Posts Tagged ‘online reputation management’
I spoke on a panel one week ago organized by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Connecticut. The topic was “Can They Really Say That About Me?” I was joined by terrific panelists….John Hines of Clark Hill (Online Reputation: Legal Perspective), Polly Wood of Reputation.com (Protecting Your Online Reputation), Dr. Pamela Newman of Aon‘s Newman Team (Insuring Reputation) and Stephen Schultze of the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy (Policy Perspective on Reputation). We all had a terrific time learning from one another since we all approached reputation from different angles. I approached reputation from a company point of view, John from a legal point of view, Polly from an individual point of view, Pamela from an insurance perspective and Stephen from a policy angle. John Hines organized the event and we are hoping to take the show on the road to Chicago.
Stephen brought up a question that has been lingering in my mind since the session ended. He asked whether society was perpetuating a “reputation gap.” He posed the idea that there is a divide between those that can police their reputation and those that cannot. It costs money, time, resources and know-how to protect your reputation, build positive mentions to push down the negative, open new domains and populate social media to create good first impressions. The “have nots” do not have the same access to information and Internet savvy to protect their reputations, balance the positive with the negative or hire an online reputation management specialist to help better situate their reputations. Just yesterday I wrote on this blog that nearly $1.6 billion was spent in 2012 managing reputations online. With figures like this, Stephen Schultze has to be right asking whether there is a reputation gap. The answer is clearly “yes.” Perhaps some of these online reputation management companies should provide services pro bono for some of the unfortunate who are maligned online and do not know where to turn to for support.
As for me being in the reputation business myself, I do make it my business to help people whose reputations have been tarnished by explaining what they can do and where they might seek help. So I hope that I am doing my bit to narrow the reputation gap.
A quick note for a Saturday. In this article, I read that small and medium sized business spent nearly $1.6 billion in 2012 managing their reputations online. This figure is expected to reach more than $2.9 billion in 2017. I imagine that if you added in large sized businesses, you’d be closer to $4 billion. (Just estimating) in 2012. This confirms that there is an entirely robust online reputation management industry that has just gotten started. And the reasons behind this new cottage industry are strong when you take into consideration that nearly 94% of people do not move beyond the first page of Google or Bing to get what they were looking for. Last I had heard, the number was closer to 89% but it certainly is creeping up. I bet it hits 100% in no time.
I was glad to find these facts about online reputation management companies this week. I’ve often wondered about the market for them as they have boomed in recent years. An estimate for spending on online reputation is provided by BIA/Kelsey — $1.6 billion for 2011 and an expectation of $5 billion by 2015. This is for small and medium-sized businesses. My sense is that this is the market because one or two negative customer mentions or reviews can really wipe dollars off that precious bottom line. Fixing your online reputation is not easy. If it were, everyone would have a pristine reputation. In fact, it takes years for a reputation to build or recover — just think about BP and how painful that recovery has been although they are slowly making progress. Even when hiring an online reputation management company, it takes at least a year to see change from what I have been told. And that might be optimistic. In fact, I went to check out an uncomplimentary mention about an executive I know that first appeared at least four years ago. It was still there although it had a few more positive mentions ahead of it. But four years is a long time to correct something online. This executive did not hire an online reputation management and just took her chances.
A quote that surfaced in the article where I found this spending estimate caught my attention, “If the Internet is the Wild West, then online reputation management is Dodge City.” Whoah.
Is it me or is there an article every single day about how to manage your online reputation, particularly if you are a job seeker. I know that I get Google Alerts as to when anything surfaces on online reputation but I don’t think I can read any more. For instance, today I got another one and I took a deep sigh. How many times do people have to read that they should do a Google or Bing search of their name to see how they are being talked about online? How many times do people have to read about buying their name on a domain site or be positive online and off? Oh well. I think I figured out the answer. “A lot.” Obviously people do not follow these simple rules because otherwise there wouldn’t be a demand for this information. And from my experience with job seekers, many people do not think twice about how often employers check out candidates online (I think that 70% of employers check online).
So I get it. But I can still ask the question. I guess it is just me.
I am always eager to learn how other countries are managing their company or brand online reputations. Here in the U.S., it is always a topic of conversation at work or at home. Therefore I was pleased when a colleague in our office in the Hague sent me some research they did among executives in Dutch organizations on the subject. I was particularly pleased that they cited our global research that we did on online reputation management in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Here are some of the facts that jumped out at me and here is the link if you are interested in learning more.
