The internet is always spoken as an agent of change; something that is leading the world to a better future. It surely is – but it has brought its share of challenges too. For brands and professionals, the newest challenges to have emerged in the last decade are everlasting negative media, mistaken identity, and damaging reviews.
While reputation is an age-old concept, the web has added a new aspect to it which business owners, working professionals, and even big brands are finding hard to grasp. With the use of numbers, it is a good idea to get a better understanding of the gravity of the situation.
The Glaring Numbers
According to Deloitte Global Risk Report, reputation damage is the number one risk concern of business executives across the world. In fact, 88% executives consider reputation risk a major business challenge. As the internet solidifies its position as the quickest medium of content consumption, research, and information sharing, online reputation risk is only growing with the passage of time.
While brands are in a better position to tackle the reputation risk with their big PR budget (some still end up making big blunders), the biggest challenge is in front of small businesses and working professionals. 85% of US recruiters and HR professionals say that online reputation influences their hiring. This Forbes post captures the problem in perfect light.
The Cost of ‘Forgetting’
The cost of forgetting, as it turns out, is not small. There are reputation management companies making tens of millions every year by charging an exuberant reputation recovery fee that occasionally goes above $10,000. While the amount is not a big for organizations and public figures with deep pockets, small businesses and professionals are surely taking a beating.
Search engines, media publications, discussion boards, and business review platforms are the biggest sources of negative business or personal resources. The ridiculous cost of reputation recovery and the damage caused by bad reputation is so great that businesses thankfully have now started taking a proactive approach to it. But the number is still small which is indeed a matter of concern is. The cost of making the internet forget, on the other hand, will keep on growing if growth numbers are to be referred.
Global Spending on Online Reputation
BIA/Kelsey, a Virginia consulting firm, estimates that small and mid-sized businesses spend at least $700m every year on tools and services associated with online reputation monitoring, repair, and management. And this isn’t a global number. Though no recent survey puts a finger on the size of reputation management industry, the widely accepted figure derived from earlier studies is in billions. The growing number can be contributed to the fact that businesses rightly consider search engines as the leading business generation mediums.
Being on the first page for a critical business keyword can be a game changer. Similarly, being on the first page for a damaging search phrase can be a deal breaker. This is the reason why even small businesses are ready to invest in reputation management. Vanessa Fox’s Marketing In The Age Of Google is surely a good starting point to grasp the concepts of digital marketing and reputation management.
The Way Out
In a Reputation Awareness survey, 88% adults reported that they find it difficult to remove inaccurate information from the internet. This is quite true and one of the biggest reasons for the explosive growth of reputation management industry. However, with some proactive measures, the threat of online reputation damage can be checked. The keyword here is ‘brand building‘.
The most vulnerable businesses and professionals to online reputation threats are the ones that haven’t invested time in building their online presence. They don’t have strong business assets, social profiles, media mentions, and brand representatives. In the absence of brand authority, even weak threats jump to the first page of Google and pose a serious threat to the individual and brand reputation.
The search giant has often shot down the claims of accountability by stating that it is merely an aggregator of what’s already present online and made available for indexing. There is a long list of professionals suffering because their name resembles someone who has been on the wrong side of the law. And there are plenty of examples online.
In a scenario where a simple search on Google can close doors on much-deserved opportunities, it is about time the company holds some kind of accountability and puts together stronger & quicker grievance machinery in place to report wrongdoing. This is the least the world’s biggest multinational technology company can do.
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