Nice Companies Finish First - Online Reputation Management, Part 1
An Introduction to Online Reputation Management
In days past… there was a saying, “Nice guys finish last.” The phrase has always bothered me, mainly because I didn’t think anyone really meant it. Just a phrase said in passing. What irked me the most was the connotation that if you wanted to get to the top in business, you had to shit on a few people on the way up. Ultimately, a negative approach to business. While I don’t claim to be a great business person or a saint among men, I do think there is a better way and now in the age of social media, businesses are judged not just on their essential products and services but on their values and ethics as well. Call it what you will, but the most commonly accepted term is corporate citizenship.
In the past, marketing was largely about identifying your audience, delivering the right branded message and thus converting that audience to your company’s products and services. The perception of your company in the minds of consumers was something that could be largely managed through PR, clever advertising and how your company was positioned.
The good old days are gone and brands and companies are scrambling to find their feet in a world where social ratings and peer reviews are increasingly driving consumer purchasing, employment and engagement decision-making.
The Agents of Change
Two key things have happened in the past ten years:
1. When Blogger was developed (around 2002), by Evan Williams - the guy who more recently invented Twitter - the whole web world changed. Almost overnight, the mainstream population could post opinions, references and materials to the web for anyone to review. Not surprisingly, these communication streams grew popular.
2. In 2000, four friends launched a company called Trip Advisor. The premise was to promote travel destinations through a little known concept called, at that time, “crowd sourcing”. What the founders of Trip Advisor knew to be true was that people’s own photos were ten times more interesting than the polished images served up by the destination itself.
It was readily apparent that what the online audience had always craved was the ability to participate in the web, to not simply consume information but also share their views and experiences.
Since that time, a plethora of social networks, commentary, rating and review sites have come to the fore. Web users are now overwhelmed with new entities trying to convert them into users of their online properties.
To a large degree, the earlier adopters of experiential, social and peer review sites have endured and these communication channels are common reference points for assessing online reputation.
What does all this mean?
Today, reputation measures and data are pervasive on almost every web platform and relate to industries and individuals in all walks of life and work.
Whether you are an individual seeking employment or a business owner selling a product or looking for investors, your potential employer, customer or investor is going to turn to an online channel to learn more about you and/or your business.
Common users of social networking and review sites are:
• Business partners
• Stock holders
• Prospective employers
• Personal contacts
I regularly consult online sources for places to eat and where to stay when away from home. Often, I will cross-reference two or more sources to find commonalities. When reviewing a prospective employee’s resume or online portfolio, I will cross-reference the information to develop a clearer picture of the individual.
I don’t think I am any different from thousands of other consumers out there. With the advent of mobile devices, laptops, and tablets, this modern method of consumer decision-making is likely to increase massively in the short term. Long term, let’s just say it will continue to increase.