Online Reputation Management: Evaluating, Protecting, Restoring And Outsourcing
Though the web has given an increased exposure to top ranking professionals, products, services and businesses, which has brought them an increased value but has also created a scenario where malicious attempts or otherwise someone or some organization might make a derogatory online statement that can spread like wildfire on the internet and destroy all the reputation that you have earned over the years. Protecting your online reputation should be one of the primary tasks that should be on your agenda if you want to prevent any such damage.
In this post we will try to understand what is reputation management, how does it affect you, what are some of the top internet resources to gain more insight about reputation management and who are the best companies and people to talk to if someone has already done the damage and you want it to be rectified as soon as possible. Let us start by finding out what is reputation management.
Wikipedia states reputation management as:
Reputation management is the understanding or influencing of an individual’s or business’s reputation. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but advancement in computing, the internet and social media made it primarily an issue of search results. Although it is often associated with ethical grey areas, such as astroturfing review sites, censoring negative complaints or using SEO tactics to game the system and influence results, there are also ethical forms of reputation management, such as responding to customer complaints, asking sites to take down incorrect information and using online feedback to influence product development.
This means that reputation management has two dimensions attached to it – one protecting your brand or personality from negative propaganda, second creating a positive feedback mechanism about your brand or business. In this post we will be talking more about how to get rid of the negative things that are spread online about your personality, business or product.
Online reputation management generally involves the following steps:
- Tracking down what is being said about you on the internet
- Evaluating those responses, whether they are positive or negative?
- Implementing strategies on how to protect your online reputation.
- How to restore your online reputation and protect it from further damage.
- Improving upon your existing online reputation and keeping a regular eye on it.
Finding and evaluating your online reputation:
Internet is increasingly moving from just text based information to infographics, cartoons, videos, animations, slides, podcasts and lots or other media elements. There are different areas also where one can be talked about – it can be the blogosphere, news, discussion forums, blog comments, video comments, image sharing websites and social networking websites to name a few. The first step towards searching what is being said about you is to go to every possible media and social circles and search for your name, business, brand, product or whatever you want to find about.
The more specific you are in your search efforts the better insights you will be able to gain. Try searching your brand name, product name, or personal name by putting it within quotes. This gives you better search results than simply putting the phrase.
Try to provide as much detail as possible in your search like the city information, where you live, what is your occupation, who is employing you or any other specific information that can help identify yourself. Finding out right information about oneself is like finding a needle in haystack but if you are serious about your online reputation try all the combinations that come to your mind and track down the results. This could include your family name, first name, lastname, nick name etc.
Go to the sites you visit very frequently and find out whether they are storing or sharing information that is sensitive to you and making it publically accessible. Information like credit cards numbers, social security numbers or other identification numbers should not be present on the internet. If you find them ask them to remove them at once.
A good search along these lines will give you an insight on what is being said about you on social media, what pictures, cartoons, derogatory statements, private information is available to general public about you on the internet.
By getting access to this information, you will definitely get a sense on whether it is in positive or a negative sense. If it is in a negative sense there are correctional measures you should take immediately. Here are some of the questions that you should ask yourself while evaluating your online reputation:
- Does the information available on the internet reflect your actual status or the status of your business?
- What are the anomalies in the information? What is it that is lacking or incorrect?
- Is the online information available for your entity sufficient or latest or does it need an updation?
- Are their conflicting opinions about you or your products from your employees, staff or product experts?
- Is there any leakage or pilferage of private information that you don’t want to share with the general public or competitors?
The information that you gather is very important more so in the case of online domain because on social networks, forums and blogosphere, information is shared at a very rapid rate and it can causes serious change in opinion about your product, personality or business in a very short span of time. Any private or sensitive information can be taken advantage of very quickly by competition, malicious programmers or hackers and you can land in serious trouble.
Protecting, Restoring and Improving Your Online Reputation:
The first step towards building a good online reputation is that you should always provide correct, relevant and real information about yourself, your business or any kind of product that you want to promote. There is nothing worse than telling lies or bragging about yourself online when you know that internet is filled of experts, and even more of people who know you , your product or your business personally or professionally. If the catch you wrong footed there is a lot of damage control and explaining you will have to do. So it is always better to adopt what the wise one’s have said – honesty is the best policy.
Information moves at a very fast pace on internet. Even a small goof up that has been online for few minutes can spread to millions of users due to the enormity of social connections. So if you do any mistake do not hesitate in admitting it. We all make mistakes and a sincere apology will reverse the damage to your reputation significantly.
Never share anything that you don’t want to see yourself. This is truer in the case of professional profiles like to your professional network, business page or product page unless it adds some value.
Always keep your personal and professional profiles different do not mix them and share common things. There is nothing worse than a Facebook joke being shared on your LinkedIn professional network. Do remember each social network, forum, blogosphere, photo sharing site, video sharing site has its own character and people do have opinions on what kind of things they would like to see on these sites.
There are many tracking sites that will track what is being said about you on the internet. If you don’t want to pay for one go for Google alerts and set alerts so that you can monitor whatever you can get hold of. Do respond to them in a positive manner. If it is a derogatory comment there are actions you can take, which help you mitigate the damage before it is too late.
