Do You Know What People Are Saying About You Online? New “Online Identity Managers” Are Becoming A Must For Business Owners Who Need To Keep Their Reputation Clean…
A recent front-page story in the Washington Post brought to light a fast-growing trend in today’s digital world: online identity management.
According to the article, Sue Scheff, a consultant to parents of troubled teens, was getting slandered online after one of her clients turned on her, calling her “a con and a fraud,” and accusing her of taking kickbacks and destroying people’s lives. Negative comments were being posted on online bulletin boards, forums, and threatening videos were posted up on YouTube for the world to see.
Even though Scheff used for defamation and won an $11.3 million verdict, the attacks worsened. To resolve this situation, Scheff was forced to hire Reputation Defender, a PR firm that cleaned up her reputation online.
While the costs for hiring this firm were steep (reputation management firms charge $15,000 to $100,000 for their services), the cost of her time, litigation and reputation make their fees seem like a drop in the bucket.
So what should you do if you are an average Joe small business with limited resources? Fortunately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you can easily monitor your image online for free with a few simple steps.
First, the easiest way to check your online reputation is to Google your name or the name of your company and see what appears. Next, set up a Google Alert on your name and your company name. You’ll be alerted by e-mail whenever you or your organization has been mentioned in a blog, by the media, or in an online forum.
Next, make sure your web site and your company are coming up first in search engines. If you own the top positions online, negative media may not show up on the first listing when your name is Googled.
To do this, create a profile of your expertise using social bookmarking tools and news aggregators such as del.icio.us and Newsvine. Contribute to online forums and write articles for user-generated content sites such as Squidoo. You can even create a book and product reviews at Amazon.com to help establish your authority on a particular topic.
You should also create a free blog on Blogger and then link that to your main web site. Post frequently and make sure your posts are key-word relevant.
Another obvious ways to put a positive spin online about your company is to create content pages on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace.
Finally, be very careful about posting any incriminating evidence about you or your company online or sending e-mails with incriminating information, tasteless jokes, or messages that could easily be misconstrued out of context.
You don’t want a search on your name to bring up pictures of you in compromising situations or sexist, racist, or off-color jokes you thought were only being sent to your friends. If you wouldn’t want it posted to a billboard, don’t post it or send it via e-mail.
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