Managing Your Online Reputation - Quality Counts

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Engagement

Today’s post features a guest article by Cassie Doubleday and Mary Montserrat-Howlett who write about the importance of social media etiquette to communicate authentically. Both Cassie and Mary work for a leading web marketing agency based in Montreal, Canada. Drawing from their backgrounds in HR and Communications, they offer social media and content management consulting services to organizations, to help increase their web traffic and social presence through various online communication channels.

It’s About Quality not Quantity

It seems like social media has people confused about their online boundaries. While the principles of ‘real life’ socializing should be applied in the virtual landscape, there are liberties we grant ourselves ‘behind the screen’ that can make us act differently than we would in person.

Yes, people are becoming more familiar with social networking etiquette. However, due to the nature of these ever-changing online platforms, it’s important that we pay closer attention to how we are perceived online, as it can affect our reputations negatively, offline.

Whether in the real world or online, if you want a strong personal brand, you need to build quality connections. Here we will discuss ways to manage your online reputation through three of the most widely-used social channels.

Meaningful LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn is the #1 social networking site for businesses and professionals to strengthen connections and manage their reputation. But even in this professional online setting, there are etiquette rules that members break, often unintentionally.

The big ones include:

1. Over-Networking: LinkedIn is a great tool to grow your professional network, but accepting any and all connections, even from complete strangers, may actually diminish your legitimacy and cause some problems down the road.

As a rule of thumb, do not accept connections from people whom you can’t personally endorse. Focus on quality – not quantity – in your connection strategy.

2. Under-Participating: Conversations aren’t much fun when only one person does the talking. Likewise, your LinkedIn relationships won’t have the chance to flourish if you don’t participate in discussions!

LinkedIn allows you to join as many as 50 groups, so select a few that are relevant to your field and interests. By being selective, you can better manage your LinkedIn group discussions and make valuable contributions.

3. Sending Impersonal Invitation Messages: When reaching out to people on LinkedIn, a personal touch makes all the difference. Rather than sending a generic LinkedIn connection invitation, customize the request to communicate your genuine interest in strengthening your relationship with that person.

4. Not Giving or Asking for Recommendations: LinkedIn’s Recommendation option gives this network its professional edge, and asking for one is the norm. In fact, LinkedIn strongly recommends actively seeking out recommendations as they are the most trusted form of marketing.

Being endorsed by other professionals helps you become an influential force in your industry. Remember that recommendations are a two-way street. Take the time to recommend others that you are comfortable personally endorsing.

5. Not Adding a Profile Photo to Your Account: People always want to put a face to a name. When you send a request to connect on LinkedIn, and you don’t have a profile photo, the first question people will ask is, “Why is there no photo?”

To make your LinkedIn connections and activities worthwhile, invest time in making these interactions personal, educational and mutually beneficial.

Tweet Manners

Minding your manners on Twitter is a must for professionals. Everything on Twitter is public. Your Tweets can be read by fellow co-workers, clients and customers, whether they follow you or not.

Two good Twitter habits to develop:

1. Mean It When You Tweet It: The key to getting noticed on Twitter is to know your audience.

The best Tweeters are people who share useful and interesting information that is valuable to those who follow them. Needless to say, complaining about your job on Twitter or making insensitive comments is bad form and could get you fired.

Instead, focus on becoming an ‘authority’ on certain topics by staying abreast of current trends in your industry, and sharing them via Twitter. Be sure to inject some of your personality into your tweets; people are more likely to respond and retweet your tweets when you sound like a real human being, with real interests and points of view.

Take what you know and share it with your followers (and ask them to do the same!). This is a great way to initiate conversation on Twitter.

2. Focus on Quality not Quantity: You’ll notice the quality tip is a common and important theme throughout this article. For Twitter, following the right people and Tweeting the right stuff are extremely important. It’s about ensuring relevance.

Influential Twitter users have a diverse group of people that follow them and vice versa. It isn’t about their total number of followers or how often their content is retweeted; it’s about the deep engagement level these influencers have with their followers. How can you tell? You can see conversations taking place in their Twitter streams.

In terms of establishing your own influence on Twitter, the quality of what you post is far more crucial than how much you post.

The Facebook Cleanse

You’ve all heard of “cleanses” – body cleanse, mind cleanse, life cleanse…well, what about a Facebook cleanse? As we change and grow over time so do our interests and our relationships with others.

From that perspective, assessing your Facebook connections and online content on a four to six month basis makes sense.

Here are the three D’s for an effective Facebook cleanse:

1. Defriend: Sometimes you’ve just got to do it. In order to move on in the real world you have to move on in the virtual world too. There’s no reason to have over 1,000 friends (unless it’s for promotional purposes).

Again, quality over quantity is truer than ever when it comes to social media. People will go through your friend list, and assess you on the company you keep.

Tip: To avoid having to defriend anyone, think twice about whether Facebook is the appropriate social media venue to connect with certain people.

2. Delete Old Photos & Posts: Yes those memories are wonderful, but they could be inappropriate. Going through your photos and posts every couple of months helps keep you in check visually and professionally. And, now that Facebook is implementing the Timeline profile, it’s easier than ever!

You can manually go through all of your activity since first joining Facebook. If you see anything you feel (in your gut) shouldn’t be included – remove it or hide it.

If you don’t want to delete your photos forever, download them and keep them for your own private perusal on your home computer – they’re your photos anyway. As for the off-color posts, just remove them.

3. Divide Your Facebook Followers: Facebook has now made managing your connections easier by giving you the option to segment your friends, family and coworkers into separate groups – just like Google+. This means you can share your thoughts, photos and videos with the most appropriate group of people, not everyone. As a result, your sharing is much more interesting and selective because you’ve made it more relevant.

Make a Good Impression

As we spend more and more of our social lives online, mitigating our virtual habits to coincide with our real-life ones is paramount to managing our image and reputation on and offline.

Since the growing trend for recruiters and networkers is to research you based on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, showcasing your quality connections and contributions to these platforms will only reflect positively on you.

Go for quality versus quantity in terms of who you connect with, where you make these connections and what you share.

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