Someone with a professional practice is faced with false accusations that, if believed, could drive clients away. A highly regarded and upscale restaurant was cited seven years ago by the city department of health, and a shared content review site posts a comment about the citation. An active user of social media is looking for a new job and wants to present the best possible image to potential employers and recruiters. Each of these situations is an example of someone who would benefit from the services of a professional online reputation management company.

What is online reputation management?

We live in an online world, where news can travel at the speed of light whether it is good news or bad news, whether it is accurate or false. The conversation about you, your business, and your reputation is going on 24/7/365. Online reputation management (ORM) is a way of taking control of that conversation to present the best possible picture of yourself and your business and to recover from – or better yet prevent – damage caused by negative comments. It helps people find the right information about you and your business, not just the most recent comment, however negative or inaccurate.

In a world of smartphones, smart TVs, and multiple devices in almost everyone’s hands, it is more critical than ever to make sure that your best image is what people find when they look for you. Never in human history has it been easier to find information about someone. Nowadays if a person wants to learn about a person or a business, they may ask someone who knows but they almost always will ask Google or another search engine. Online reputation management helps those search engines turn out your best image when someone wants to learn about you.

At the same time, we are living more online and by doing so we are creating an online image that others can find. Many people assume that nobody else is interested in searching for their online image. Yet there are many cases where searching for someone else’s online image is one of the first if not THE first, thing done. Employers and recruiters will search prior to an interview to get some background information. Landlords will search prospective tenants for any potential problems. Current colleagues may search your image in a friendly manner, or in a not so friendly manner if they are looking to gain a competitive advantage over you. If you own a business, competitors will search your image for negative information. Significant others both past and present will search your online image out of nostalgia and curiosity or maybe in the hopes of finding something to use against you. Even your children will search mom and dad to see what they are “really” like. Isn’t it important in all these situations to make sure the image they find is the one you want to project?

How much can a negative online review damage your business?

We live in a world where people who want to find out about something or someone make their first stop the Internet. According to a 2017 Harris Poll survey of 2380 hiring managers done for

·70% of employers use social media to screen candidates. In 2016 it was 60%. Back in 2006, it was only 11%.

·57% are less likely to interview a candidate they cannot find online.

·54% have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles.

·69% use online search engines to research candidates

·44% of employers decided to hire a candidate based on positive social media information

And it is not just the employers. Employees are also influenced by negative online reputations. The same survey showed that 71% of US workers would not apply for a job with a company which was experiencing negative press.

Managing your online reputation is not only important with potential employers. It is absolutely critical for those who operate their own businesses. found in a 2014 survey that 78% of consumers read thereviews or comments before making a purchase. It is widely believed that the number has grown much higher than that since 2014. 90% found the written review section important and 87% found the star rating system helpful. Interestingly enough, even though the overwhelming majority of people relied upon these reviews, 21% admitted that they, personally, had written negative reviews for a product or service they had never purchased.

If so many people rely so heavily on reviews and comments, and many of those reviews may be fictitious, can you see how important it is to make sure that inaccurate negative reviews are dealt with before they can influence potential customers?

Online negativity can damage more than your business

We live in a time when incivility is widespread. According to a 2017 Pew Research report, 41% of Americans have experienced online harassment. 62% consider it a major problem. Nearly one in five Americans has been subjected to extreme online harassment including sexual harassment, physical threats, stalking, and harassment over an extended period. Many of these people suffered severe emotional distress or fear for their personal safety.

Sadly, such online harassment can take on a life of its own over social media or through other vehicles. Online reputation management may be able to stop these activities before they start or at least before they get out of hand.

What if someone just manages their own online reputation?

