“I don’t care what anyone thinks” may be a helpful mantra when struggling with insecurities, but that attitude doesn’t work well in the business world.
Unfortunately, professional people have to care about others’ opinions. The Business Dictionary describes reputation management as “the process of identifying what other people are saying and feeling about you or your business; and taking steps to ensure that the general consensus is in line with your goals.”
Everyone has a reputation, and in today’s digital age, management of that reputation is increasingly necessary. A positive Internet presence is now so key to financial success that online reputation management (ORM) has become a new career field in and of itself. Today’s reputation management specialists are like public relations experts with great tech skills.
Can people personally handle their own reputation management? Yes, absolutely, in the same way that most people with two functioning hands are physically capable of fixing their own cars. Anyone can learn some basic mechanic skills, but it may be a tedious, time-consuming job trying to repair your own vehicle, especially with only a beginner’s level of expertise.
Likewise, there are things you can do to help further your own online name, such as having a Facebook business page, a decent LinkedIn account, and not oversharing on social media sites; but when it comes to the complicated individual components of an online reputation as a whole, you may want to seek professional help.
It is a common misconception that reputation management is only for people who need damage control. In reality, everyone can benefit from being aware of their online presence and seeking to monitor it.
Maybe you are seeking a relationship, applying to colleges, searching for a new job, hoping for a work promotion, looking for a place to rent or own, or operating a business. Your Internet image can help or harm you in your endeavors, as people are more and more likely to research people, products, and companies online before making a decision concerning them.
The emergence of social media has blurred the separation of personal and professional lives. Each of us has a reputation to uphold, and negligence in upholding that reputation can be detrimental.
It is also a mistake to think avoiding Web involvement altogether is the way to go.
Having no online presence is like having no credit. It’s better than bad credit, but it makes it hard when leasing or purchasing a car or trying to rent or buy a home.
Good credit is extremely useful, and having a good online reputation is very helpful for attracting new customers and clients to your business.
If you don’t create a positive online presence, you’re basically losing out on free advertising opportunities.
If you want to use the Internet to your advantage, it is important to note that proactive reputation management strategies are significantly cheaper than reactive ones. It is similar to insurance. That recurring bill is annoying, but it really pays off when an accident happens.
What could have cost hundreds to prevent may cost thousands to cure. As we know from Smokey Bear, it’s much easier to prevent fires than to put them out, and it’s much the same with a reputation.
Even if you do guard your good name, it can still come into question or under fire, perhaps through no fault of your own. Someone with a criminal record could have the same name as you, making people reluctant to do business with you.
Nowadays, online damage can easily be inflicted if your crazy ex slanders you, disgruntled former employees bad-mouth your company, or a difficult customer leaves a bad review.
Sadly, none of it even has to be true. Any individual could make up complete lies about you or your company, and it would still make an impact.
Rarely do people actually take the time to fact-check their sources .According to Reputationmanagement.com, “a single negative search result can dramatically alter public perception of you or your brand.”
This is entirely unfair, especially considering a company may have previously received scores of positive reviews.
But as the old saying goes, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” It doesn’t take much yeast to completely alter a ball of dough, and yeast is the difference between eating a tortilla and a bread roll.
If it was ever online, it doesn’t just go away. It’s basically there for eternity, whether it was that negative review from a dissatisfied customer or that horrid picture of you from your senior prom. Maybe you just don’t want others to know about your past medical struggles.
Perhaps your name or brand is affected by information that is no longer relevant, like being fired from a job years ago, or a bankruptcy from which you’ve since recovered.
This is where the Web lives up to its name – once something is in the Web, it usually does not leave.
Michael Fertick, who founded Reputation.com, was asked in an interview how hard it is to erase something negative once it’s online.
His response was, “We don’t seek to erase.
There are significant deficiencies in the law in this area—even a lawsuit doesn’t work. But the good news is that if it is off page one of Google, it basically doesn’t exist.”
Statistics show that over 90% of Web users won’t look past page one of search results, with some sources citing the percentage of first-page only viewers as high as 95%.
Reputation management specialists utilize their knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization) to get anything negative off the first page of search results and put positive results in its place. Don Sorenson, an online reputation guru, said, “You want to own the first page of Google results.”
Essentially, page one of search results is the stronghold of Google Land. Your online goal should be to get the banner bearing your name flying high over that castle, and to defend it against invasion at all costs. (That was for the nerds and gamers out there.)
On a more organic level, maintaining a positive Internet presence can be like trying to grow a garden amidst a jungle.
Someone has to routinely hack the vines back with a machete and uproot the weeds with a hoe to give the flowers a chance to grow.
Regular maintenance is necessary to keep the garden looking its best, and it’s just as necessary to keep your company looking its best online.
Someone with free time and a green thumb would probably personally tend the garden, while someone lacking these qualities would be better off employing a groundskeeper.
If you have spare time and are tech savvy, you might choose to manage your own online reputation.
If not, you may want to consider the convenience and expertise of hiring an online reputation manager.
Making Internet gardens bloom is their specialty.