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The fragility of online reputation

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday February 3, 2009 )

We all do stupid things in life. I’ve certainly done my share; probably enough to fill a few lifetime’s quota. No doubt, I’ll manage to complete a few more bonehead moves before my time is done. Pre-Internet, an error in judgement often caused limited damage. These days, an indiscretion can get immediate and broad attention online and cause irreparable harm.

A very recent example is the case of a high profile swimmer. He’d spent years building his skills and reputation; denying himself a normal life. He reached the pinnacle of his career, a seemingly unstoppable professional athlete of impeccable character. He built up millions of dollars in sponsorships – not just a swimming machine, but a money machine.

One photo has brought much of his years of blood, sweat and tears crashing down.

I’m not passing judgement on Michael Phelps one way or another; but the story sent shivers down my spine of just how easy it can be to lose much of what you’ve worked for through silly mistakes totally within your control.

In the online world, once those indiscretions are discovered, it can then be out of your control to prevent damage – the very best you can do is to minimize it. In a worst case scenario, the indiscretion can be blown totally out of proportion and embellished.

Mr Phelps must be feeling totally overwhelmed at the moment and while the storm will pass as all storms do, the damage bill remains to be seen.

The case reminds me of a quote that goes something along the lines of “a broken reputation can be fixed, but the world will always watch where the crack was”.

It also reminds me of something my father said at my mother’s funeral:

“There is a saying that we are each three people. The one as perceived by others, the one we perceive ourselves to be and the one we really are.”

It’s something to bear in mind as we go about our day to day activities in our online business.

The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.


Monitoring and managing your online reputation


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