Businesses need to be more proactive when it comes to managing their reputation online, according to new research from Gartner. As the Internet continues to become larger and more complex, and the level of sophistication of online crime increases, it is becoming ever riskier to participate on the Internet.
Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, criminals will routinely use the Internet to extort funds from organisations, threatening to damage their corporate reputation by ensuring that routine online search requests will return negative or even libellous results.
"If your business depends on a positive internet reputation, then you have little choice than to explicitly manage that reputation online," says Jay Heiser, research vice-president at Gartner. "The internet is like a bad-news Petri dish; negative information multiplies and spreads with frightening speed and becomes virtually impossible to erase."
Despite the plethora of reputational resources that are available to assess and help manage reputation – from PR agencies and competitive analysis companies to identity verification services and content analytics tools – a comprehensive Oscan and alert¹ mechanism for the internet does not yet exist.
"Reputational persistence is a unique internet phenomenon that traditional reputation specialists have never had to deal with," says Heiser. "The fact is that where the internet is concerned the only way to counteract persistent negative information is to overcome it with a greater weight of positive information. This means getting to grips with internet reputation management."
Heiser outlined the following recommendations to organisations seeking to proactively manage their reputations online:
* Understand the role that reputation plays in social and commercial relationships;
* Work with PR and marketing to create your organisation's reputation management strategy;
* Educate your employees ability to assess reputation;
* Look for new business opportunities in reputation enhancement; and
* Establish a policy against allowing your employees to place co-worker recommendations on peer reference sites.