Reputation management (RM) is the influencing and the control of an individual's or business's reputation. Originally a public relations term, the advancement of internet and social media expansion, along with reputation management companies, have made it primarily an issue of search results and a field more concerning about online society. Online Reputation Management is known as ORM. ORM is mostly used for evaluating the services and referrals and finding the most useful and reliable parties for users. It is widely used in lots of circumstances, not only in social media, also in blog posts, review sites, forums, competitor websites and press releases.
Reputation is the stakeholder’s overall evaluation of a company over time, so reputation management is very necessary. However, there are some ethical grey areas, such as mug shot removal sites, astroturfing review sites, censoring negative complaints or using SEO tactics to game the system and influence results. All of these need to be considered.
The concept was initially intended to broaden public relations outside of media relations. Academic studies have identified it as a driving force behind Fortune 500 corporate public relations since the beginning of the 21st century. As the Internet and social media became more popular, the meaning has shifted to focus on electronic communities, such as review sites, social media and—most prominently—the top search results on a brand or individual.
- In 2011, the reputation of Taco Bell restaurant was hardly damaged by the allegation that the seasoned beef was actually only 35% real beef. But the lawsuit finally failed, which was mainly due to the effective reputation management on different social medias taken by Taco Bell in a short time.
The rise of the electronic communities has given birth to a lot of good things, meantime a lot of things that are not so good. Some companies even adopted unethical means to make their reputation look better.
- In 2007, a study by the University of California Berkeley found that some sellers were undertaking reputation management on eBay by selling products at a discount in exchange for positive feedback to game the system.
Reputation management (sometimes referred to as rep management, online reputation management or ORM) is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.
Specifically, reputation management aims on monitoring the reputation of an individual or a brand on the internet, addressing content which is potentially damaging to it, and using customer feedback solutions to get feedback or early warning signals to reputation problems. Most of reputation management is focused on pushing down negative search results. Under business circumstances, reputation management may attempt to bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.
Some examples of websites where a company may conduct reputation management is the feedback system on eBay, and Wikipedia. Google searching is a primary target of reputation management efforts. Here are some of the tactics used by reputation management firms:
- Improving the tagging and search engine optimization of company-published materials, such as white papers and positive customer testimonials in order to push down negative content.
- Publishing original, positive websites and social media profiles, with the aim of outperforming negative results in a search.
- Submitting online press releases to authoritative websites in order to promote brand presence and suppress negative content.
- Submitting legal take-down requests if someone believes they have been libeled.
- Getting mentions of the business or individual in third-party sites that rank highly in Google.
- Creating fake blogs pretending to be a different person that shares the same name in order to push down negative search results on the actual person or brand.
- Using spam bots and denial-of-service attacks to force sites with damaging content off the web entirely.
- Astroturfing third-party websites by creating anonymous accounts that create positive reviews or lash out against negative ones.
- Proactively offering free products to prominent reviewers.
- Removal of online mug shots.
- Proactively responding to public criticism stemming from recent changes.
- Image reputation management where photos violating copyright, are embarrassing or might give the wrong impression to employers, for example, are removed or suppressed.
- Contact the editor to remove incorrect information about your business in the Wikipedia pages about your company. Nonetheless, editing your page blindly is not suggested.
The practice of reputation management raises many ethical considerations. There is no agreement within the industry on where to draw the line on issues of disclosure, astroturfing, and censorship. Firms have been known to hire staff to pose as bloggers on third party sites without disclosing they were paid, and some have been criticized for asking websites to remove negative posts. In some instances, the act of unethical reputation management can itself be risky to the reputation of the firm, if their tactics to hide negative information are exposed. Mug shot removal services have been connected to mug shot publishing websites, resulting in a combined business model that Forbes referred to as the "embarrassment extortion industry."
Some firms practice ethical forms of reputation management. The Online Reputation Management Association tries to promote ethical best practices through a certification program. Google considers there to be nothing inherently wrong with reputation management as the industry was formed in 2007. Google even introduced a toolset in 2011 for users to monitor their online identity and request removal of unwanted content. Many firms are selective about clients they accept. For example, they may avoid individuals that committed violent crimes that are looking to push information about their crimes lower on search results.
