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In today's internet-enabled world, your 'reputation' is arguably more important than it has ever been in the past. Increasingly, information about you and your business will find its way online, and what people say about you online has the potential to become a significant asset or liability.
So it's no surprise that 'online reputation management' is a hot area. But as with SEO and social media, many mistakes are made.
Here are 10 of the most common...
Ignoring what people are saying about you online. It should go without saying, but what people say about you on the internet does matter. If you're a business owner, for instance, customer reviews on a site like Yelp can drive a lot of new customers your way, or send them running for the hills. So no matter what you do, simply ignoring your online 'profile' is probably not a good idea.
Trying to respond to every criticism. More often than not, people look at the big picture when assessing reputation. If nine out of 10 reviews of your business, for instance, are generally positive, the one negative review may not be all that important, especially if it makes claims that are inconsistent with the nine positive reviews. Therefore, responding to some criticism may not be worth your time, even if biting your lip is frustrating.
Astroturfing. Planting fake reviews rarely works. Individuals aren't stupid; most of the time, astroturf comments and reviews are easily spotted. And once they're revealed, they produce the exact opposite result than what was intended.
Treating all feedback the same. Not all feedback carries the same weight. The recommendation of one key person can be far more influential than an infinite number of anonymous criticisms. In short, feedback that is credible and constructive should be treated more seriously than feedback that is merely disparaging.
Being disrespectful. When responding to a criticism, be careful to maintain some decorum. An ad hominem attack, for instance, rarely ends well. Sometimes, it's hard to let a criticism stand, especially when you believe it's unjustified or the person posting it is portraying things inaccurately. But by fighting dirty, you only hurt your reputation. Instead, if you decide to respond at all, focus on responding substantively to the claims that you dispute, not necessarily the person.
Making threats. When somebody publishes information online that you think is patently false, your blood may boil. But making threats (legal or otherwise) is rarely a productive course of action. While this is not to say that libel or defamation should be ignored, much of the time, a lot of opinion is called 'libel' or 'defamation' when it really isn't by any reasonable legal standard. Of course, if legal counsel advises you that you have a valid claim, the best course of action is probably to simply pursue it (if you so choose) without making a big deal out of posturing.
Not knowing when to agree to disagree. Defending your reputation online can be a worthwhile and necessary effort. But there's a limit. If you try to resolve a dispute unsuccessfully, there usually comes a point when it's best to agree to disagree.
Focusing on the negative. When defending a reputation, it's natural to focus on the negative things people say about you. But oftentimes, when a person is invested in their own reputation or that of their business, it's easy to exaggerate how negative a comment is. Instead, take negative comments with a grain of salt and try to highlight positives. That's what most people are truly interested in anyway.
Treating 'online reputation' as distinct from 'offline reputation'. The internet has changed -- and is changing -- the realm of reputation. But it's impossible to segment reputation into online and offline. What you do offline will influence what people say about you online, and vice versa. That means there's really no such thing as 'online reputation management'. Rather, it will always be 'reputation management'. Period.
Forgetting that respect and trust is earned. 'Managing' your online reputation is important, but don't forget that respect and trust are not primarily the products of skillful management; they're a result of proving to others that you're fair, act with integrity and fulfill your commitments. Do those things and your reputation will help 'manage' itself. Manage your reputation without them and eventually your house of cards will crumble.
Photo credit: Shiny Things via Flickr.