News

Defence against the dark arts: your online reputation

13th April 2022

The digital dark arts are real… and they pose a real threat to you and your company’s online reputation. 

In the modern age, journalists aren’t going through analogue archives, they’re trawling Twitter. Now, comments that you’ve made decades ago can be taken out of time and out of context to form new narratives. 

Twitter isn’t the only place where historic information can be weaponised against your online reputation. Review sites and bot accounts can be deployed to spread misinformation, activist investors can run targeted ads and the dark web is a hotbed for any sensitive company and personal information. 

The latter is a particularly serious threat, as those venturing to the dark web will have the sole focus of causing chaos and spreading destruction. 

In short, online threats have a real-world impact on your bottom line. 

ORM… where to start? 

With such a multitude of threats, the question is how and where do you start your fight back? 

When it comes to online reputation management (ORM) then an easy approach to take is to think of your businesses, or your, digital presence as a garden. 

The first page of your Google search results are your flower beds. These take pride of place in your garden and are your most visible assets. Here you’ll want to place your most favourable pieces of content.  

But just because your flowerbeds take pride of place, it doesn’t mean you should neglect the bushes in the back. Here, there may be potentially damaging content lurking, which needs to be weeded out and dealt with.  

The more you know about these threats, the better. It’s critical to understand what information is out there about your company and your top executives to pre-empt, mitigate and ultimately protect your business’s online reputation. 

For starters, here are some tangible steps you can take to protect your online reputation.

Consider your senior stakeholder ecosystem 

The online reputation of your leadership has a direct impact on your business.  

Business leaders are now expected to be thought leaders, social media influencers and their own publishers. With this enhanced remit, comes greater risk and a heightened chance of exposure to criticism.  

But it isn’t just the individual who is at risk. Say your CEO’s brother has been accused of tax fraud. Or a relative is active on some questionable online groups.  

By proxy, this information can be used to paint a narrative about the CEO, which may be entirely false. But individuals can be made guilty by association, which has a knock-on effect. 

It’s therefore important to audit your entire stakeholder ecosystem, finding all reputational risks, so you can be fully prepared for all eventualities.   

Map out your detractors  

Occasionally, you will come across a user with a full-on agenda against your brand. And their scope is firmly aimed at your company and its reputation 

Mapping out these detractors and working out whether they are bot accounts or real users, will give you a benchmark to work from.  

You can either address any issues with an active community management approach or monitor to get a read on how their activity changes over time. It’s better to be in the know than out of it, even if it can be a hard read sometimes.  

It’s also possible to actively participate in discussions and take a conversation offline with a detractor.  

Decide your key search terms 

Google is the gateway to your online reputation. 

In many cases, Google is the first impression you give as a company, so it is important to know what users are searching for, in order to find your company. 

Where most businesses get this wrong is only concerning themselves with core branded keywords. Let’s say, for example, Coca Cola.  

This keyword is clearly important to the brand but it shouldn’t be the sole focus of a search engine results page (SERP) review. Keywords such as “Coca Cola sustainability” should also be considered.

A SERP management plan could then consist of creating assets that rank for “Coca Cola sustainability”. This is a way to ensure you are putting your best foot forward reputationally across a range of business-critical areas 

Never neglect online reviews 

The average business on Google has 39 reviews and these reviews can greatly influence the decision-making process:  

  • 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. 
  • 89% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. 
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 
  • 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more. 
  • Consumers are likely to spend 31% more money at a business with excellent reviews. 

Don’t dismiss Wikipedia 

It may not be the most reliable, but this is precisely why it can be a risk. 

The open-source nature of editing allows for misrepresentation at times and agenda-driven edits being made to profiles. The platform can’t be ignored.

In a very literal sense, Wikipedia results are pretty much guaranteed to rank within the first few positions of the search results.   

Monitor ‘novel’ social media channels 

New social media channels are being created all the time. It wasn’t that long ago that TikTok was an unknown novel platform. Now it’s a household name with 1,000,000,000 active users. 

New channels can present new opportunities, but they equally present new reputational risks. It’s important to be aware of these channels and how your brand is represented within them.

The likes of Discord, Club House and Reddit – although the latter is not a new platform – are three such channels that can be used to discredit your brand. 

Your online reputation  

There is no getting away from the fact that the world of online reputation management is much more complex than it used to be. The internet’s memory is infinite and that can be a scary prospect.  

The more you know the better – knowledge really is power in this situation.

The more you know about how your brand’s online reputation is represented the easier you can arm yourself to protect your reputation and your search results.   

 

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About AMBITIOUS

AMBITIOUS by name and by nature, we are a PR led communications agency that delivers integrated strategic communications - online, offline and everywhere in-between. Proud to be crowned winners of The Drum Magazine's RAR Best PR Agency of the Year.

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