In our previous article we defined and talked about online reputation. Today, we share with you how you can manage your online reputation. There are now so many ways for strangers or even friends to communicate with you online without your knowledge. These people could be posting negative comments about you and your company, writing negative reviews about your goods and services, take up your competitors or even create a bad site regarding you.
How does all this affect you?
The most obvious way is that customers may turn away from your services or company just because of one thing they see online.
The Effects of a Negative Online Reputation
Having a bad image on internet could seem minor at first, after all it is one thing to have a scandal spread all over the media and quite another to have so many bad comments on your blog post about you. I am sure you remember the leaked naked images of a Ugandan singer/ celebrity that went viral across the internet and seemed to put her in a negative light. However, a negative online reputation can ruin you both personally and professionally through the following ways,
- Loss of friends: While people may like you personally, or know you for a fact that the rumor is untrue, it simply might be too much of a business risk to associate with you personally or professionally if you have a bad digital reputation. Losing business connections is bad enough, but imagine losing a good friend because other people have chosen to make you look bad. Take a look at Makerere University academic Dr. Stella Nyanzi; Despite the fact that she has got other connections in various parts of the world, she has lost the respect of many of her friends both in business and the social media platforms.
- Disrespect: It is very important for you to know that your reputation has so much to do with your respect in any society or environment. Respect is as important as building and protecting a good reputation. A good reputation generates respect whereas a bad one breeds suspicion. An example is our own Ugandan musician Desire Luzinda, during the time when her nude pictures were leaked all over social media, many people despised her, made fun out this by posing and taking pictures like she did. This was a sign of disrespect, thus a result of a bad online reputation.
- Harassment; Online issues being the internet, it is emphatically easy for a person to speak their mind to you whether you care to hear about it or not. Email, social media, websites, blog comments sections and the list continues. Proving that there are many ways you can be reached whether you want to be or not.While most of the internet has a very short memory, there are always going to be a handful of people out there attempting to dredge up settled business and give you a negative reputation. Some people simply have so much time on their hands that they will keep coming after you, again and again. A case in point is our own so-called television presenters here in Uganda whose nude photographs and videos are still all over the social media and people want to keep talking about them.
- Loss of customers; The most obvious effect of a bad online reputation is the loss of customers. It can be hard to determine how many, if any customers you are losing based on the reviews or mistakes on your social media. There is no way you can tell if a potential customer would have bought from you if it is not for your poor online image. The reality is that if the first thing a person finds about you or your business is something negative, they are less likely to do business with you. You are not being evaluated on your actual strengths and possible benefits, you are being ruled out because of something someone else said about you.
For the last 2-3 weeks, most the people on social media mainly Facebook have been sharing a post about Facebook’s change in its privacy policies”…I give notice to Facebook, it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile…” Although this post has not been a true source from Facebook, many people have shared it all for the need to ensure privacy on their accounts so as to manage their online reputation.
Besides this, there are many ways that are available to help you and your company manage and protect your online reputation and these include some of these explained below:
- Mind about the images you post. All image based sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and many others represent you online and people use these images to determine who and what you are. You image/ photo should reflect the kind of person or brand you would like to convey. It is important to always let your photo match your general outlook because the today’s joke may come back to haunt you.
- Keep private things private and above all always remember that nothing is really private. This has been a major problem today and many people have been affected by lack of privacy. It is therefore important for you to put privacy settings on all content you would want to share. However you should not post things such as bad photographs and other obscene posts that you would not want the world to see, this is because some social media sites are constantly changing their privacy settings and your friends may forward embarrassing pictures of you without your consent. Also do not trust any person with the kind of messages and pictures you share while on social media. These same people may dissappoint you and post these pictures and messages at some point in future thus ruining your reputation.
- Keep your brand. This is one of the best strategies. It is important to build your future instead of suppressing the past. This concerns people that have had a bad reputation before. Ensure to add new content all over your social media that will portray the current picture of what you are. This works because usually search engines bring new content first.
- Listen to what other people are talking about you and create a response plan. No matter what you do, you must stay on top of what is being said about you and your business. Consider the people talking about you and what they are talking about and then create a response plan. A response plan helps you to easily overcome any challenges encountered. It involves the following:
- Who flags an issue and to whom is the issue addressed.
- When should action be taken and who takes action
- What tools should be used to respond
- What content should be in the overall response
- How do you treat comments particularly the negative ones
- Keep your company’s website up to date. Your website is the first place people go to when searching about you and your business. This gives an image or impression about the kind of person or business you are. It is therefore important that you leave a strong first impression since so many people judge books by their covers.
- Finally, monitor your reputation. Once you have established everything mentioned from 1 – 5, then you need to diligently monitor your reputation. Google yourself and your company, use every kind of such engines in social media and other forum searches to see what people are talking about you. Set up Google alerts; these are emails sent when your Google finds new results matching your search terms. Regular monitoring saves you from a series of crises that could happen in the future.
As I conclude, always remember that what is posted online becomes public information for everyone to view, and it is no longer under your control, it is therefore very important for you to be strategic about what you share.
Manage your online reputation and create your personal and company brand.
By Mackline Ampurira
Mackline recently joined BLEGSCOPE© as an Intern and previously worked with the Ugandan Ministry of Health in conjunction with (USAID) Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Team as a Research Assistant. She has interest in Management and Human Resources. You can follow her on Twitter >>@mackampurira