Social channels provide tremendous opportunities to use your voice and find others with similar interests. Being on key social channels also makes it easy for customers, networkers and recruiters to find you and see if your education, skills, interests and goals match with their needs. However, careful consideration and management of one's reputation is imperative.

Will customers, networkers or recruiters like what they see on your social channels? Or do you look like a clown; or worse, exhibit signs of poor judgment, morals and ethics? When posting on blogs and responding to comments by others:

  • Share your perspectives, but stick with your areas of expertise
  • Share meaningful and relevant content or comments.
  • Think before you tweet and pause to consider whether your post or comment is appropriate.
  • Respect sensitive, private, proprietary and confidential information.
  • Feel free to disagree or offer an alternative perspective, but do so in a respectful manner.

Other strategies to manage your online reputation include:

  • Consider keeping personal and professional lives separate. Go ahead and connect with your crazy cousins on Facebook, but consider reserving LinkedIn for your professional connections. Think about whether you want your college buddies, or boisterous family members, weighing in on serious professional discussions you’re having on LinkedIn.
  • The essence of social networking is at least a bidirectional flow of information. One puts their reputation at risk when they only push (especially their own) content and don't listen. Instead, view your content as starting or joining in on a conversation. Share relevant content that others post and respond to comments to your posts. Investments are required for friendships in the real world as well as the virtual world.
  • Recognize that word-of-mouth referrals and complaint boxes have gone online. Leverage this freely available information and Google your name periodically to see what comments are being left on any number of social sites. Visit your company's page on Yelp and other sites that collect customer feedback and tips. Search your organization's name and handle on Twitter to see who is mentioning you in their tweets and what they have to say.
  • Listening to what is being said on social channels also provides a bit of intelligence that may prompt you to adjust your strategy, service offerings or partners. In addition to capturing what is being said about you or your organization, you can also learn what is being said about your industry, suppliers, business associates or competitors.

Lastly, if you assign responsibility for management of social media to others within your organization, clearly communicate your expectations and provide guidelines to help them effectively engage with customers and build strong online relationships.

The 20-something intern may know their way around social channels, but do they really know you, your brand or how to ensure perception meets reality? Reduce the risk to your reputation by clearly communicating your rules for engagement and defining what it acceptable and unacceptable online behavior by those who engage on your social channels or on behalf of your organization.