Some people may see the value of repairing their company reputation but they may feel that they don’t need to hire a company to handle online reputation management services for them. These people may feel like they can be their own reputation defender. People who assume they can do it themselves should stop and consider several factors. In addition to their work, their

professional responsibilities, their family responsibilities, and everything else they do in their lives, can they really add the task of managing their online reputation on a 24/7/365 basis? Do they have the skills, the technology, or the experience to know what to do? If they are being personally attacked, will they keep enough emotional distance to avoid jumping in and throwing accusations back at the attacker? Can they calmly do what needs to be done without escalating the situation? And frankly, in some cases they may be the ones who created the online reputation problems by posting questionable things that may have seemed fine or even funny but have proven to be problematic for them. In those cases, should they really think that they should be the ones to recreate a more positive online reputation?

My business has a negative review.  Should I hire an online reputation management company?

We’ve seen how serious a negative review can be for a business. Whether it is an accurate negative review or one of the 21% which are fictional, it is a powerful influence on current and potential customers for your business. It needs more than just an offsetting positive review. It needs the services of a professional online reputation management companies to make sure that the negative review is not the first thing, or the only thing, potential customers see when they look up your business. Most people lack the skills and technology to accomplish that on their own, and need to rely on a professional to make it happen.

However well-meaning the person on the receiving end of the negative comments may be, using self-help to remedy the situation can backfire.  A South Florida air conditioning company received a negative online review from a customer, and when the company went out to make the repair they tried to get the customer to agree to remove the negative review as part of the service agreement covering the repair. An outraged customer called consumer reporters for a local television station and before long the story was on local TV, the headline being that the company tried to manipulate its online image by forcing the customer to remove the review. A lot of people may have read the negative comments before the television news report, but it is safe to assume that many more did as a result of the TV coverage and that as a result of the business owner’s attempt to act on his own behalf he only multiplied the negative publicity.

In the recent book Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate by Sue Scheff is quoted as follows:

“[A]ttackers now understand that online attacks have significant potential to negatively impact their intended targets—and they’re growing more sophisticated, selecting approaches that maximize damage.”

Those seeking to damage your online reputation have gotten more sophisticated, and businesses who try to act on their own behalf are likely to make a bad situation worse. If you’ve received a negative review, you need the professional services of an online reputation management company.

I’ve never had a negative review. So I don’t need an ORM company, right?

Online reputation management is not all about damage repair.

Yes, damage repair when necessary is an important part of reputation management. However, just as important if not more so is managing your positive online reputation to make sure you are projecting the best and most accurate image you can. Image can deter a potential customer, but it can also attract customers. You want to make sure that when someone enters your name into Google they see you and what you do rather than someone with the same name who does something completely different. Even if that “other you” has a positive online image, it is an image that is likely in a completely different industry and your potential customers will not learn anything positive about you. Even worse they may assume that you have no online presence and may move on to the online reputation of your competitors. And of course if that “other you” has a negative image, your potential customers may assume that the other person is you or is somehow connected with you.

The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies in this situation as well. If you’ve never had a negative review, congratulations! But which would be easier and would cost you less:

engaging a professional online reputation management firm before you receive a negative review to help head off any such problems, or hiring one after the negative review and trying to dig out from the damage? It is always easier and costs less to head off major problems before they happen rather than trying to pick up the pieces after the fact. Putting out the best online image with the assistance of a professional can make a lot of sense and is well worth the money.

So the short answer to “I don’t need be concerned with having a good reputation, right?” is “Wrong!”

What can an online reputation management company do for me?

Just because your online image isn’t working against you does not mean it is working for you. With the help of a professional you can project the best image and make sure that potential customers looking online see you before they see your competitors. The benefits such a professional can bring will enhance your career and will be well worth the investment. The best way to see what an online reputation management company can do for you is to find out how we can help you. We offer free proposals which will let you understand the full range of service that can benefit you in your career or your personal life. We can design a customized strategy to get you there.

Search engines and their algorithms are here to stay. You need to work with someone who understands how they work and how to work them for your benefit.

The social media monitoring and competitive research company Digimind wrote that over 80% of online reputation damage comes from a mismatch between the buzz and the reality. Make sure that your reality is what your customers see. Find out what we can do for you.