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Reputation management

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Intelligencia.co

Reputation management

Managing one’s reputation has always been a difficult and complex task, but it has become even more challenging because the Internet has made it so easy to search for companies and people (Woodruff, 2014). The Internet “creates a potentially permanent record of people’s alleged or actual actions that is readily accessible throughout much of the world. Online damage to one’s reputation can translate into offline harm, limiting an individual’s opportunities to find a job, attend college, or establish social relationships” (Woodruff, 2014).

According to Wikipedia.org, 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. Some parts of reputation management are 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, which are frequently used, such as responding to customer complaints, asking sites to take down incorrect information and using online feedback to influence product development.

“The stakes are high when it comes to one’s online reputation. Reputation harm can limit career, academic and social opportunities—human resource recruiters, college recruiters, insurance agents, potential clients, potential romantic partners and many others use search engines to do online ‘background checks’” (Woodruff, 2014).

Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Ripoff Report have become critical tools for consumer to choose a particular business or service (Woodruff, 2014). Reviews have become the new advertisements in this 21st Century world. In some unfortunate cases, reputation harm can even be dangerous. For example, when Korean hip hop artist Daniel Lee was wrongly accused of diploma falsification, outraged netizens threatened to kill Lee and his family (Davis, 2012). Of course, this might also show the differences between Asian and US cultures as I’m not sure diploma falsification would cause a death threat against a hip hop artist in America, it might actually be seen as a bragging right or a badge of honor. At minimum, reputation harm can cause emotional trauma; at worse, it can even lead to suicide (Maag, 2007). Of course, uncovering nefarious individuals can be a benefit to society (Maag, 2007), but there is a fine line between behavior; after all, one man’s shame might be another man’s normal activity, especially when religious doctrines come into play.

In his article A 5-step Guide to Reputation Management Using Social Media,Brynley-Jones (2009) lays out a five-step guide to social media reputation management on a budget:

  1. Decide what you want to track—define the ‘keywords’ relating to your company that you want to track in online conversations, including:
  • Company name
  • Company website address
  • Names of products
  • Names of senior employees and Directors
  • Names of close competitors
  • Common expressions–e.g. “[Company] sucks”, “company is great.”
  1. Set up accounts on free social media monitoring tools, including such sites as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Whostalkin.com, Hootsuite, Trackur, Viral Heat, Scout Labs and Vocus, BackType, Blogpulse, Monitter, Tweetbeep, Wholinkstome, BoardTracker, and Naymz.
  2. Set up your alerts and searches through services like Google Alerts or Netvibes as well as RSS feeds that notify you when your keywords are mentioned.
  3. Set up your own social media accounts. A service like knowem.com allows businesses to “search over 500 popular social networks, over 150 domain names, and the entire USPTO Trademark Database to instantly secure your brand.”[1]
  4. Engage—How you respond to comments and posts made about your company is purely up to you, but there are certain rules of thumb:
  • Act quickly—take advantage of social media’s most important quality—its real-time accessibility. Misconceptions can be snubbed out instantly with quick and factual replies. Never expect things to just disappear, however, blog posts and forum comments can remain in search engine results forever, so you need to make sure your viewpoint is there too.
  • Be nice—the first instinct might be to get defensive and emotional, but let clearer heads prevail. Getting angry and/or making threats will likely backfire. “Try and reason with detractors and understand where they are coming from. By showing that you’re listening, you’ll win respect and support from others” (Brynley-Jones, 2009).
  • Be pro-active—when industry-specific discussions arise, get involved early and often. Offer your personal perspective as this can encourage promoters to back you, while also diffusing a potential detractor’s ire.

There are several reputation management systems out there, including Klout, which uses “Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Wikipedia, and Instagram data to create Klout user profiles that are assigned a unique ‘Klout Score’. Klout scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a higher ranking of the breadth and strength of one's online social influence. While all Twitter users are assigned a score, users who register at Klout can link multiple social networks, of which network data is then aggregated to influence the user's Klout Score” (Wikipedia.org).

“Monitoring—and addressing—online reputation issues boils down to search engine optimization. Creating, disseminating and promoting strong, credible, positive content is pretty much the only weapon at a marketer’s disposal” (Lieb, 2012).

In (American) football there is saying, “The best offense is a good defense” and this should be kept in mind when it comes to online reputation management. Businesses should start with a content strategy and a content marketing plan already in place (Lieb, 2012). It’ll be too late to assemble the tools you needs to douse the blaze once a fire has been set (Lieb, 2012). “Rather, you not only want those tools in place, you want to have already constructed fortifications in the form of plenty of optimized content on the web in general, as well as on blogs, social media and social networking sites” (Lieb, 2012).

“It’s also critically important that all online content and digital communications be optimized for search. This includes PR, marketing, and investor relations, as well as any other digital content available on the web, anywhere. Optimized text, images, audio, and video results in more content in search engine results pages” (Lieb, 2012).

Businesses should also understand that content marketing is an ongoing process and it should be budgeted for accordingly (Lieb, 2012). “You’ll always have to continue what journalists have long called ‘feeding the beast’” (Lieb, 2012).

Continuing with the sports analogies, even the best baseball player in history struck out more times than he hit home runs and so it will be with reviews; a business just can’t expect to have nothing but happy customers. “Online reputation management isn’t about obliterating any negative mention or association made with your organization, rather by mitigating those negative results with strong, positive, visible, and consistent content,” (Lieb, 2012) the company will be able to build a strong and worthy reputation.


[1] http://knowem.com

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