By: Lori T. Williams, Owner/Managing Attorney of Your Legal Resource, PLLC
In a recent lunch and learn presentation, we discussed the legal and technological issues involved in online reputation monitoring, management, and repair. While use of the internet and social media has been a great way to reach more people through little to no cost, it is also a vehicle for some misguided folks to attempt to ruin reputations, steal identities, and wreak havoc in one’s personal and professional life. The best way to counter this behavior is to be informed of what others are saying about you online, and take the appropriate action to correct any damaging content.
From a legal standpoint, the law is still evolving in this area. Proving damages is the biggest hurdle in traditional defamation cases, as well as in online defamation cases. How do you prove the number of potential customers who did not call you because of what they read about you online? How do you quantify the lost sales from customers with whom you had no track record? For more information about the legal aspects of reputation attacks and digital defamation, and what you can do to protect yourself, read our next blog featuring attorney Michael Melfi.
There are many practical solutions you can implement to repair your reputation online, short of litigation. Judd Seida is the Owner of Biz Hive and offers a service known as The Online Body Guard. Seida helps companies with their online marketing, management, and reputation repair needs. Seida notes that “one of the most common mistakes companies make is relying on their own perception of their online reputation. What really matters is the consumer’s perception of the company.”
According to Google, 82% of people who search for a product or service online, contact the business offline to purchase it. What they find out about you online can make the difference of whether or not they contact you.
According to Seida, “potential clients and customers are going to place a value on your product or service based on the look of your website, how easy it is to navigate your website, and what other people are saying about you. The quality of your product or service, the price point or value, and the integrity of your company aren’t part of the initial impression.”
When is Reputation Monitoring Useful?
- When there aren’t any real problems, but you want to know what others are saying about you or the company;
- As a way to leverage opportunities for expansion and support a company or personal brand with positive content;
- To increase rankings in major search engines;
- To increase followers on social media sites;
- To support other sales and marketing efforts;
- To increase or take over market share.
When is Reputation Repair Necessary?
- Lawsuits filed;
- Scandals uncovered;
- Product defects or recalls initiated;
- Poor manufacturing standards revealed;
- Environmental violations noticed;
- Fraud or Embezzlement charges;
- Accusations of lieing, cheating, or stealing;
- Other wrongful conduct exposed.
Ignoring these things can cause the public to believe the negative information about the company. Companies have a responsibility to clean up the mess, because perception is reality. Being proactive and addressing the problem through appropriate repair techniques can give the company more credibility in the long run. Hiding from it, just makes them look guilty.
Warning signs of a possible reputation problem:
- Negative commentary appears about you or your company online;
- New business prospects quietly disappear into the arms of your competitors;
- Existing clientele unexpectedly begin to challenge the value of your services or products;
- Phone calls, text messages, emails, and other methods of communication go unreturned from trusted resources and contacts.
“The bottom line is that monitoring your reputation is imperative to maintaining a positive online presence,” says Seida. ”We had a restaurant client whose business was nearly dead when he contacted us. He told us he had no website or online presence, yet we found the restaurant listed in 5 review sites with multiple negative comments in each one. The owner had no idea these comments were out there or that other customers paid attention to them.”
A damaged reputation can cost an individual or company money, jobs, sales, and in some cases their future. In Seida’s experience, “if you don’t know what your customers or clients are saying about you, you WILL lose clients, it’s just a matter of time.”
What should companies monitor?
What to monitor will depend on the industry and company, but Biz Hive suggests these general topics which apply to most companies:
- Personal names
- Company names
- Website names
- Product names
- Brand names
- Copy written material
- Trade secrets
- Special projects
- Key Executives
- Variations of your name and the company name
- Incorrect spellings
“It’s important to realize that other people are always researching you and/or your company. You need to control what their experience will be,” says Seida. ”Hate sites, review sites and forums are very common. If you ignore or don’t educate yourself as to what is out there about your company, it will cost you.”
For a free online reputation report about your company from The Online Body Guard, click here. For additional information shared by Biz Hive at the Lunch and Learn, review this Powerpoint Presentation.
Judd Seida is the CEO of BizHive, which offers reputation management, monitoring, and repair service through their sister company known as The Online Body Guard. BizHive works with CEO’s, Judges, celebrities, athletes, and other public figures, as well as law firms and their clients, restaurants, retailers, and other individuals and businesses seeking to establish and maintain a positive image online for themselves and their companies. Through BizHive and The Online Body Guard, Seida offer social media marketing strategies and analytics, PR management, online advertising, blogs, SEO services, and online reputation monitoring, management, and repair services.