How NOT to Blow Your Social Media Reputation

We’ve all heard the social media horror stories. Somebody tweets they hate the city where one of their clients works or somebody pokes the wrong person on Facebook.

It would be nice if keeping your social media reputation safe was simply to avoid the obvious mistakes. Unfortunately there are subtle things you may be doing that will harm how people see you online.

Here are some things that you ought to keep in mind.

Do Not Spam Status Updates

When it comes to social media and your reputation, you want your status updates to be meaningful and helpful. That means you have to think about your audience, the people who are following you and the people you want to attract.

What do they like? What do they need? Do they have certain problems you can help solve? Here’s a short list of things you can share:

  • Links to articles – any time you are reading an online article and think somebody in your audience might like it, share it.
  • Links to other bloggers – helping promote other people is a great way to build your reputation.
  • Links to lists – share how-tos and list-like articles that may give steps on how to solve a problem.
  • Jokes – laughter is the buffer against the hardships of life, so sharing jokes is a great way to get people to loosen up and laugh if they’re having a hard day.
  • Quotes – Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are really good for sharing quotes, especially quotes on leadership, success and humor.

Even if you are as famous as Charlie Sheen, you don’t ever want to talk consistently about yourself. Otherwise you’ll come across as a creep.

Even though Sheen gets a lot of attention, it’s not the right kind. Self promotion should be limited to very, very small social share. The rest should be dedicated to helping your audience.

You can occasionally share links to your products, affiliates and website. How many? A good rule of thumb is to use the 80/20 principle, which says 80 percent of what you share online should be for helping other people and 20 percent should be for self promotion.

In other words, one self-promotion share for every four non self-promotion share. If that sounds like too much self-promotion, then shift it to a 1 in 10 ratio, especially if you tweet or post a lot.

Stop Mongering for Friends and Followers

There was a time when a standard strategy for picking up more followers was to simply follow as many people as possible, hoping they follow you back. In fact, a few years ago Twitter allowed you to automatically follow anybody back who followed you.

Some people scrambled to follow all the power users who were doing this. But in the end it hurts what’s truly unique about social media…being social.

I have a lot of followers and follow a lot of people, and let me tell you, it’s hard to be social with that many people. It takes time, but I’m committed to providing a good, social experience with my followers, because quality is always better than quantity.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about high-profile users like Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt un-following thousands of people. Why? Their Twitter streams were chaotic and it was impossible to engage with users properly. Besides, spam was killing their DM boxes.

Now, Jesse Newhart provided an approach that allows you to interact with tens of thousands of follower using TweetDeck. But if you have to create a short-cut to deal with that many people, shouldn’t you evaluate why you are following that many people to begin with?

What’s the ideal number of people you can follow? In a 2009 report on Twitter, Sysomos suggested that magic number is about 150. Anything over that gets out of hand.

And if you think about it, you don’t want people following you because you followed them. You want people to follow you because you have a reputation for sharing great content.

Avoid Automating Your Social Activities

Automation is the opposite of being social. You are saying “I am too busy to respond to be social.” And before you think I’m throwing stones, I am very busy and do not have the time to respond to every message I have. But I try, even if it’s super short.

Some social media gurus will disagree with me and say that there are no rules on how to use social media, and even if there were, they were meant to be broken. There is also great evidence by’s pre-canned Twitter message campaign that automation can get you attention.

So should you automate? If you are thinking about it, you definitely need to be strategic and think about how you are going to make automated messages authentic, because in the end authenticity is the name of the game.

Never Share Something You Don’t Know

Speaking of automated messages, some social sites like Triberr automatically send out a tweet with a link through your Twitter handle every time someone in your “tribe” publishes a new post on your blog.

If you belong to five tribes and have ten people in each tribe with a total audiences reaching half a million eyeballs, that’s an attractive benefit for joining. It multiplies for sure!

However, you may end up sending some tweets on content that you may not support. Someone in your tribe might go off on someone else whom you support and then you look like you’re supporting the rant, which could hurt the relationship.

Even if you don’t automate but are guilty of simply re-tweeting something you haven’t read, again, you may be supporting something you might not have if you’d read, watched or listened to it carefully. You may be spreading untruth. Don’t do it.

Always Disclose

There’s a legal and moral reason why you should always be open with your relationships when it comes to reviewing products or talking about companies, or sharing anything for that matter.

The legal reason is that on December 1, 2009, the FTC passed a law that stated all bloggers must disclose their relationship to products and advertisers or pay a penalty. This includes statements made on other social sites like Twitter or Facebook.

The moral reason is that, like I mentioned above, social media is all about being authentic. It could be as simple as telling people why you are sharing what you are sharing, even if it’s not a paid endorsement.

Besides, most advertisers will tell you that if you make a statement like “download this ebook for free” people are going to ask “why is it free?” Good copy always explains the “why” behind a “what” and it will go along way to building credibility with people.

Think Before You Share

Social media can encourage bad habits and bring the worst out of us, like flying off the handle when you are mad or self-promoting in bad taste.

