Your Own Worst Online Enemy
Seth Godin recently wrote a post Who’s telling you the truth about your online personal marketing. As a good place to start, he focused on the picture you choose and advised that you ask a handful of trusted confidants to tell you what they think.
I like to think that we’re beyond caring whether someone’s picture makes them look “dumpy” or not. Although I have to admit that he does have a point about choosing your picture carefully. The net is littered with mug shots that do no one any favors.
Here are some additional mistakes that I see otherwise intelligent people make everyday.
Curmudgeon or jerk? – We all know curmudgeons. They are the wise and seasoned professionals with a slightly testy attitude, but brilliant ideas. They can be fun to work with as long as they have all of the qualifications, namely, wisdom and experience in addition to biting wit.
Unfortunately, unless you have an established reputation on the web, biting wit generally comes across as rude. Just think how many misunderstood emails you’ve seen in your career. The sender thinks they are being clever but the recipient is offended and the conversation turns into a series of flame mails. Comments are just as easily misunderstood on the web, so better to save your clever remarks for face to face interactions.
Offensive Material – I just removed someone from my LinkedIn connections and Google Mail connections because the picture he used on Google Mail was of the lower half of a woman’s torso in lingerie. I immediately blocked him from my Google Mail because I often use my computer in public. I do not want anyone seeing that on MY system. I also immediately removed him from my LinkedIn connections, but it wasn’t because I thought the picture was offensive. (Although it was.) It was because it was just plain dumb to use a picture like that, and that’s not the type of people I want to connect with.
Poorly thought out responses – Every interaction you have on the web is public to some degree. I’m not sure why people don’t understand this. I belong to a few online networking groups where I continually see people ask and answer questions as though they were at a Friday night gripe session with their buddies. Many of these people are actively looking for new opportunities. Others dash off responses to questions or on blog posts that are not well organized, poorly worded or riddled with typos. Now, why would I want to contact these people about a potential opportunity?
Stupid questions – OK, I know, there are no “stupid questions.” But you have to admit that some come close. For example, someone on LinkedIn recently asked why only marginal looking people post their photos. She wondered if the good looking people were afraid that posting their photo would cause them to get too many people wanting to date them.
Quick note to this individual. Assuming you aren’t one of the “marginals” like the rest of us, you only get 10 or 15 good years at best. Better start working on that personality now.
Blanket statements, especially political – I believe in civil political discourse. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to exist on the web, especially in an election year. I am keeping an eye on another one of my long time contacts who has been making strange political statements in his LinkedIn “what are you working on now” field.
I don’t care what political leaning you are, unless you are a political blogger, I would recommend saving political ideas for offline conversations where a real conversation can take place. This is especially true if you are looking for new opportunities. No sense in alienating half of your audience with a strongly worded statement about a particular candidate or elected official.
Weird hobbies – It’s great to enjoy things other than work. You may or may not want to comment about these things on the web though. One Facebook listing I saw had a hobby listed as “occasionally drinking too much.” I suspect the person was trying to be cute, but why would you say this? As a potential employer it’s a yellow flag at the very least.
The web is a great way to establish a reputation whether you are looking for new business or a new job. Keep your online reputation spotless by imaging that everything you write will wind up in the hands of someone you want to do business with or for. If it diminishes your image or could be misunderstood in any way, don’t post it.