- Member Since: April 15, 2019
- Country: France
- About: A few weeks ago, I Googled a pub to find out where it was. I clicked on the map that came up, for a larger view of the surrounding area. To the left of the map, under the pub's address and phone number, was a single quotation from a customer. The pub, which is part of a large chain, clearly had a problem: a bad review - a complaint, really - was the first thing that greeted potential customers, some of whom, like me, only wanted directions. Had I not arranged to meet people there, I might have looked for another pub. I don't want to wait 40 minutes for my chips. This 21st-century problem now has its own solution: online reputation management. Businesses and brands are increasingly seeking the services of companies that specialise in tidying up search engine results. The effect of a terrible review, a critical blog, an unflattering link or a rant from a disgruntled ex-employee sitting in one of the top 10 Google spots can be devastating for a business as click-through rates plummet. Obviously some companies have the online reputation they deserve, but an unjustified, malicious or obsolete complaint may linger for years, blighting every new query. However, the future of online reputation management seems to lie not just with rescuing brands, but with individuals. 10,000 a month to keep their search results clean. So that's exactly what I've done. My identity manager for the day is Simon Wadsworth, managing director of Igniyte, a UK online reputation management company with offices in Leeds and London. We are sitting at a boardroom table with a bright pink top, looking at Wadsworth's laptop. He is about to type my name into Google, and I'm getting ready to pretend to be surprised by what he shows me, as if I'd never done it myself. Online reputation management now accounts for 95% of his business. Initially, he worked exclusively with firms and brands, but these days 60-70% of Wadsworth's clients are individuals. His customers range from "senior execs in household name companies" to medical professionals, actors, presenters, politicians and beyond. For the most part, it's not people you would necessarily have heard of. One client is a former NHS professional who was implicated in an expenses scandal and is looking to move on with his life. The matter was settled four years ago, but it still comes up in searches. Another is an actor who wanted some pictures from when she was younger removed from the web. Confidentially is an essential part of the job. An online reputation is notoriously prone to the tarnish of outdated or contentious information, of the sort which is now the subject of proposed EU rules concerning the so-called "right to be forgotten". Google's search algorithms can make stuff seem more current or valid or relevant than it is. Memories and newsprint fade, but decades-old allegations are often among the first things to appear when a name is searched. If the law can't help you, an online reputation manager may be your only option. For companies and individuals alike, the ultimate goal is much the same: a clean page one. For the individual, owning page one isn't really an option, or even desirable. And while the idea of shifting unfavourable content down the list sounds simple, it's far from easy. By way of demonstrating how he might begin an audit with a new client, he turns to his laptop and types in my name. A few suggestions - "tim dowling guardian" is one - immediately present themselves in a drop-down box. How would you go about fixing that? Is online reputation management just gaming the system to give someone a clean slate they haven't earned? The system, Wadsworth says, is already inherently unfair, often providing a platform for unsubstantiated gripes or preserving complaints about problems that have long since been addressed. One angry employee can wreak havoc online. My page one is, as I am fully aware, fairly clean. Guardian website pages claim the number one and two spots. Then there's a Wikipedia entry, followed by my Twitter feed and links referring to other Tim Dowlings - an attorney, an Austin-based realtor, the head of North American structuring at Deutsche Bank AG - whose reputations are not my problem. As neutral placeholders in the top 10, they're more of an asset than a nuisance. In the fourth spot are a string of Google images I'd dearly like to push to page two, but I posed for all of them, so I shouldn't complain. Wadsworth tells me of a prospective client whose highest-ranking image was his prison mugshot. Wadsworth returns to the search box and types a "u" after "tim dowling". The first suggestion in the drop-down box is "tim dowling unfunny". We stare at it in silence for a moment. I have. The number one spot for that search is a link to a 2009 Mumsnet discussion entitled "Tim Dowling, for example, is a twat." I have only myself to blame for its existence. I stumbled across that sentence online, wrote about finding it and inadvertently spawned a thread with 484 posts. At some point my wife signed up to Mumsnet to commiserate with my detractors. Wadsworth says I made a classic mistake, creating a forum over which I have no control. The other results confirm that when it comes to the search results for "tim dowling unfunny", I do not exactly own page one. But that may