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    Online reputation management is the process of developing a personal or professional Internet platform and curating it for positive growth and increased trust. An online reputation is the general public opinion or knowledge of an individual or corporate Internet presence (which, in a media-saturated world, extends to general presence and reputation). It takes time to build a business, much less the business’s Internet presence. Developing a reputation means delivering good products and services, handling good and bad aspects of customer interaction, and knowing how to effectively use the Internet and market a business.

    Online reputation management for individuals

    Online reputation management typically refers to companies, particularly reviews and social media interactions, but it’s relevant for individuals as well. Employers sometimes check social media platforms before hiring. Friends, family, and followers can easily number hundreds of people who can see your online choices and interactions daily. Celebrities in particular may find reputation management an important part of their career.

    There are a few ways to manage your individual online reputation:

    Be professional. Even if you’re quite young, your choices on the Internet can affect the trajectory of your college admissions or scholarship (if a student) or your career (if an employee). Most degree paths and many jobs involve a lot of work on the Internet, whether that’s social media collaboration, customer relationship management, or managing teams remotely. Set yourself up for success by making a habit of speaking respectfully and professionally.

    Be careful. Wariness is not a bad thing when using social media. Facebook in particular has had privacy breaches in the past, and carefully monitoring your privacy settings can help you to limit who can see your profile and interact with you (thus managing your reputation by narrowing your number of close contacts to people you genuinely have a connection with).

    Be thoughtful. Social media is networking connecting with others. Do your posts build connections or break them? People wrongly use social media as a dumping ground for their opinions, but it’s not that: it’s networking. Managing your online reputation means curating meaningful connections.

    Online reputation management for businesses

    It’s much trickier for a company to manage its online reputation. Large companies in particular have entire teams dedicated to customer relationship and social media management, which are just a couple pieces of reputation management. The Internet spreads information so quickly, and data is so readily available, that a reputation can be modified within minutes. Though it is impossible to entirely control how people see your business, there are some ways to manage your business’s online reputation.

    Hire professional online reputation consultants. There is actually an industry of reputation managers who work closely with clients to advise and assist them in building their online presence. However, be careful what kind of people you select. You want professional reputation managers who will thoughtfully help you curate your online image and handle negative media, not just sneakily delete every piece of negative data or generate fake reviews for you. That won’t help you develop a consistent brand image or reputation in the long run.

    Respond to negative reviews in a helpful way. It’s challenging to be criticized, but shooting an angry response at a customer won’t only turn them away – it’ll also damage your reputation for every other client who can see the response. And being helpful means providing a way for them to discuss the issue further and potentially receive some kind of recompense or explanation. Some companies have responded with great vitriol to angry customers, and they’ve become a laughingstock, or at the very least an example of how not to respond to bad reviews.

    Take a focused and designed approach to social media. A company with timely and reliable posts will, over time, build a reputation of intentionality and awareness. Take great care with scheduled posts, and write content that’s helpful and specific. Be responsive to customers who comment, ask questions, or even challenge your content.

    Check out reputation management tools. There are a number of online tools that monitor reputation and alert you so you can respond before a problem becomes a crisis.