Online Reputation Management? You have to be kidding right? Is their such a thing?
Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is a reality in today’s information based world. With the advent of social networking and social media sites such as FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace, it has been very easy for people to forget about their online reputation. The anonymity once given by the vast size of the Internet exists no more. The power of search engines and the existence of user generated content from these sites has far reaching implications to a person’s online reputation.
With people posting on blogs, using Twitter and FaceBook, potential employers, business associates and friends have an opportunity to uncover potential issues faster than ever. Every post, topic and picture posted adds to an individuals’ or business’ online reputation. The ability of the major search engines to index and rank content means that this information is available for everyone in near real-time.
Online reputation management is not just about managing what you say but also about managing what others say as well. Online reputation management is not about avoiding the social media sites especially if you are a business where others are talking about you. Online reputation management is about understanding that the information is out in the “wild”, understanding the implications of real-time search and being aware of what is being talked about.
Real-time search ensures that user generated content is crawled and an alarmingly fast rate. This means content included on authority sites such as YouTube and Twitter can quickly rank for specific content relating to both individuals and businesses. The accuracy of this information does not matter because the search engines simply rank based on relevancy to the search being performed.
For example, Rae Hoffman mentions James Cook of Kawink getting a lesson in online reputation management in a recent blog article. If anyone was interested in learning about this individual or wanted to have dealings with Kawink, some obvious searches may be “james cook kawink” or “kawink” with the first returning Rae’s post, followed by several others and latter returning Rae’s post as number 3. If one was to read through blog article, they could formulate an opinion about James Cook that could potentiallyimpact business relationships with Kawink.
Another example that comes to mind happened in during the 2008 Canadian Federal Election where the NDP Party had to drop candidates due to the potential dangers of their online reputations. One candidate, Dana Larsen resigned because of concerns about him being shown taking drugs and driving while under the influence of drugs. The NDP Party was forced to do damage control and leader Jack Layton was quoted saying “I don’t know a lot of details of what’s gone on there…”, making the NDP Party appear inept in its handling of candidates and possibly costing the party support in a close federal election. This clearly demonstrates how the online reputation of a single individual can damage the reputation of a much larger organization.
What can be done to protect the online reputation or to remove comments, content and stories that portray an individual or business in a somewhat negative light?
Fortunately, some of the social media sites and blogs allow for comments and/or dialogue. Using this as a forum, individuals or businesses can attempt to clear the air and put the incident behind them. This can have the danger of also keeping the content on a particular issue fresh in the search engines or prolonging the effects of negative press.
It may also be possible to use search engine optimization and rank for more positive items. Continually posting content with a positive spin will eventually result in the negative content being overcome in the search results.
Others have attempted to repair their online reputation by contacting websites and requesting to have the content removed. Some sites will comply if provided a good reason. However, dealing with the items indexed and cached in a search engine is a different story. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s WebSpam team has posted about why Google will not remove content from its index. Requesting removal of the content is perhaps a last resort that individuals or businesses should consider. It may cause negative issues to resurface, be crawled and indexed, propogating the items more into the public realm than desired.
What experts do recommend about online reputation management is that things get nipped in the bud well before they get out of control. With real-time search having the ability to rank negative items, it can also be utilized to repair the reputation and damage caused. Positive items, explanations and well developed public relations campaigns that harness real-time search.
Online reputation management is now a reality for both the individual and the business, it is in no way a fad. It does not violate any principles of privacy and simply utilizes information that many individuals and businesses have put into the wild Internet themselves.
Before making that next blog post or sharing that picture from a wild party, keep in mind that someone may eventually find the information in a search. Is your online reputation something that you want to protect? Be aware of what people are saying about you and posting about you.