Like it or not, you have an online reputation

As the community editor for and its respective brands, I am in the social media/web world all day long. And I love it. I have been known to profess my addiction to Twitter. But I also know there are many people who don't see social media and the web as exciting as I do.

I've had many discussions with builders and remodelers - or even business people in general - where they aggressively attack these tools. Oftentimes the response is "Why should I waste my time?" "My clients aren't there." "My business is doing fine without it." Or even the, "I don't want to open myself up to negative comments and the wild west of the web." All of these objections come straight from misunderstanding of the tools available, fear and lack of knowledge.

Many trade professionals - if not all - are aware of their word-of-mouth reputations. They hold it in high regard. It's important to them that people in their community know and appreciate their value of work. But for some reason, this appreciation for reputation doesn't translate to their online reputation. In 2012, you not only have a word-of-mouth reputation but you also have an online reputation that's just as important.

In short, an online reputation consists of results that are shown when someone Google's your name. Does someone see positive results about you, or are they negative? Are you even aware of what the results are when someone Google's you? What about social media? Do you know what people are saying about you on Twitter and Facebook? If not, you better find out. You shouldn't allow a former unhappy client the power to manage your online reputation for you.

This is where the "I don't want to open myself up to negative comments" objection comes in. There have been so many social media messups to learn from. And the lesson is always, don't allow the unhappy client speak for you. They are going to voice their anger or dissatisfaction  on these sites if you're there or not. So why wouldn't you want to be there to respond so you can have some control over your image?

Think of it this way, if you shared a negative experience you had with a company, wouldn't you be happy to hear from them? To see that they hear you? That they think your experience is important to them? To see that they want to fix it so that you become a happy customer?

I once heard the saying that social media now gives unhappy customers a megaphone to express their dissatisfaction with a brand. To not want to be on these sites or take some ownership in your online reputation is like a kid putting his hands in his ears because he doesn't like what you have to tell him.

Don't be the kid who doesn't want to listen. Be the professional who takes their online reputation seriously and aggressively.