Benjamin Franklin once said “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it”. He lived in the 18th century and could have had no idea that his quote would be used over and over again by the likes of internet reputation management consultants today, whose focus is to continually stress the importance of reputation management strategies.
The communication exchange on the web is fast, every single contributor counts, and the internet can be the cruel broadcaster of a wrongly written word. The internet is full of stories of companies that lost their reputation online because of a simple mistake.
The ‘Dell Hell’ saga several years ago is a well-known example of how careful a company has to be with the management of its online reputation. A Dell customer, Jeff Jarvis, wrote a blog detailing his problems with his new Dell computer, and the lack of support he received from Dell. In no time his blog was read by thousands of people and a story entitled ‘Dell Hell’ went around the globe, picked up by Guardian UK, and lingered on the web for years. Dell had to work very hard to move away from the image this story projected, to the extent that they found it necessary to open a social media listening command centre where they monitor customer posts daily in 11 languages.
Karma is the name for the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction that Hindus believe governs all life. Any action is a ‘seed’ that sprouts into a result when the right conditions are met. Karma is also a common name given to user reputation in online rating systems. It is often reported that the number one way consumers make a decision to buy a product is through online reviews and ratings. Most users are careful when they come across a negative karma and would prefer to shop with the companies that have ‘clean’ company and product reviews.
A business reputation can be lost if a company fails to develop a proactive reputation management campaign. It is not easy to overwrite a public blog reply with ALL CAPS (interpreted as shouting), or a comment by an annoyed customer. Once cached in Google and other search engines, a negative review doesn’t usually go away in a hurry.
While examining online reputation management, a business needs to separate the noise from the real conversations – and take action if the conversation that is taking place on social media is damaging their reputation.
Reputation management should be treated in the same way as branding. A company’s brand is its essence: it is how the customers perceive the business. Companies spend years building a brand so protecting its reputation is crucial. Once reputation is tarnished, it is hard to get it to shine again.
Some of the traditional tools and methods can also be applied as technology evolves. These include the close monitoring of websites and social media pages as a basic metric of every online reputation management campaign; creating and actively updating social media proﬁles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia,; effectively responding to any online query or complaint; profiling your customers and monitoring what they say about you and your brand; increasing customer conﬁdence by publishing positive reviews on the company’s website and through third-party websites; and performing search engine optimisation of your website.
Listening to customers and delivering good products and services are fundamentals that will never become obsolete.
Ms Pantovic is head of international business development at Alert Communications, a local web development company.