One particular case involved a journalist who wrote a story for the New York Times on a court house shooting in Las Vegas where two people were killed. The journalist tracked the story on Google and when it reached the number one spot, he captured the screen and shared the image with this tweet:

The glory screen­shot. Look what’s the top Google News story right now.

For what may be a short-lived shot at fame, that journalist did something very cold, especially when two families were grieving the loss of loved ones.

Even when it comes to commenting on blog posts, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Going off on someone will make you look immature.

Even the very scientist Richard Hawkins is not immune to getting into a flame war, so be careful and control your passions when you are using social media.

Socialize Like a Bartender

Not too long ago a friend of mine told me about a bartender he met who was very cool and very wise. Even though his bar was in a small town where most people liked to drink light beer and fight, he ran it like it was an elegant Manhattan wine house.

After visiting the bar several times, my friend was struck by the lack of fights. Surely with his clientele there would be more fights. So my friend asked and the bartender said, “We never talk about religion, politics, race, gender, nationality or sexuality.”

Good advice for social media. Those topics can be lightening rods for controversy and really get under a lot of people’s skins. The Richard Hawkins case above is a good example.

I’m not suggesting you don’t have any convictions when it comes to these topics, I just think that when it comes to social media you should stay away from them like a good bartender does.

Speaking of bartender, Gini Deitrich compared a good social media brand to a good bartender:

The bartender we go to see because he knows our name, he sincerely seems to care about us, he listens to our stories. He knows all about the neighborhood and can inform us on all sorts of matters. He knows what we drink. He gives us a free one every now and then. He makes us feel welcome.


Social media can help you succeed in gaining attention and building a good reputation. It can help you meet people you may not normally have access to. But like a lot of things in life social media can come back and bite you if you don’t use it right.

What other ways can the wrong use of social media hurt your reputation?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions.

73 thoughts on “How NOT to Blow Your Social Media Reputation”

  1. James Artre says:

    Great post, John.

    I especially relate to the part about not posting something you don’t know about. I really am displeased when someone shares something with me they obviously no nothing about, whether it be vicariously or directly. Doing such really destroys your credibility and reputation.

    Again, thanks for the great post.


    1. d3so says:

      You have to make a good first impression just as you would in person. In the Internet things can be spread quickly and stored permanently. Be cautious. 😉

      1. PPC Ian says:

        Agreed! It’s important to think before you act, just like in real social situations. 🙂

    2. This is guest post my friend, not added by John.

    3. anaokulu says:

      Nice comments John. on behalf of the site function:) John, mind if I hope:)

      1. panax says:

        John is a very intelligent man I think:) you know to use your mind

    4. Erwin Miradi says:

      Yes it is. The article is written excellently and it talks just everything we should now. But anyway, this post was written by Neil Patel, not John.

      1. Yes this is too the point and provided the social media information perfectly.

        You need to use the social media perfectly as there is no move back.

  2. social network is good for seo

    1. It sure is. I use OnlyWire to get some extra exposure in the social medias.

      1. Mate Hegedus says:

        Talking about other social networks,

        Did you know Twitter (200 million users) is not the second largest social network?

        It is actually QZone (400 million users)!

        1. Erwin Miradi says:

          Hey man thanks for sharing the link. I hope it’ll be useful. Going to check it out soon.

    2. Yes google have started to consider the signs from social media in their alogo.

      1. if you want to explore the benefit of social media than you need to take the help from the professional.

        After all this is going to build your social media image.

    3. panax says:

      social network is good for seo yes 😉

      1. anaokulu says:

        seo very good social ntwork

    4. Erwin Miradi says:

      Yeah it is, as long as you can make sure that you’re putting the links on some dofollow page. Because when it’s not dofollow, then it’s not SEO but Social Media Marketing.

  3. Faizan says:

    Quite an informative post, Thanks !

  4. Very good post. I enjoyed reading it as it full of really great tips. Thank you Neil for sharing.

  5. fazal mayar says:

    nice to see neil here, its all about sharing the right links and having a good plan

    1. Yes many big companies have employed many social media expert to manage their image.

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      Yes sharing the right links! It’s one crucial thing to maintain the good reputation. And which is another reason not to use automatic link share to the account.

  6. Some great tips. It’s amazing how many people out there take forgranted the power of social media

    1. Yep, but more and more start to pick up on how important it is though.

  7. Social media is like two face of coin, you need to manage it very carefully to get the maximum out of it.

  8. Stop Mongering for Friends and Followers
    Avoid Automating Your Social Activities
    Never Share Something You Don’t Know
    Conclusion are very helpful point
    thanks for information

    1. Yes these posts and tips are simply great from a sharp internet business owner

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      He really got the points there right? I rarely find articles like this. You know, filled with solid information about the subject and it’s more than 500 words. He really intended to help the readers with this.

      1. Yes that’s what make him special and separate from other business owner.

        He is sharp and he perfectly know about which he is talking about.

  9. Vincent Ng says:

    Wow that’s so weird Neil, I just finished reading your article about your experience starting a SEO agency at SEO Moz, and here you are now. One of the things I’ve noticed happen more and more on social media is that more personal attacks and controversies are starting.

