How to ruin your personal brand.

(This article was first published in the June issue of FACE Magazine.)

Whether we like it or not, our online activities give the world a glimpse of our personal lives. There’s no question that people watch and they make assumptions, however true or untrue. Everything you publish, and whatever is published about you and can haunt your reputation and career forever. Just ask Anthony Weiner.

While it’s hardly healthy obsess over what people think,  it is important to realize that branding is no longer just the domain of the Peggy Olsens of the world.  Thanks to the internet, each and every one of us has a personal brand that’s more visible and influences our futures more than ever.  A strong personal brand can hasten your success but a damaged brand can cause tremendous harm.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort to build a personal brand and it doesn’t take much to ruin it.  If you need help building networking and building your personal brand, there are lots of great books you can pick up. But when I went in search of ways to ruin a brand,  I used the rather effective (albeit unscientific) crowdsourcing method of asking the people who are most likely to judge me, my own Facebook friends.  Here’s what we came up with.

Forget That We Write Online in Indelible Ink:
Whether or not you are consciously using the internet as part of a branding strategy, you should always take a second to think about what you are about to say before you click “post.”   Even if you delete or edit, it only takes a few seconds for someone to snag a screenshot of your emotional outburst or  dangling participle. 

Too Much Self Promotion
The best way to build a strong personal brand isnt to brag about your accomplishments but to promote other people, which creates goodwill and projects the image of a strong leader who celebrates and encourages the success of others.  If most of your online facetime is spent promoting others, people will be much more receptive to an occasionally self-promoting message.  Bonus: other people will begin to promote you.  Someone else’s endorsement is always more valuable than your own! 

If you’re still not convinced that promoting and helping others can do more for your success than self-promotion,  pick up Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take.”  It’s a game changer! 

Brag About Your Drinking Habits.
It’s one thing to post about a fancy wine tasting or your Friday night hang out.  We do live in the age of the humble brag after all.  But bragging about how much you can and do imbibe is something else entirely.  People will start to worry about you and question both your character and judgement.  Your relationship with alcohol should never define your personal brand!

Bash Others
If you want to get people’s attention,  post a few emotional outbursts or vague statuses about others.   Bashing someone else even if you don’t use their name (as if no one can figure it out) will always do more harm to your own reputation than it will to theirs.  Social media is not the place to work out your problems! Besides, if you talk about others, no one will trust that you don't also talk about them.

Playing Morality or Grammar Police. 
No one is perfect and your friends are no exception.  It’s inevitable that they will post questionable content, unflattering photos and split the occasional infinitive.   If something is particularly offensive to you,  contact them privately or remove them from your feed.  Calling them out publicly only reflects poorly on your own judgement.