Have you taken a good look at your followers lately? Not you, cult leaders or you, Justin Bieber. I’m certain you have things well in hand. No, I mean you: the professional communicator; the casual tweeter; the compulsive Facebook updater; the Tumblr. Who’s following YOU?
Why, you might ask. My Klout numbers are skyrocketing; my Linked In cohort is feisty, engaged and hangs on my every utterance. Facebook’s been good to me. Well, it’s said we’re a reflection of the company we keep, so what cloud-based company are you keeping?
Social media have proven a revelation and a boon for me. I’m seeing increased traffic across my sites. My impressions are up. People are inquiring after my products and services. However, as I gain popularity I’m noticing a corresponding uptick in each of my Web-based beachheads. A lot of these, indeed, the majority, are folks either interested in my work, my posts or my services. I monitor these folks regularly and occasionally inquire after their well-being. Client contact, made unobtrusively, is good for business and makes a great impression, like a well-written note of introduction or thanks. Others, however, are spammers, fake sycophants and hangers-on interested in boosting their profile numbers by any means necessary. Even these are manageable, however; a well-placed block or spam notification will, in most instances, take care of them.
Problems arise with followers seeking an audience under the guise of fellow travelers. Hale and hearty hellos find themselves replaced with four-letter words of a most disreputable sort. Lewd and lascivious posts, sailor-blushing pictures, these can follow on the bad actor’s receiving entrée to your social media circle. These days it’s understood clients and employers regularly scour the interwebs checking for digital footprints. They want to see where their time and treasure are going and where its recipients have been. If the aforementioned content is what they can expect to find during a search of your online identities, do you think it might give them pause? Trigger a reevaluation of your ability to take on and effectively manage their business?
But wait, you say. How can I be held accountable for someone else’s behavior? That’s unfair! Perhaps, but potential clients and business partners needn’t be hamstrung by such considerations. The ubiquity of the Web is such that other potential partners are but a click away. Perception, as personified in the digital company you keep, is important. Your online identities are reflections and extensions of your physical self. As such, you are obligated to police them with the same effort and vigilance you reserve for other sensitive identifying information.
Be careful of your followers. Make judicious use of your block and spam buttons. They’re your friends! A few well-placed (or misplaced) posts, retweets and mentions could be the difference between a new client or partnership and an inadvertently mismanaged and mangled social identity. Watch your Web windows.
Benjamin Daniel is a communications professional with more than a decade of experience producing all kinds of media, conducting all kinds of campaigns and research and generally making a nuisance of himself in service to his clients. He blogs, tweets, and regularly updates his LinkedIn profile.