- Most Dutch companies actively monitor social media but do not react proactively when something appears online that impacts their reputation.
- Dutch companies are slow to react to detractors online or what we call badvocates (I would say that companies here in the U.S. do not necessarily react that quickly either). Dutch companies are quicker to respond to advocates or those who support them than their critics. I think that this reflects the difficulty in getting executives to agree on what to say to detractors. There are so many opinions and people to consult unless you are extremely well-rehearsed or fairly advanced on the social media continuum.
- A large 62% said that they had encountered badvocates online and one-quarter felt that they had difficulty controling their impact. I would have expected the latter number to be higher since it is hard to control one’s badvocates. It is hard to know what to do unless you are in the social media conversation often and have built credibility.
- Suprising to me, these executives believe that positive comments online have a greater impact on reputation than negative comments. I would have thought the other way around since detractors’ negativity travels so quickly here in the U.S. But this does make sense.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) say that Dutch companies do not have a plan for managing reputation online. That seems to compare with the U.S. in terms of preparation. I think that most companies think about online reputation management but their planning is less than perfect.
As my colleagues concluded, “organizations hear what they want to hear.” I have to totally agree with this conclusion. When I wrote my book on reputation recovery, one of the salient points I learned is how hard it is for companies to stop believing their own propaganda. It is more difficult than ever to think out of the silo or box. Perhaps that is because every misstep today can be magnified and amplified. Someone once said to me that it is easy to listen but harder to hear. That is the truth.
If you can read in Dutch, you might want to go here.
There is an interesting article on Cnet about online reputation management. The article by Tom Krazit is mostly about the many ways that online reputation companies help people manage their reputations online. There have been many articles on online reputation management but I suspect that the reason this article appeared when it did was due to the change in name at ReputationDefender to Reputation.com. Why did ReputationDefender changes its name? It says on their website the following: ”It also better communicates the scope of our solutions, beyond the “defensive” and onto the “proactive” face of reputation and privacy management. Through Reputation.com, we will continue to focus on delivering high-quality reputation management and privacy products, but we will also focus more broadly on the issue of Internet identity and proactive reputation building.”
When you read Krazit’s article, it reviews the savory and less savory ways that one’s reputation can be improved online or somewhat buried in the rankings lineup on search engines. And of course, some of the methods are not revealed because that is the secret sauce of these firms.
The founder of Reputation.com, Michael Fertik, defends people’s rights to put their best foot (face?) forward in his brash quote: ”Google is not God, it is not the First Amendment, and it’s not the truth. It’s probably the best machine of the last 10 years, but it’s just a machine.” I met Michael about two years ago because of our mutual interest in reputation. I am sure he said the same thing to me about Google at our first meeting. He has a good point. Just because something surfaces at the top of Google does not necessarily make it absolutely true or the last word on an issue or topic or person. I sincerely admire what Michael has built and the passion he puts into his business and people’s right to defend themselves when they have been wronged or privacy is invaded in harmful ways (they have a product for cyberbullying, MyChild). He has built a business from the ground up and I applaud that. I am glad that his business is doing so well.
Interestingly, the writer asked Google for its opinion on reputation management online and they forwarded the following comment:
Our goal is to help people find relevant information. So, we don’t condone reputation management campaigns that attempt to hide relevant information. While there is nothing in our guidelines that explicitly forbids reputation management, if we uncover link schemes or other violations, we reserve the right to take action in response. We are constantly working to improve our algorithms to ensure people find the most relevant information possible for their searches.
Ultimately, I agree with the author who at the end of the article concludes:
This will definitely continue to be a balancing act between those who want to be seen as the arbiters of what is relevant on the Web and those who want greater control of how their identity is presented to the world: for both good reasons and bad.
A survey on irritating buzzwords was forwarded to me last week and I was delighted that “online reputation management” was not among them although it made me wonder. In my narrow world, online reputation management seems to be ubiquitous and I use it alot. The last thing I would want to be called is bothersome. However, the analysis by an independent research group for The Creative Group looked at the” most annoying” industry buzzwords according to marketing and advertising executives. As you can only imagine, “social media” and “social networking” are at the top. I have to admit that I have used some of these words myself so I am not a complete innocent. However, I am now forewarned.
