The Truth About Online Reputation Management

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Here’s another dirty little secret about your brand and how you manage your online reputation…

There’s no difference between what’s being said online and in the "real world."

In fact, let’s call a moratorium on the separation of the two… because that no longer exists. If someone tells you about a brand, product or service, what’s your first action at that point in time? You do an online search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Twitter, whatever…). You don’t run down to a retail store to look for yourself, and you don’t call up an office and ask for more information ("can you please mail me your corporate brochure?"). You look to see what is being said about the brand online (by them, their competitors and your peers). Positive, negative or neutral, that is your first brand interaction.

Most people have their first brand interaction at a search box.

But that’s going to change in the coming months and years as most people’s first brand interaction is going to happen in the palm of their hand (and then, maybe, the second brand interaction will happen online). And so it goes: the world continues to blur. There is no online and real world, and there is no longer a "mobile" and the "Internet." It is all this simply this: one unified brand reputation that is not divided up by technology, platform or channel.

How messy it already is.

Most brands still keep the two separate (or try to). That was made abundantly clear to me when I was asked to be a part of the article, Looking good in cyberspace, which was published in the Montreal Gazette today (full disclosure: I have a business column that runs twice monthly in this newspaper). The message is trickling both up and down the business world – from the corner dry cleaner to the multi-national brands: any one individual can say whatever they want about your products and services – whether you enable/empower them or you don’t. They can spray it on their Facebook wall, tweet it out to their Twitter followers, post it on a review platform like Yelp!, or even on their own Blog. It’s there, it’s public and it’s permanent for the world to see. Not just the virtual world.

Let’s do everyone a favour (brands, consumers and marketers alike) and drop the "online" part from "online reputation management."


  1. Completely agree. The next step is to realize that our online official persona is the same as the physical one. Virtual becomes hard reality. There are unavoidable social consciousness / privacy / business / political implications.
    Great point.

  2. Good point.
    And we can extend that to “social media”. Social media isn’t really about media, it’s about communication. And since there is no point in having non-social communication, Social media should be drop in favor of simply… communication.

  3. Online brand management is typical. Once set, you can’t manipulate. The social media and all can put it on autopilot. The effects are incredible.

  4. No arguments with the article or comments. Perception is reality, whether online/offline, fact/rumour.
    Can you really manage a reputation? You build one by doing good bit by bit (or byte by byte). Making small positive deposits, builds up a balance to help your reputation weather the negatives.

  5. Bang on Mitch – those who insist on adding “online” just spend too much time “offline” in my humble opinion.
    Thomas, I think your extension of Mitch’s point here is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g it, just a little!

  6. Very true, you build your brand when you are not physically present; people talk about you when they have not seen you physically.
    Deb from India

  7. I never realized there was a difference between online and offline reputations! I always thought that it was like marketing: there may be an online component but it has to go with your whole marketing plan.
    Separating online and offline really doesn’t work since if your brand is to do what it is supposed to do, it’s supposed to represent you. If you have an online brand and an offline brand, that might be a tad schizophrenic of you.

  8. How do you put social media on auto pilot?
    That is taking the social out of social media. You can use social media platforms to push a message, but that isn’t social media. That’s pushing a message – I found much more effective platforms, outside of social media, for that.

  9. The other thing I find amazing is they also have no control over what’s happening “to” them on Foursquare. A client tells us, we don’t want to be on Foursquare! We laugh… um… you don’t decide that!

  10. Doh. Does that mean I have to edit my logo? Lols. I agree with you. The more I write ‘online reputation management’ the more I understand that it’s just reputation management.
    I think, however, it DOES make sense to use the expression ‘online reputation management’ – simply because most clients coming my way are doing so because they’ve woken up one day and found a disaster unfolding online. As a result, that’s what’s in their mind when they go to Google and start looking for someone to help them.
    It usually plays out that what we end up looking at is mostly offline – the ‘online’ part is like the tip of the arrow.. or needle or iceberg (you know what I mean)

  11. Companies need to accept responsibility for their reputation online – I find most are just happy with a static site and don’t even want to do SEO or SMO – or don’t even know what they are! We live in a Web 2.0 era and companies need to step up to the plate and manage their own reputation. Thanks for this post!

  12. I’m not sure that you can really manage a reputation. Because of the way that people have complete access to many virtual platforms how can you keep them from saying what they want and how can you keep others from believing it? So I think that managing your reputation is simply deciding what kind of person (or representative) you want to be then stay on that course. Just like that song, some say potato, some say potatoe. That always was the truth. Once we get into trying to figure out ways to manage reputations couldn’t that have the effect of causing a less than genuine persona?

  13. So how does one identify their online reputation? Is it possible to “shop the way your customers shop” for your own products and be objective about the experience? Probably not.

  14. Companies and even individuals need to ensure that they are delivering exceptional customer service and really care about their customers, and then the reputation will follow (on or off). Too many of us are worried about our brand image or if our product has all of the bells and whistles, and forget in the process to actually listen to those that pay our bills. I wish companies weren’t so worried about managing their reputation but instead they should be in managing the care factor.

  15. Great advice, I agree completely, bored of the two being referred to as different. Its literally about reputation management and it being as much about transparency, trust and openness as protection. We seem to be obsessed with the negative side!

    I fully agree with all the information has been presented here , everybody today has to take into consideration that their reputation is in danger over the net , each and every single day ! I suggest that at least once a week , everybody will google his name and the name of his company , just to check if there are any negative posts on the first two pages of google .

  17. Completely agreed with what Timothy and the rest of you have said. Truth is, there will always be haters. But as long as you have more followers than haters, then you’re doing something right.
    Thanks for the article!

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