Here are some links that will help you gain more insights into this complex topic:
- Online Reputation Management Strategies and Tips
- How To Use Online Reputation Management For Your Advantage
- 5 Steps To Internet Security And Online Reputation Management
- 5 Blogging Tips to Manage Your Online Reputation across Different Languages
Outsourcing Reputation Management – Tips and Resources:
It is true that we have limited time and resources to manage such an important aspect of our online life and reputation of our business or product, but the fact remains that it has to be done in order to stay competitive and not get caught in scandals or false identity crisis. There are two ways out either hire an expert who is good in reputation management and give him the responsibility or delegate or outsource this task to a company that has a good record in reputation management. Given the scarcity of human resource in this segment chances are more that you will have to outsource the reputation management to a company or individual who is expert in this domain. What should you look before outsourcing such an important responsibility and who are some of the big players, let us have a look at these questions.
Things to decide before outsourcing reputation management:
- What is the quality of their service?
- Who are their existing clients and what testimonials do they have on their list?
- What is their customer service? What happens if you call them at midnight and ask them panicky questions? How do they tackle it?
- What is their reputation management strategy? Is it one size fits all or is it tailor made to suit the needs the status of your organization or business?
- How many years have they been in this business and search for their reputation on the internet.
Though this is not an exhaustive list but it will give you a fair idea of what you are going to get for your money. Don’t go for a company or individual if their promises seem too good to be true.
List Of Some Good Reputation Management Companies and Experts:
Listed below are some companies and experts that provide online reputation management services. There is no particular order or recommendation. We have tried to list some of the good ones that we were able to find but in the end it is at your discretion to check them out, try them and hire the one that suits you the best.
Funded by one of the largest venture captial firms, Reputation.com claims to have 1000’s of users around the world and they have been featured in more than 400 leading publishing houses like the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Economist.
They have assembled a world–class team of engineers, researchers, and an award–winning customer service and are situated in Redwood City, California. According to them:
Our patented technology helps you understand your online reputation and gives you the tools to monitor, manage and secure your information on the Internet. We believe you should control your online reputation and private data. Let us help you take control.
Brand.com is rated the industry’s #1 Online Reputation Management service by TopSEOs.com.The Brand.com team consists of over 135 fulltime employees dedicated to providing you with full control over your online reputation. They offer a 90 day money back guarantee on all of their services. Here is what they have to say:
We have thousands of satisfied active clients, Brand.com continues to raise the bar by rolling out groundbreaking technology. Search engines such as Google update their algorithms over 600 times per year, that’s why Brand.com chases the tail end of its algorithm and evolves with the times! With our patent-pending Command Center technology and team of online reputation management experts, Brand.com is the preferred vendor of reputation management services.
3. Reputation Management Guys:
The Reputation Management Guys specializes in solutions and preventions against online reputation defamation. Google Suggest Solutions are also available. The company was started in 2006 and is headquartered near Nashville, Tennessee. Using the slogan, “We bring your reputation back to the good old days,” ReputationManagementGuys.com welcomes clients with a fun ’50s-style feel. ReputationManagementGuys.com clients include some of the biggest names in business today. If you have a small online business and are concerned with the reputation management problem you can head straight to reputation management guys because they say that many small business and individuals rely on ReputationManagementGuys.com to create a positive, informative online presence for them. Here is what they claim:
Our Reputation Management Teams have vast experience in handling the online reputation of clients and will devise a strategy that can then be easily followed for every individual project. Our focus is on ensuring a reliable return on the investment of our clients. This, coupled with the knowledge and experience that Reputation Management Guys has in the field, allows us to develop your business’ web presence by presenting your business in its best light.
The mission of brandyourself.com is to put th power of reputation companies in everybody’s hands. They provide tools that everyone can do the task of reputation management themeselves and don not have to shell out a hell lot of money to the experts.
The company was started by Co-founder Pete when he found that someone has done something messy which has drastically affected his results and his name was almost synonymous with criminals. This was really bad for him as he was applying for internships and 75% of HR departments are required to Google potential applicants.
To fix the problem Pete contacted the experts but they charges were enormous and Pete fell back on his background in SEO and did the job for himself. Now they are offering a A Free Product That’s Actually FREE, according to them it is a part of their mission:
Part of our mission is to help every individual improve their own search results with no price barrier. That’s why our basic features are 100% free, and unlike our competitors, is all you need to start improving your results. Even our premium features are incredibly affordable (just a few bucks a month).
Reviewbalance is a free online tool for business owners to prevent, repair and manage their online reviews. Manage your online reputation or someone else… Most people leave an online review out of rage and frustration. This causes a great damage to business reputation. Reviews present an unbalanced view of business according to reviewbalance and since reviews are both positive and negative, there are some persons who really liked the product.
Reviewbalance collects reviews from satisfied customers and he event of a bad review, Review Balance connects the unhappy customer to a feedback form that is emailed directly to the business owner or manager. The unhappy customer can tell about their experience and the business learns about a problem that they have to improve upon.
This is a very proactive approach towards helping business iron out the deficiencies in their services and provides a better user experience. It also feels good to the unhappy customer who is heard and his suggestions are incorporated in the business process. Chances are good that he will become a brand ambassador after this process.
Online reputation management is the social status of the future and nobody would like a messed up personal, professional or business profile anywhere on the internet. It could make you a laughing stock, erode your credibility, confer huge losses on your business reputation and profitability so if you are taking it lightly its time to pull up the socks. Online reputation management can be tricky at some times but for most of the cases if you are taking your work seriously, having a healthy presence on internet, regularly monitor your online reputation you can keep it under check and the way you want it to be. However there is a harsh thing to remember that internet never forgets anything. There are heaps of files which are never deleted and can suddenly crop up and tarnish your image, friends become foes and if they have something malicious that can send you in a tizzy do not share it. It is always a good practice to keep your personal and professional network down and take strict action against those who are tarnishing your image online.