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In today's internet-enabled world, your 'reputation' is arguably more important than it has ever been in the past. Increasingly, information about you and your business will find its way online, and what people say about you online has the potential to become a significant asset or liability.

So it's no surprise that 'online reputation management' is a hot area. But as with SEO and social media, many mistakes are made.

Here are 10 of the most common...

Ignoring what people are saying about you online. It should go without saying, but what people say about you on the internet does matter. If you're a business owner, for instance, customer reviews on a site like Yelp can drive a lot of new customers your way, or send them running for the hills. So no matter what you do, simply ignoring your online 'profile' is probably not a good idea.

Trying to respond to every criticism. More often than not, people look at the big picture when assessing reputation. If nine out of 10 reviews of your business, for instance, are generally positive, the one negative review may not be all that important, especially if it makes claims that are inconsistent with the nine positive reviews. Therefore, responding to some criticism may not be worth your time, even if biting your lip is frustrating.

Astroturfing. Planting fake reviews rarely works. Individuals aren't stupid; most of the time, astroturf comments and reviews are easily spotted. And once they're revealed, they produce the exact opposite result than what was intended.

Treating all feedback the same. Not all feedback carries the same weight. The recommendation of one key person can be far more influential than an infinite number of anonymous criticisms. In short, feedback that is credible and constructive should be treated more seriously than feedback that is merely disparaging.

Being disrespectful. When responding to a criticism, be careful to maintain some decorum. An ad hominem attack, for instance, rarely ends well. Sometimes, it's hard to let a criticism stand, especially when you believe it's unjustified or the person posting it is portraying things inaccurately. But by fighting dirty, you only hurt your reputation. Instead, if you decide to respond at all, focus on responding substantively to the claims that you dispute, not necessarily the person.

Making threats. When somebody publishes information online that you think is patently false, your blood may boil. But making threats (legal or otherwise) is rarely a productive course of action. While this is not to say that libel or defamation should be ignored, much of the time, a lot of opinion is called 'libel' or 'defamation' when it really isn't by any reasonable legal standard. Of course, if legal counsel advises you that you have a valid claim, the best course of action is probably to simply pursue it (if you so choose) without making a big deal out of posturing.

Not knowing when to agree to disagree. Defending your reputation online can be a worthwhile and necessary effort. But there's a limit. If you try to resolve a dispute unsuccessfully, there usually comes a point when it's best to agree to disagree.

Focusing on the negative.
When defending a reputation, it's natural to focus on the negative things people say about you. But oftentimes, when a person is invested in their own reputation or that of their business, it's easy to exaggerate how negative a comment is. Instead, take negative comments with a grain of salt and try to highlight positives. That's what most people are truly interested in anyway.

Treating 'online reputation' as distinct from 'offline reputation'.
The internet has changed -- and is changing -- the realm of reputation. But it's impossible to segment reputation into online and offline. What you do offline will influence what people say about you online, and vice versa. That means there's really no such thing as 'online reputation management'. Rather, it will always be 'reputation management'. Period.

Forgetting that respect and trust is earned. 'Managing' your online reputation is important, but don't forget that respect and trust are not primarily the products of skillful management; they're a result of proving to others that you're fair, act with integrity and fulfill your commitments. Do those things and your reputation will help 'manage' itself. Manage your reputation without them and eventually your house of cards will crumble.

Photo credit: Shiny Things via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 April, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2377 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Julius Duncan

Some really good points here, in particular your emphasis on responding in an appropriate way, and knowing when not to act. Taking those calls is made easier by knowing who your key opinion formers/influencers are ahead of any issues blowing up, something that can be achieved through ongoing active listening to the conversation around a brand. Your last point is crucial. We talk about 'Social Reputation' and leave the idea of 'Management' to one side, it doesn't work in social media.   

over 6 years ago

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DesignDef

Definitely, the reputation matters most when one is doing online business. What others observe and say is important and so is answering them. So many people criticize and some may give threats as well. but these matters should be resolved via discussions.

over 6 years ago

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Georgina McDelly

Reputation is inportant and so when I see a google mapping solution, I CAN TELL THEY ARE FOBBING ME OFF with a piece of rubbish , (thats like cabbies who use Skoads).

It just bad user experience

over 6 years ago

Mike Stenger

Mike Stenger, MikeStenger.com

I think one of the biggest things one can do is to just be real and be honest. If more companies and individuals would do that, there'd be far less issues and backlash.

over 6 years ago

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Chris P.G.

One of the biggest assets for an online enterpreur is his reputation, and you are right to point those pitfalls that every one of us has to avoid at any cost. Some people simple doesn't realize that behind every question, every complain, every suggestion is a potential customer/reader/suscriptor/people, who's loyalty will depend on how good you treat them.

So your reputation (online/offline) will lay on your perception of the business, if you see your customers as real people or just as a bunch of statistical data.

over 6 years ago

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Seohawk

Nice article! Online reputation defiantly matters. These days customers do a little bit of search about a company before giving them a project. Here review websites also play an important role in providing past experience of previous customers and company's employees. Most of the time Company employee's are the best source of knowing about a company's working style.

over 6 years ago

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Adrew market

If the bounce rate of users on your site to promote your business is too much high, it clearly means that your lacking in marketing or some thing in your products lacks itself.

over 6 years ago

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Kathleen Inglis

I completely agree with Mike - honesty and transparency are among companies' biggest assets online.

I think not agreeing to disagree is a really important point too, it can be all too easy to get caught up and not know when to call it.

While it's good to be prompt in your response to criticisms and comments, personally I think taking the time to think about what you're about to say is really important.

over 6 years ago

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Princo

Reputation is important and so when I see a google map.

over 6 years ago

Billie Andersen

Billie Andersen, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

Great article, I think these are things that people need to be reminded about! 

Another point to be remembered is the importance of creating an engagement strategy and setting customers' expectations. If you respond to a few comments or criticisms understand who might also expect a response. Establishing who you will interact with is an important part of a consistent approach to interaction.

over 6 years ago

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Brennan

Great article, like I tell our clients you don't need to respond to every criticism but you still need to make sure you read it. Reputation management for high-profile individuals and companies will continue to become more important as time goes on as the internet can tear even the largest companies apart if they don't know what they're doing. 

over 6 years ago

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David Harrison, Morello

I think you make some good points. I put a blog post up yesterday where a client had found someone talking bad about him using Google alerts. Even though he can't get her comments removed, at least he has had the chance to respond.

over 6 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Patricio, here's one time I fully agree with you. There is no distinction between online and offline anymore. The best way to manage one's reputation is to behave honestly and fairly. Best, at all times.

We agree that it's best to fight human nature here and avoid squabbling. Really enjoyed this article.

about 6 years ago

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