Why online reputation concerns all of us
Almost three years ago I published a blog post called Does home working affect your image?, in which I asked if being based at home gave clients and contacts a less professional impression of your business. We’re so far past that stage that it’s looking rather quaint. What we need to be more worried about now is our online reputation.
A disgruntled customer, competitor or anyone who has stumbled across you online can write negative, or completely false, comments about you and your business. Comments that are instantly available online and almost impossible to get rid of.
Which is worrying when according to figures on the reputation.com website, 92% of users read internet reviews, 89% trust online reviews and 74% will change their mind based on a bad review. Existing customers are unlikely to be put off as they have already built a relationship with you. But potential customers might perceive you as a risky bet if they spot any kind of blot on your online reputation.
I’ve already shared my experience of what it’s like to be attacked by a troll. I have a spiteful ‘review’ on my Amazon page accusing me of being a slavedriver, lacking in morals and many other unpleasant things. Often it seems such reviews are driven by jealousy of your perceived status and a desire to bring down someone who appears to have achieved more success than the ‘reviewer’ can bear.
The reality is usually very different. If the person who wrote the personal attack on me knew how hard I worked running my cleaning business – how many toilets I cleaned and bins I emptied, if she knew there is no money is to be made from writing a book unless you are a bestseller, I doubt she would have bothered to write a single word.
I didn’t realise until recently that you can now pay for online reputation management (which is so established that it has its own acronym, ORM) to make sure that you and your business appear to their best advantage on the net.
Services to manage your personal online reputation include keeping an eye on search results to make sure sensitive personal information doesn’t make its way online. From a business point of view it involves monitoring online reviews in order to challenge negative ones, and posting favourable reviews to push critical ones down the search engine rankings, making them less visible.
Often the problem with responding directly to an attack is that you only express your own anger and aren’t convincing to the reader, in whose mind there is still an element of doubt about you or your business.
However, this wasn’t the case with the recent spirited response of a restaurant owner to a bad review on Tripadvisor, which went viral. In it he undermines the credibility of the reviewer in many ways, including pointing out that the reviewer has a history of similar poor reviews that all seem to have the object of a free meal in mind. I expect he has seen an increase in business from admirers!
I think the fact his response went viral says a lot about our vulnerability online to people who can post anonymous comments safe in the knowledge they will not be held accountable. (Although maybe less so after a couple of the trolls who sent death threats to the women on banknotes campaigner were outed and went into hiding). No doubt we’ve all been at the receiving end of criticism we felt was unfair and get a vicarious thrill from reading someone else’s demolition of the offender.
Do you try to protect your online reputation by keeping a close eye on what people are saying about you, by signing up for Google alerts, for example? How would you respond if you were attcked online?