The success of a business depends heavily on public perception. To build a good reputation among clients and suppliers, companies need to monitor the content that is being projected about them. Earlier, PR agencies managed brand building through newspaper articles and television announcements. However, with an increase in the use of internet among people, promotional campaigns have shifted their medium to social networking websites and search engines.
The paradigm of building and maintaining a reputation has now been extended to individuals as well. A survey conducted by Cross Tab Market Research and Microsoft in 2010 revealed that 70 per cent recruiters rejected applicants based on their reputation online. Surprisingly, only 7 per cent of the Americans surveyed were aware of this. Most recruiters trawl through Facebook and MySpace accounts of candidates while short listing the final ones. Therefore, online reputation management has become essential for business houses and individuals alike.
What are the Common ways of Reputation Management Online?
There are many ways by which companies monitor their reputation online. Most concerns use the tools available on the internet to manipulate public perception about them.
Some of the common practices include:
- Astroturfing- This practice involves formation of a group or body opposing a popular idea to change opinions about it. The sponsor of the group will not be brought to the forefront. This is a common practice and it has been around for a long time.
For example, a group may be created on a social networking platform by a company to disrepute its competitor’s products. The group may have members belonging to the offending company and their task would be to complain about a competitor’s products.
- Publishing press releases and original content on authoritative websites to bring down negative reviews circulating online about a company.
Wikipedia is an authoritative website and it is a common outlet for press releases of companies. The pages contain information regarding the operations of the business, presence in different countries, customer base etc.
- Promoting a business on a platform that has high viewership or ranking on the search results page of a search engine.
Some companies use feedback forms on eBay and Amazon to write about their products and services.
- Rewarding active reviewers of a website.
Most companies adopt at least one of these practices to promote their operations. The ethics of such practices however is questionable.
What are the Ethical ways of Reputation Management?
To manage their reputations, companies need not game the system. There are certain ethical ways by which they can manage their reputation online.
A proper customer feedback form should be included in every website owned by a firm. The feedback and suggestions that people have to offer must be acknowledged and replied to.
If a company finds any content online libelling it, a legal notice can be sent to the owner of the content, asking him to take it down. Moreover, one should abstain from defaming its competitor’s products or content. Instead, they should focus on showcasing their products and services in a positive light.
There are many start-ups that offer to maintain feedback forms on websites. They are willing to handle every aspect of online reputation management for firms or individuals including updating content and SEO linking on the official portal, releasing content about the company on relevant authoritative websites and promotion on social networking websites.