Protecting Your Online Reputation

Posted by on Nov 4, 2011 in Business Development | 2 comments

Protecting Your Online Reputation

Awhile ago, I read an article about name squatting and how spammers and other ne’er-do-wells are registering company names on Twitter and other social networking sites. It seems that several brand names (Tim Hortons, Sears, and Coca-Cola) have been registered by squatters. This could potentially pose a problem for those companies should the people who registered those names choose to use them for evil.

The time it takes to build a good reputation is disproportionate to the time it takes to destroy one. I’m talking years vs. seconds. Not only do you have to worry about the natural misunderstandings that often occur online, but you have to also have to worry about internet abusers who thinks it’s fun to destroy another person’s reputation.

Case in point: Exxon Moblie Corp had someone register a Twitter account and person tried to pass themselves off as a representative of the company. While the damage was minimal (at a time when gas was almost $4.00 a gallon in the US, I would say that Exxon dodged a bullet), the incident highlights the need for businesses and individuals to be proactive and vigilante about what is happening with their names online.

Things You Can Do to Protect Your Name

1. Register at the major social networking websites even if you don’t intend to participate. This will prevent others from registering your name and trying to impersonate you. You can use KnowEm’s UserName Check service to see if your chosen username is available on 100′s of sites.

2. Set up a Google and Yahoo alert for all names connected to you and your business.

http://alerts.yahoo.com/

http://www.google.com/alerts

These companies will send you a notice each time something pops up in their search engines about your chosen keywords. This is great for helping you nip potential problems in the bud.

3. Use the same internet handle and avatar consistently. This helps build brand awareness, cuts down on confusion, and makes it easy for people to find you online.

4. Monitor search results for your name. Take time each week to do a search of your name, business name, and internet handle (if it’s different) and see what comes up in the search engine result pages. The last time I heard, 80% of people used search engines to find information about products, businesses, and people. So yeah, it’s important to see what they’re see.

5. Respond quickly and positively to criticism, especially if the criticism is based on erroneous information.

6. If you have not done so already, register your personal and business domain names. It’s only $10 per name at Namecheap.

7. Duct Tape Marketing has a comprehensive list of resources for managing your online profiles.

What to Do if Your Online Reputation Has Been Damaged

1. If someone is impersonating you on a website, immediately contact the administration. Most will shut down the account to avoid legal problems if you can prove that the person is an imposter.

2. Send out an official notice, by press release or your blog, disavowing the fake account. Tap your network and have them write about the incident on their blogs as well.

3. If customers are complaining about your product or service and the complaint is legitimate, deal with the problem. Trying to ignore the complaints or covering them up will only cause the situation to blow up in your face.

4. Manage your search results. If you don’t know what search engine optimization/marketing is, then may I suggest a crash course in the subject.

5. If someone is distributing erroneous information about you, go to where the information appears and politely ask that it be removed. Don’t be surprised, however, if the site refuses. Some websites, like RipOffReport, have a no-deletion policy. They don’t take down anything posted to the site. Most, however, will allow you to tell your side of the story. Be sure to remain calm and professional when doing so. Blowing up in a rage will only make the complaint seem legitimate.

6. Find and promote the good stuff written about you. Solicit customer testimonials and display them prominently on your website. If someone mentions you positively, make a note of it on your blog or social networking profile.

7. If the sheer magnitude of negative press is too much for you to handle, consider hiring an internet reputation company to help you clean up the mess.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice article about a really serious topic. Reputation management is only going to become a bigger issue over the next few years!

    • Hi Darren,

      I completely agree. As trust becomes more and more of an issue, it will become increasingly important to nip reputation problems in the bud. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

      Arwen