Yes, they can, especially if you have spent hundreds of hours online building one. It is hard to believe how an offensive tweet or a carelessly uploaded party photo can adversely shift public opinion and trigger a sharp decrease in the number of your followers.
How to shield yourself against social media trolls?
Having established that social media can be used to ruin one’s life, let’s now see what you can do to defend yourself against a coordinated blackmail attack.
Beware online trolls
Individuals using social media to deliberately blackmail others and ruin their lives are called Internet trolls.
Political rivals or business competitors often hire them to sway election results or a significant deal’s outcome. There are lone wolves among them, online usually attack in packs.
How does online trolling work?
When a group of trolls receives a tipoff, they use free people search sites to scrape every bit of information about their target.
Then, the group uses the comment sections of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., to fabricate scandalous news implicating the victim’s name.
Fake news spreads like wildfire
Once the target’s name is involved in the fabricated scandal, the news instantly goes viral, causing severe damage to the person’s online reputation.
The reason for the wildfire effect is simple. When we read a shocking or scandalous post about a celebrity, we instinctively retweet or share it without bothering to check its credibility.
Facebook police are overwhelmed
Facebook and other big social media have created policing teams to watch out for fake news and flag or delete it as soon as it is published. Sadly, their efforts are often in vain, even with the help of the latest AI technology.
Trolls have become incredibly resourceful and sophisticated in their black ops. For example, a cunning online troll may twist an old publication against the targeted individual to appear fresh.
Be careful with hashtags
MacDonald’s has recently created a textbook example of how an ill-designed hashtag campaign can backfire.
The company planned to post endearing stories about sustainable farming and organic food growth under #McDStories.
The advertising campaign’s authors apparently underestimated the company’s controversial reputation in the not-so-distant past. As a result, the hashtag was used to promote gruesome stories about global factory farming.
When you post about something, be as specific as possible. If you rant online against something in general, your post can be attached to a more recent shocking event and cast a heavy blow on your reputation.
For example, a firearms dealer in the US wished its customers happy shooting in the coming weekend, but the post was malevolently linked to a recent mass shooting in Colorado. The business took years to recover its online reputation.
Don’t mix up accounts
The posts you create for your personal accounts should not appear on your company’s profiles and vice versa.
A carmaker’s employee lost his job over an angry tweet he accidentally posted via his office account while sitting in a traffic jam. The carmaker did not fire him but refused to renew his contract at the end of the year.
Take complaints seriously
Most social attacks against a company or a sole proprietor come not from organized trolls but from unhappy clients or customers.
To minimize such risks, managers and freelancers should take their clients’ concerns very seriously and address them on a case-by-case basis.
A single mishandled or neglected complaint can cost your online business thousands of dollars in falling sales figures.
When the damage is done…
As soon as you notice that your online reputation has been compromised, don’t try to remedy the situation yourself. Inadequate or poorly coordinated actions can do more harm than good.
You can find many self-help guides on how to recover from an online reputation crisis. However, only experts know how to leverage and adapt these remedies to your particular case.
Celebrities promptly hire damage control experts to mitigate the consequences of an offhand remark or a spontaneous outburst in a primetime interview.
Instead of spending a lot of time trying to find an online damage control strategy that will work for you, you should hire professionals to handle the unpleasant situation before it’s too late.
Examples of Social Media Reputation Damage
Social media has become an important part of many people’s lives, but it is important to remember that everything posted online leaves a digital footprint that can live on for years. It is possible for what you post online to influence decisions about your future and even severely damage your reputation. Below are some examples of social media reputation damage:
- Leaked private information – Posting sensitive information or leaked private data from another person may have consequences beyond simply damaging your own reputation. It could lead to legal action and other repercussions that could leave lasting impacts on your job search, educational opportunities, and more.
- Hateful comments – Even mild hate speech can be seen as unprofessional and damaging to your reputation, particularly in the public sphere, where friends, family, employers, universities and more can potentially see what you post.
- Offensive content – Content that is offensive or insulting could be seen as extreme or unsavory depending on the context or the language used – this type of content can paint you in an unfavorable light regardless of the forum it was posted in or its purpose.
- Inaccurate statements – Posting false information can quickly spread around the internet, which could reflect poorly on you if you are linked with it in any way whatsoever. This could include inaccurate statements about yourself or another person’s job/company/brand/idea which reflects poorly upon both parties involved.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that the power of social media in your life is greatly based on personal choice. If you are aware of the potential dangers when using sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, you can successfully maintain a positive reputation without allowing social media to have a negative impact.