    I think it’s important not to let your emotions rise to adrenaline when people attack you personally and then say something you may later regret that’s caught on Twitter. I always suggest to my clients, take a step back and relax and ask yourself if you would react like this in public and would be okay if another 100 people heard you say what you are about to say.

    Once it’s tweeted, people will talk about it. And they may not talk about it to your face, but it will be discussed behind people’s back. And that is where the danger lies. I think many people in this day and age need to have a better understanding that what we communicate has consequences whether we are giving or receiving.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Keeping it cool is just as important when writing in social media as it is in real life.

  10. I have to say this is just part of the many CONS of maintaining a social media site for a business. 🙂

    1. If you can mange it perfectly than believe me this will help to build your social media image.

      Many big companies are having their own twitter accounts, facebook fan page and many more similar platform.

      1. Erwin Miradi says:

        Yeah I think social media accounts for companies is important for the business. It is where they get in touch directly with the customer and establish their online reputation.

  11. fas says:

    I am sure John will not agree with this post!

    1. Hey Fas … Why did you say that ?

  12. Great tips. I think the most important one is to think before you share. With the world at our fingertips, it’s sometimes hard to remember to think before we talk. Great post!

    1. panax says:

      Congratulations to my brother what a beautiful konuşmuşsun. Are you the author tip of his fingers or something?

  13. panax says:

    thank you john cown

    1. It should be like Thank You Neil.

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      I think it’s supposed to be “Thank you Neil Patel” because he was the one who wrote the article. And even if John was the one, it should be “Thank you John Chow” instead of “Thank you john cown”. If you lose the n there you’ll be in trouble 😀

  14. PPC Ian says:

    Fantastic post. These are incredibly helpful social media tips.

    1. Yes these are such tips which you should read at first if you want to start your social media camapign.

  15. Great advice, will help a lot.

  16. sudha says:

    Agreed! It’s important to think before you act, just like in real social situations. 🙂

  17. Goa Carnival says:

    Some Very nice tips, It’s very important to share something helpful and useful things all the time.

    1. panax says:

      Happy to share beautiful things with my brother John, yes görmüşüm this site … explains the intricacies of a job

  18. Dane Pymble says:

    Quotes definitely work for me. They consistently get me the highest Like counts on my small business Facebook Page although that might mean I need to write more interesting content on the other posts:)

  19. Never share that you do not is very nice suggestion because it can put us sometimes in embarrassing moment. When promoting an affiliate link or sharing friends profile disclose is help and necessary. Thinking before sharing is another very good point.

    1. Madhav did not get you what do you want to say here.

      1. Erwin Miradi says:

        He said that sharing something that we don’t know would be really embarrassing. So he suggest to think about what we are going to share before we give it a go. That’s what I think he said.

  20. anaokulu says:

    Again, thanks for the great post.

  21. allan stuart says:

    i have some agree and disagree with you Neil…

    for the automation of social activities, it does not hurt if we do it on a smaller scale..
    i agree with the 80/20 rule, but we can just build one other account to solely tweets about our product ..
    for me the more follower the merrier…. it just show your reputation.. more good than harm for me 🙂

    1. Where you need personal attention and personal view at there implemrnting automatic is simply suicide.

      1. Erwin Miradi says:

        Yes. That’s why I never recommend of using such automatic function on the personal social media account. It is indeed suicide.

        1. panax says:

          both comments written by someone else you are doing and saying to a friend john get a respectable little

  22. you’re right John! Social networking reputation should never be put at stake! We must always be caring for our followers!

    1. This is guest post by Neil patel.

    2. Erwin Miradi says:

      Sorry, but this is an article by Neil Patel.

      1. panax says:

        John had a share may be useful, but

  23. When people follow you for your reputation that’s really something. And you are right, although social media can be effective in making a successful business it can also bite you back when used incorrectly.

  24. Generally we see that Neil reply to all comments but in this post seems to me that he is not in such mood ?

  25. David says:

    Good post. I get hit everyday on facebook and twitter with more rubbish, and I feel that any good or decent posts get lost amoung all the rubbish….

    1. panax says:

      yes you are right brother.

  26. Social media is the best place to share our thoughts with our followers

  27. Erwin Miradi says:

    I love this article. It’s quite long, but filled with solid value. I rarely find this kind of article on the internet anymore, especially in this niche. From the looks of it, I can already call this a pillar article. Because if it was me I could have just write it down into 4 different articles. Really nice article, Neil.

  28. social media is plays an important role to bring traffic for our website

  29. So Neil … You got great comments again on other blogs as well … Seems to me that this is now your habbit.

  30. panax says:

    John shared a beautiful document

  31. Cheolsu says:

    Although I don’t get a lot of traffic from social media, it does help me connect with some of my readers. It is important to regularly connect with them.

  32. Divya says:

    Now a days social media created huge impact on internet marketing… Whereas it has huge fans too.

  33. iskandarX says:

    In year, my strength of affiliate marketing was social network. Thanks for this info very much Guest Blogger. Why don’t you mentions your real name here?

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