How important is online reputation management for business?

Business Support | Reports

Businesses have long found themselves managing their reputations in the real world. The existence of public relations firms, for example, is testament to the fact that ensuring that your name is associated with positive things rather than negative is a key concern for many businesses across all sectors.

However, as with so much else, it’s increasingly common for firms to think about how to protect their name online. In fact, the world of the internet offers even more potential pitfalls from a public relations point of view. The rise of Google, for example, means that finding out negative information about a business online is possible in just a few clicks. Managing reputation, then, is even more vital online than it is in the real world.

The rise of Google

Ever since Google first became popular, it has been a way for businesses to reach out to customers with whom they may previously have never had the chance to speak. This could be through Google advertising, for example, or it could simply be as a result of organic search optimisation. However, Google also has its downsides. Content that is harmful to a business can quickly be sorted onto the first page of the site, especially if it comes from a reputable source.

If an employee of your firm has been accused of some sort of criminal activity, for example, then it may be that police websites appear alongside legitimate results for your firm’s name. If your annual accounts reveal a potential financial black hole, then this could make its way onto the business pages of a broadsheet newspaper. That’s why investing in a reputation management service is a great idea. ReputationDefender can help you to take back control of your online image, and let customers see a fairer, two-sided version of your firm’s story.

Outdated information

However, there are other important reasons to embrace the reputation management services available today. The internet is essentially an archive stretching back over a decade or so of readily available information. Sometimes, Google and other search engines can filter out stories from five or ten years ago – but with everyone from journalists seeking context to students of history fuelling the demand to go back in time, search engines still do allow this content to resurface from time to time.

For you as a business, this can be problematic. If you’ve had many achievements since the negative story surfaced but they’re not getting through, then it can hit not just your reputation but also your revenues if customers choose not to use your service on the basis of what they read. Remember, though, you can use the “right to be forgotten” law in some circumstances to have these records expunged from the web – though you may not always be able to rely on this, as there are exemptions.

Lies go unchecked

In person or in the context of traditional outlets such as newspapers, there are plenty of checks and balances that protect against misinformation. Journalists have to avoid committing libel, for example, while newspaper editors subscribe to a code of conduct. Misinformation in a newspaper can still be damaging, but it can be corrected relatively easily by a letter to the editor. Online, however, these laws aren’t as easily applied. A news outlet may be based abroad in a location where libel rules don’t apply, for example, and this could cause issues. Similarly, it may even be impossible to find out who owns a news site altogether – so you could end up going down a rabbit hole and never even finding the person with the authority to help.

In many ways, the rise of social media has certainly contributed to the problems of online lies. With customers now able to leave feedback in a very public manner on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, it’s hard to tell what is from a real customer and what is from a bot or a PR team working on behalf of a competitor. By working to counteract any fake reviews or other such problems on a social platform, your online reputation can be quite quickly restored.

While the internet can bring businesses a whole host of benefits, such as new customers and opportunities for expansion, it can also provide problems in the form of reputational disaster. With Google and other search platforms now able to produce information about your business that may not even be true at the drop of a hat, it’s now more important than ever that you stand up to the spread of misinformation and take steps to protect yourself against online reputational damage.

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