New Year's top resolution: Managing your online reputation!

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by: Christian Smagg

Well, 2008 has arrived, along with the New Year’s resolutions and the
ever-present pundit predictions. Now that we’re on the other side of
the New Year, I thought I would share my thoughts on what I feel should
be one of the companies’ top priorities – and probably their number 1
resolution for this year: Efficiently managing their online reputation.

Every day, a blogger or forum member is discussing something
important to your business, being your company’s brand, your key
executives, your competitors or your industry. They may be hyping your
company and building positive buzz for your products or criticizing
your services, complaining to others about the poor quality of your
customer service. When you think about it, companies aren’t just
potentially facing negative consumer buzz. Criminals are starting to
blackmail corporations by threatening to attack their reputations
online and competitors can also get online and cause trouble.

Managing online reputation is fast becoming a
growing problem for businesses. With the rise of social media and
user-generated content, online reputation is not just a matter of
tracking influential blogs. Millions of people can alter the content of
popular sites, anonymous people can post rumours on obscure chat sites
and popular consumer rating sites. The Internet has quickly become a
complex ecosystem where public opinion can be created and disseminated
within seconds. Keeping your eyes and ears on the world of consumer
generated media can be a daunting task for any company. Blogs, forums,
wikis and social networks gain popularity every day and without a plan
to monitor and manage your company’s online reputation, you could be at

A business’s reputation will be based on an almost infinite amount of
information sources. The Internet is a huge database of unstructured
information. When everyone is a publisher, the likelihood of libel
increases a millionfold. Accountability has fallen by the wayside.”
Toby Bell, Research Vice President at Gartner, Inc.

great brand can take months, if not years, and millions of dollars to
build. It should be the thing you hold most precious and managing your
business’s online reputation is key to owning your brand. Many
enterprises are only just starting to understand the importance of
online reputation management. It is fast becoming critical for
marketing and communication, legal counsel, corporate risk management
and the line of business alike to really understand how to better
monitor, manage and measure online reputation and to remedy problems
faster when they occur. There are so many conversations out there that
there is simply no effective manual way to identify them all, to figure
out whether there is something to take action on, to react to or
promote. Companies should therefore create policies and adopt
technologies that can help analyse what is being said about them on the
Internet and respond to conversations that can damage their reputations.

proliferation of social media on the web empowers consumers to become
influential, opinion-wielding publishers but also enables businesses to
take the pulse of consumers as it pertains to their brands. There are a
handful of emerging vendors including Reputica, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Andiamo Systems, Market Sentinel or Visible Technologies
to name a few, that offer services and technologies to help you
monitor, protect, nurture and build a stellar reputation for your
business. These solutions will help you gain a comprehensive
understanding of what your customers are saying about your products
& services, and proactively identify issues that have the potential
to affect the reputation of your company, image or brand. You will be
able to gain control of crisis situations with up-to-the-minute
intelligence that helps you pinpoint the consumer state of mind on
issues that can include product recalls, liability issues, consumer
activism, negative publicity, corporate issues, news events, rumours or
situations you never expected. Advanced monitoring, relevance
detection, filtering, classification, sentiment & concept mining,
modelling and scoring techniques as well as visualisation technologies
will also enable you to leverage candid public conversations so you’re
in the best possible position to repair your relationship with
customers, stakeholders, regulators, the media, the public and other

But reputation management should not only be limited
to large organisations. Companies of all sizes have competition and are
experiencing the new reality of Internet-enabled consumers who are
creating and sharing their experiences, opinion and content online. The
MarketingPilgrim website published a great list of twenty six free “buzz tracking” tools
that can be used to monitor your company reputation, track news that
relate to your industry or even spy on your competition! … well worth
checking out.

Now is time to take control of your online
reputation and maintain, enhance & protect your brand identity …
No more excuses!

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