I noticed that 24/7 was mentioned (number 20) which made me recall the New York Times Public Editor’s article from yesterday that cited the paper’s dot com site’s assistant managing editor Jim Roberts who calls it the 1440/7 news cycle because there are 1,440 minutes every day, seven days a week with ”each one of those minutes demanding news for delivery to a networked world.” I think that Jim Roberts has it exactly right when it comes to filling the news demand.
25 Most Annoying Marketing Buzzwords
- “Social media/social networking”
- “ROI/return on investment”
- “Extra value/value added”
- “Social media expert”
- “Moving forward”
- “Going green”
- “Think out of the box”
- “Culture change”
- “End of the day”
- “The big idea”
Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is a special holiday because it brings families and friends together over food as a new season takes hold. Before walking the dog this morning, I read an oped about keeping a gratitude diary. I thought of my neighbor who told me that he begins his day by reciting what he is thankful for. I thought this was a nice idea but not for me. I don’t have time for breakfast, let alone another list of things to think about. He is retired, I thought as he spoke, so he has the time to be thankful, walk the dog in the park for an hour and stop to chat on the sidewalk about his family, new granddaughter, travel to his second home. Not for me.
The last few days, I have been thinking what drives me, besides my family of course. I have to say that my passion for the topic of reputation is at the core of what I do. I am thankful for my obsession with “reputation” and its many dimensions. About one year ago at this time, I was wondering what was new in the world of reputation that would excite me enough to write a book (not again!) or article or ignite an idea for new research on reputation. Everyone seems to be an online reputation manager or expert. The Internet lets everyone or anyone hang out a shingle! What more could I add that needs further exploration. This challenge to myself was not easy because I had covered many aspects of reputation over the years — CEO reputation, reputation recovery, reputation rankings, executive visibility, thought leadership, social media reputation, reputation risk, reputation loss and online reputation management. Yet, something did come to mind and I bravely sent off an email to an editor at Harvard Business Review.
Nearly one year later, with a pile of drafts,articles and reports on the floor in my office, my article on Reputation Warfare appeared. I am joyously grateful that an idea that came to mind last Thanksgiving came to fruition and now sits proudly inside the HBR December issue (and online). What amazes me is that I never lost interest for one minute in the topic of how companies can learn lessons from the military on how to defend themselves against online asymmetrical attacks from reputation detractors or snipers. Even now as the issue sits with readers, my interest in reputation defense in this brave new world has not diminished. I regard that as a gift to be grateful for. A colleague wrote me yesterday after reading the article that even more challenging and complex reputational assaults lie ahead. How true. That’s good news to me.
My laptop has a yellow post- it notes feature and I am contemplating a gratitude list. Maintaining a passion over months and years for an idea such as reputation is high on the list. Happy Thanksgiving.
In our research on online reputation management, Risky Business, which we conducted in cooperation with The Economist Intelligence Unit, we found that employee criticism tied for first place with leaked confidential information as the greatest online reputation risks to a company’s reputation. Today I read about a product called Social Sentry that provides employers with the ability to track what employees are saying about the company in social media while using work computers. The software lets a company know if something questionable is being said such or revealed. [Note: If an employee is using his or her own personal computer, it cannot track that information.] The article points out that this tool brings the privacay debate to the surface.
Of course, this is one way to manage reputation but one has to ask whether it is really worth it? I am not sure.
Reputation dirt. An article in the Boston Globe describes what people can do to manage their personal and professional reputations. The feature reviews various firms that help bury the negative and accentuate the positive. One of the experts quoted in the article, Harvard University Internet law professor Jonathan Zittrain, came up with an interesting idea. He suggested that people be allowed to declare “reputation bankruptcy.’’ His idea is that people get to have their online reputations erased every few years to reset them, a method similar to what happens in personal financial bankruptcy. Surely, this would lead to an entirely new industry — reputation bankruptcy experts.
The question is whether it makes sense for people who have truly done something wrong (i.e., criminal history) to be given the right to erase their past when it is important to others who might be hiring them or living next door to them to know their backgrounds. Again, it keeps coming back to the fact that people should think not once, not twice but possibly three or more times about doing something that is wrong. in the first place.