Self-harming online


It’s a special kind of hurt when you do it to yourself, especially online. Here are several reliable approaches to stepping onto the virtual garden rake:

1. Post when angry or drunk

Saying anything online is like squeezing out toothpaste – it’s a messy business if you need to push it back in for any reason. Best NEVER to post in the heat of the moment, when angry or tired, or if you have alcohol under your belt.

2. Suppress comments on your blog which are contrary to your own

So somebody disagrees with your worldview – get used to it. But don’t moderate out comments on your blog or elsewhere from people who have respectfully taken the time to offer an alternative position or have challenged you on a point. It’s a a sign of weakness to marginalise dissenters.

3. Say horrible things online while hiding behind a pseudonym

Hi zingerman666 – sooner or later we’ll work who you really are.

4. Post a fake a review for your own business

Tempting yes, but now also illegal. Don’t go there.

5. Post a negative review for a competitor business

Also illegal. Furthermore you run the risk of being outed (say goodbye to your professional integrity).

6. React angrily to a a negative online review

When you respond to a review it’s not really intended for the person who posted it – they’re long gone. It’s really for all of the people in the future who will read the original review and then your response to it. An angry retort is not what potential new customers want to see.

7. Don’t respond to your customers on social media

Don’t ignore genuine customer enquiries, questions or complaints which have been posted through a social media platform. If you can’t be responsive across all of your social media touch-points, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

8. Give your social media login credentials to someone who needs to ‘reset your account’

You ‘reset your account’ because you received a message from someone who you’ve never met and they asked you to. Now your Twitter wall is full of weight reduction products and you can’t login to stop it.

9. Allow an ex-employee to take control  of your social media accounts

You fired the person who looks after your social media media. Now they’ve left the building with the login credentials to all of your social media accounts. Oh dear, this could get nasty…

LinkedIn’s Underbelly

Let me say this upfront: I like LinkedIn – I use it frequently because it delivers tangible professional value to me. It’s my uber online calling card, a searchable rollerdex and a cross-industry research tool rolled up into one; and the live status updates from my 500+ connections for market intelligence purposes are profoundly useful.

But here’s what I don’t like about LinkedIn. They’re a law unto themselves; a private company based in a faraway land with the ability – and sometimes the will – to arbitrarily suspend or delete your profile account. It has happened to me.

Many people fail to realise that their profile information which may sit on an online networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook is not their property. Yes, it’s your profile, but it’s not legally yours. If LinkedIn for instance were to delete or suspend your account you would have no legal redress. And where your account goes your profile information and network follows, resulting in immediately reduced online outreach and online visibility.

Some of us have spent years building up our profiles and our network of professional connections; for many it has become an important business asset. But again, an asset I have only limited control over.

LinkedIn suspended my account without notice because they claimed I owed them money. I ran some ads as a trial and authorised $100 to come out of my credit card (as an aside the click-thru results were fairly ordinary). But LinkedIn kept running the ads after the $100 had been exhausted. By the time I had worked out what was happening, several hundred dollars worth of advertising had been spent. LinkedIn asked for the money, and I replied by email as to what the situation was – pleaded my case – and heard nothing back. Then one day shortly after my account is suspended. Talk about rotten customer service: no discussion, no notice, no compromise. Just a big heavy hand flicking the off switch.

This is the kind of service you would expect from a monopoly – which is exactly what LinkedIn and Facebook have become for millions in their respective categories of professional and social networking. These are monopolies not in the traditional sense of there being no other choice, but rather they have each acquired the critical mass necessary to render other online networking options as practical non-options.

Yes, I paid the money and they restored my account – I had no (real) choice. But now I know who’s really in control here – and it isn’t me. As a professional I would advise anyone to maintain at least one other strong online presence aside from LinkedIn – a personal website or a blog would suffice from a search perspective. After all, professional online invisibility, whether by accident or design, is not a desirable thing these days. And I would also regularly export my full network contact data for safekeeping – just in case.

LinkedIn contact export option


Online Reputational Capital

Reputation – so hard to build up, and oh so easy to lose. Your reputation online greases the wheels of business and personal networking – it’s capital, it’s currency, it helps get things done – so look after it.

Take one example, online business reviews. As these become more visible within search results, business owners are starting to tune into their importance for lead generation purposes; a typical first reaction to this new dynamic is to want to give your own business a shining review (and/or diss a competitor). My advice is to avoid doing either. Firstly, it’s just not professional; secondly, the risks are too high; if you get found out – and chances are that you will –  you’ll start eating into any store of reputational capital you may have built up over time. People talk, online amplifies talk, and online brand stains are indelible. This in turn will make it more difficult to engage meaningfully in various forms of social media and online networking – both for you and for your brands. Here are my guidelines for online business reviews:

– Never write reviews for yourself.
– Never bad-mouth a competitor.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews.
– Never incentivise anyone for a positive review.
– Post positive reviews for those businesses around you that do good by you.

I’m not a spiritual person, but I do believe in online karma.

Illustration by mushon