As the industry has developed, general practices have become more standardized and the ethics of them have become more defined, although not always explicitly. The use of automation by some of the major review sites like Yelp has seen court cases dismissed, which may imply the use of algorithms to manage reviews is here to stay. In a different case, the automotive review site Edmunds.com sued a reputation management firm for posting fake reviews. Lawsuits like these may be an indicator that the review sites and other industry leaders are attempting to bring more transparency to online reviews while limiting manipulation by firms that are paid by businesses or consumers to artificially boost ratings or suppress negative reviews.
There are several cases of reputation management which are positive or negative.
- Online retailers, has sued 1,114 people who are paid to publish fake five star reviews for mediocre products. These reviews were placed using a popular website for microtasks called Fiverr.com. A number of other companies offer fake Yelp and Facebook reviews, and one journalist amassed five star reviews for a business that doesn't exist, from social media accounts that have also given overwhelmingly positive reviews to "a chiropractor in Arizona, a hair salon in London, a limo company in North Carolina, a realtor in Texas, and a locksmith in Florida, among other far-flung businesses."
- Engaging a valid complaint – The company in this case study had received a handful of complaints on Facebook regarding a missing cable for devices they had sent out immediately after making a new product announcement. Because the company had enlisted Reputation Management LLC to monitor the social media sites for chatter involving their name, the complaints were picked up early. Reputation Management LLC counseled that, due to the validity of the complaints, engagement would be the best solution. The company communicated directly with each person who had posted a complaint, apologized for the inconvenience, and delivered the missing cables within a couple of days. In addition to the cables the company sent a gift certificate for a future purchase with them. The response was company’s response was received positively and what could have turned out to be a public relations nightmare was solved and put away quickly. Additionally, by catching the complaints early the company was able to add the missing cables to boxes about to be shipped, avoiding more problems.
According to a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab Market Research, 70 percent of companies have rejected candidates based on the candidate's online reputation, but only 7 percent of Americans believe it affects their job search. A survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 1 in 4 hiring managers used search engines to screen candidates. One in 10 also checked candidates' profiles on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. According to a December 2007 survey by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research organization, roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications.
- 86% of online U.S. adults have used a search engine like Google to find more information about another person.
- 75% of online U.S. adults have searched their own name in a search engine. Of those that searched their own name, almost half (48%) said most of the search results about them are not positive; nearly a third (30%) said nothing shows up about them at all.
- Nearly a third (31%) of online U.S. adults that have searched another person online have looked up a politician. Of those that did, over half said the search influenced their voting decision.
- Among online U.S. adults that have searched someone else online, 42% have searched someone before doing business with them. Of those that did, 45% have found something that made them decide not to do business.
- Almost half (43%) of online U.S. adults that have searched someone else online have searched a potential date, significant other, or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, making romantic searches one of the most common search among U.S. adults.
There are cases of reputable organizations or individuals—even those with newly created websites—that may find their brand or name listed in search engine's suggestions as scam. Domain names can be critical to an organization or person's reputation Such negative suggestions which are harmful to the reputation of the organization or individual are often caused by negative contents on personal blogs, complaint sites, scraper sites, forums and comment sections. In such cases where it is not possible to ask for the negative contents to be taken down, experts agree that reputation management is justifiable in this regard, and some experts advise that the proper thing to do is to push down the visibility of such negative search engine results through proactively publishing useful, positive information about the organizations or individuals.
According to a report from New York Times, negative internet review may not damage the reputation of business, but help it thrive because it gives the company a higher position in the rank of Google search results. The owner of a company which sell fake sunglass, who benefits a lot from the positive effect of negative reviews, refers to this phenomenon "NEGATIVE advertisement". In this case, negative reviews are just part of his sales strategy.
- Category:Reputation management companies
- Impression management
- Online identity management
- Peer-to-peer: Security and trust
- Reputation capital
- Spin (public relations)
- Streisand effect
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