but once you write it in Twitter, leave a nasty comment in a blog, etc. can’t be so easily forget.

  3. says

    This whole article is a bunch of…. just kidding. What say here is exactly right. We need to be promoting ourselves all the time in a way that doesn’t require us to do a bunch of cover up and back tracking later. Thanks for the great post!

  4. says

    Good Post Laura….
    It is really important that what we say online…This decides your reputation in the online world. If you are hurt by someone online then either don’t talk about it or reply to that person with great smile….

  5. says

    A simple rule of thumb… Don’t post anything online (or via Email) that you wouldn’t want your mother to read! If it doesn’t pass the “mother test”, then you shouldn’t post it.

  6. says

    I completely agree with you. The very things I stay away from is someone being negative or really putting someone else down. It’s no way to do business and people don’t forget negative people or the mad rants they might post on a blog, website, or any social media site.

  7. says

    Many people say things online that they would never say in person. Honestly, I was a bit shocked by this when I started blogging. Being behind a computer screen doesn’t negate the fact that there are real people on the other side.

    Thanks for the good reminders!

  8. says

    Being nice goes a long way in freelancing. You would be surprised because clients return to nice and helpful freelancers. I make sure I am always very nice and never rude to clients. It’s my policy.

  9. says

    nice reminder…It’s so easy to get caught up in our very human emotions not giving a second thought to the impression we may be giving those that don’t know us. At times, I know I have been guilty of saying/posting status messages in the heat of the moment. I just saw a few comments today made by others that I’m sure in time they may wish that that can retract. Hopefully, they won’t come back to haunt them. thanks again for the gentle, but necessary, reminder.

  10. says

    Great stuff, Laura!

    Good reminders like these are always helpful and important.

    One other (and I would hope related) thing that I frequently observe is the I-AM-THE-ONLY-EXPERT syndrome. It may not result in malice or slander, but I believe that people who boast — or otherwise try to come across as the only experts with the only true answers — are on the fast track to ruining their online reputation as well.

    If you’ve ever witnessed any of that, you know what i mean, and i won’t elaborate on this. If you haven’t . . . well, just give it time.

    At any rate, thanks again for the article and keep up the good work!

  11. says

    I like Mike Hayne’s comment about the “Mother test” — made me laugh! It’s so true though. Another outstanding post Laura, keep it coming, I always look forward to reading your work.

  12. says

    Thanks to all who commented!

    In some ways this post was obvious, in other ways it was rather difficult to write. I’m glad to see that I’m not that only one who values kindness and integrity online.


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