Anything that is posted online can always come back to haunt you in the future. I’m starting to see bloggers who feel that they can become more successful when they taunt and bully others in a public setting. These individuals, whom I won’t name, can justify their blog posts based on facts uncovered online. The problem is that they don’t consider how perception and brand reputation work in the online world. When you attack someone else, even if they deserve it, your visitors will have a different view of who you are as a person, and a brand. Almost every time that you make a private situation visible to the world, it makes you look bad.

Think before you publish – two examples

I want to keep these two examples anonymous on this blog, but if you’re really interested in knowing which company and blogger I’m referring to, you can google each quote. I won’t link back to these posts because I don’t want to draw too much attention to them and increase their standing in search engines.

1. The spam agency

In this example, the blogger has resorted to embarrassing this company because of reoccurring “spam” emails. Instead of setting up a email policy to automatically delete the messages or place them in a spam folder, he has exposed private matters to the public in a malicious fashion. The bloggers is probably a very nice person, with a big heart, but his post sends a negative message to both his community and to outsiders whose first brand interaction was this post. He indirectly states that if you “spam him,” you will also receive negative press on his blog. It comes off as a threat, whether he meant to or not. If he does it once, why wouldn’t he do it again?

What’s worse is that he’s not only hurting this company’s reputation, but he’s pushing his followers to support him. He also exposes email addresses, which opens this situation up to personal attacks.

“I tried to warn them, but apparently they didn’t believe me when I said that I would call them out. So, I officially start my boycott today, of PR_Agency until they vow to change their ways.  Don’t hire them.  And PLEASE link, share and retweet this post, so that when folks search for “PR_Agency,” the Google gods rank this post highly. If anyone has a lot of time on their hands and wants to email my friends at PR_Agency, here are their email addresses:”

2. The plagiarizer

Sometimes people just don’t know any better and try and take the easy way out. In this instance, one blogger copied material from other bloggers, without citing their name, and a link back to their site. Any blogger would be upset if their content was stolen, but please remember that you can’t be successful by copying someone else. This blogger should have emailed the plagiarizer instead of publishing a post, which attracted much more unnecessary attention. The blogger’s goals were twofold: stop the plagiarizer from continuing to re-post and to teach him a lesson. What’s worse is that other people started latching onto this story, including one of my friends, who I had to tell to not write about the incident.

Why spread this negative energy, when you can make it a private matter, correct it, and help him improve. I’m sure the plagiarizer didn’t understand the rules of social media, so tell him! Also, the blogger not only used the plagiarizer’s name, but his picture, which makes this even worse.

“You see, Michael doesn’t actually write his own material – he steals it from other people. Michael, I understand that this is the one post that you will not want to steal and re-publish – copyright violation is serious stuff, so please do get in touch with me before my lawyers get in touch with you. This is an early appeal; the later ones will be far less polite – you know it makes sense!”

Public versus private

The common theme between these two examples is that you need to choose when to communicate publicly versus privately. If the situation is personal (you have an issue with someone else), then send an email explaining your view of the situation and a solution, without getting too emotional. If you’re rating a product online, then you should be an honest critic, and it won’t hurt your brand if you publish your review. When it comes to rating, grading, or forming public opinions of other people, you have to have good etiquette.

Honesty versus arrogance

If you read some of the comments on these two blogs, you’ll notice that people are thankful and are more trusting of the bloggers. There’s a fine line between being honest with your followers, and being arrogant and malicious. You’re better off focusing on the positive than the negative because what goes around comes around. You’d be surprised how few people will trust someone who exposes a private matter on their blog. If the PR agency is really bad, then they will eventually go out of business. The plagiarizer won’t end up receiving attention because he’s not delivering unique content, which is required for social media success.

Your turn

How would you handle these situations differently? Would you be tempted to blog about them or send a private email?