Online Reputation, Vital To Your Bottom Line
For any organization, reputation is an important key in building up a brand and ensuring sales and ongoing relevance. There are many ways to ensure public goodwill and create a good public image and a positive brand image. Some companies offer natural products or go out of their way to reduce their carbon footprint on the world. Others support various charities with generous contributions or donate products to those who are in need. Yet others simply just deliver a superior product and an award winning customer service experience. Regardless of what we do, our online reputation is vital to showing the world who we are. In the world of ever growing online influence, online reputation management is key to any organization’s survival.
To be clear, “online reputation management” is generally defined as an organization’s, or individual’s, efforts to influence or control a business’ or an individual’s online reputation. In an age of the Internet and social media, reputation management is seen as a collective effort to have some influence in protecting a singular reputation.
There is far more than simple ego or narcissism at play with online reputation management. For businesses, it is critically important that misinformation displayed online about any aspect of a company should not be allowed to circulate without an attempt being made at correcting errors or falsehoods. Search engines, specifically Google, have become important drivers of business, as both consumers and other businesses pursue information on companies prior to selecting with whom they would like to conduct business.
With that fact in mind, along with the understanding that often the ‘best defense is a strong offense”, a numerous amount of companies are devoting considerable time and resources to their own online reputation management. While it is, of course, impossible to have ‘control’ over everything that is written about someone or an organization, it is, however, possible to both monitor and influence what is said about an organization online. At the very least, the goal of successful online reputation management should be ensuring that factually incorrect information, that could potentially damage a company and its reputation, is not distributed without any response.
For many business executives, especially smaller to mid-size companies with limited resources, the idea of diverting precious time and money to a ‘abstract concept’ such as reputation management might seem to be a bit of a stretch. And while we can empathize with those who believe that there are other priorities that must be addressed in order to succeed in business, I would respectfully disagree.
In the year 2019, and likely for many years to come, the Internet plays an integral role in shaping public perception of all businesses. From the most important transnational companies to the corner store or market. In fact, in keeping with a recent study by the Reputation Institute, more than 60 percent of companies say the reputation management is a “high priority” for their Executive Management and Board of Directors.
The simple fact of the matter is smart businesses and individuals recognize this reality, and rather than lament the need to divert resources, they have developed an intelligent reputation management plan and use it as a basic principle in their organization’s overall business plan.
To that end, here are some simple facts that need to be taken into consideration when a business, organization, or individual is considering what efforts they will need in order to achieve the sphere of online reputation management.
Assess The State Of Your Company’s Online Reputation:
Before a corporation will begin to plan for coping with the challenges bestowed by managing its online reputation, it’s vital that there be an accurate assessment of what the internet currently finds when it researches you online. While some larger companies and organizations may have the resources required to perform this task, given the scope of the Internet, most companies will have to consider hiring an external vendor that specializes in this field.
To assist in this effort, it may also be useful for those in Senior Management to perform a thorough assessment of the company’s recent past, along current strengths and weaknesses. All firms have areas during which they surpass, and other areas that present challenges, and this type of honest assessment may prove useful in addressing any negative issues regarding the company’s online reputation. To paraphrase the previous statement, the goal in developing a strong online reputation is to ‘accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative.’
Recognize That Reputation Management Should Be An Ongoing Process:
Most business owners understand the notion of “putting out fires”, which means tackling unforeseen challenges that arise during the course of conducting business. However, not like singular issues which will arise throughout the course of everyday business, the issue of online reputation management is an ongoing, continuous effort.
The search engines, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, that decide what information and where this information is posted about a company or individual on their websites rely on a multitude of factors, that include news, social media and other events. In different words, just because your company’s online reputation looked fine last week doesn’t guarantee it will remain that way going forward. The ‘battle’ to guard your company’s reputation online is unrelenting, or at least, it should be if done properly.
Understand—And Act Upon—The Impact of Social Media:
Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media websites, the ability of customers to voice their opinions about the company or individual is easily accessible, and frankly, omnipresent. Now, on a big picture level, that’s actually a positive. Unlike many other nations around the world, we live in a thriving democracy and the right to Freedom of Speech is one of the most critically important civil rights that are enjoyed by all Americans. In lieu of recent world events, Americans should, now more than ever, appreciate and value the right to free speech. Understanding that it’s neither universal nor irreversible.
However, like all rights and freedoms, the right to free speech is subject to abuse. This right, no matter personal or skilled reasons, favors the use of social media to deliberately do injury to the name of either people or businesses.
It is, in one way, the ‘price’ we all pay for the right to universal free speech. Still, incorrect or deliberately negative attacks on a business on social media may be quite harmful. Information is shared online between thousands of people among a matter of minutes.
That is why many businesses and individuals hire staff, whose sole duties revolve around the company’s presence in the world of social media. Any efforts created in protecting a company’s online name should make sure that it includes watching and providing content and input into social media sites.
Ultimately, like all aspects of running a successful business, the responsibility for protecting a company’s hard-earned reputation falls to Senior Management of any organization to recognize the critical role that the Internet plays in deciding however their company is seen by current and potential customers, literally around the globe.
It will usually take a few years of toil to make a powerful name as a high quality business. Therefore, it’s well worth the time and energy needed to make sure that hard-earned name isn’t lost or broken as a result of some inaccurate, or villainous, online info.