not necessarily be a problem. The negative stuff is out there, but is anyone looking for it? Wadsworth says. No comment. I am lucky, he tells me. The way Google's search algorithm favours established and authoritative sites means my Guardian profile page will probably retain its number one spot. But this means that for his clients, a damaging newspaper article can be all but impossible to shift to page two. For businesses, the solution is to create positive - or even neutral - content to overwhelm the negative. He reckons it will take a year to sort out, and having seen the pages in question, I agree. For an individual, there are a few simple things one can do to maintain a healthy online reputation, and I am apparently doing none of them. I should be colonising page one by joining big networking sites such as LinkedIn. I could sign up for a DIY reputation-management service such as BrandYourself. I should have online profiles lodged with professional listings sites. When I get home, I don't do any of those things. Instead, I sign up for Google adwords, and start working my way through the alphabet. When I'm done, I'm going to go back to the search box and type "tim dowling nice guy" until my fingers bleed. This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. Everyone will google you, so it stands to reason to know what they will find. Did I mention there are chrome extensions that powerfully amplify my social prospecting of you. I shall leave this for another article. This year there will be many new tools and social media apps based entirely on ORM and online branding. I will be featuring some of these in future articles. The digital landscape is shifting towards a greater importance of online branding and analytics surrounding your digital word of mouth and network nurturing skills. Run your own Publication on Medium. Have a Facebook brand page. Have legitimate way to Freelance. Omni-Social: Use a variety of DMs (texting, facebook messenger, twitter DM, Instagram DM, LinkedIn Mail, Whatsapp, Line, and not just Email). Often times speaking with prospects on these channels is more personal and can be rapport building before more business comms on Email can take place. Why is your digital ORM important? In the future, your online reputation will not just be for yourself or to portray yourself to others. It will actually be how machine-intelligence identifies you, the analytics available on you will be profiled. Start with the basics: when this is the mantra of any business campaign that you are about to launch, you will find the path smoother than otherwise. Reputation management services, like mot other services, is most effective when you use simple building blocks. Plan out the little things and you will find that the larger, complex issues will fall into place like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Online reputation management experts have a lot of tasks on their hands and tools to serve their purpose. But before they venture out to protect and sustain the brand building campaign, they have to ensure that they have the full picture on their table. You cannot begin to mend or maintain something unless you know every little detail. Reputation management online is all about being perceptive to opinion, positive and negative. It doesn’t take much to listen to the online buzz. There are plenty of tools, like email alerts, RSS feeds etc. to keep you abreast of developments. If you deploy reputation management representatives on social media circuits, you can easily tap into the discussions going on. Active listening is the prime ingredient of any meaningful conversation. The same concept applies for the online reputation management experts working for your brand. They need to know the comments and their contexts. Only then can they contribute to the discussion with the required information. Since agents conduction reputation management online are representing your brand, it goes without saying that the members of your business network will expect authentic, qualified information. They cannot leave vague comments in their wake and move on. There’s another reason why listening to your consumers and internal employees works for your brand. Being associated with online reputation management services, you think differently about your brand than the end users. They know what it is from the external point of view. A classic example would be the price tags that you use on your products/services. Users who are making the purchases understand better if the price tags are suitable for them. When they write to you or discuss between themselves that a lower tag would be exactly what they want, you can review your stand. Reputation management services can help you understand your customers better than you do now. When you begin to pay attention to feedback, you are actually providing more value to people who add value to your business. If you are really interested in listening to what the customers have to say, get your online reputation management team to build up communities on Facebook or Twitter. It’s advisable that you provide them with the required platform. There are two reasons why you should do this. First, when they talk on your page, you can follow their discussions and respond accordingly.
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