I’m always amazed at how the internet has given us all a global voice. Everyday people join debates, publish information, and connect with communities all over the world. Businesses have the advantage of social media to engage with the public and customers in ways never before possible. But what happens when there is a bit too much information, or the wrong kind of information, posted online?
As many now know, there is a dark side to all this. A digital past can impact employment, business, educational and social opportunities. Surveys show that at least 64% of employers check a candidate’s digital presence before hiring. Employees’ negative reputations can harm employers, and 8% of employers have terminated employees for inappropriate internet behavior. For businesses, digital reputation has become increasingly important as potential customers turn to the internet to vet companies before making even small purchases. For small businesses or startups, even a few bad reviews can have an effect on sales.
The quest to delete embarrassing photos, remove a regrettable opinion, or simply undo over-sharing of information may not be as easy as you think. The troubling fact is that deleting what you’ve posted isn’t always enough. Information is never static and many will be surprised that the picture or comment they deleted has been re-posted, archived, reused and permanently embedded in a complex web over which they have no control. In the United States at least, there is no “right to be forgotten” law that will eventually lead to data removal. So what can you do to control your internet reputation?
For businesses, removing bad reviews may be impossible. Reverse SEO and digital reputation monitoring services (e.g. Reputation.com) attempt to manage this information by populating the web with positive information that can tweak search engine results, thus burying negative reviews and thereby diminish their impact. These services can aren’t cheap, and aren’t always effective.
The best approach may be try and avoid the problem in the first place. Giving customers an avenue to resolve issues and air complaints directly with your business is a great way to not only minimize the odds they complain online, but can even lead to a positive review. Monitoring your digital reputation using Twitter and Google, and personally contacting an upset customer can help too. The internet can feel impersonal and anonymous. The customer who felt comfortable criticizing in a rant online may have a change of heart and delete or modify a damaging comment after dealing with a hearing from a person at the company.