Editor’s note: WSU M.B.A. student Kanira Jain wrote the following blog post about the importance of managing indvidual and corporate online images.
In the Internet age, companies face various social media challenges. Primary among them: Online reputation management. As a larger portion of our personal lives are shared online, more and more of us are making startling discoveries about the major downside of over-sharing on social media and the inability to completely control how we are presented on the Internet.
In the U.S., 70 percent of human resource recruiters have rejected a candidate based solely upon information found online. - Source: Handbook of Social Media Interactive Marketing
Primary examples of lost control range from posted Facebook photos that someone else shared and tagged, without the subject’s permission, to negative comments and reviews about anything at all. At the same time, by not engaging in social media is to risk losing out on any kind of online presence. It’s important to remember that the impact of a person’s digital reputation can be immense and not taking advantage it can mean missed opportunities. Societal and ethical issues in the information age are a common topic for conversation in both personal and professional circles.
The Internet and first impressions
In today’s “pull” or “inbound economy,” people learn about you and/or your business through the Internet. Of U.S. adults, 78 percent believe it is very important to look up information about people and/or businesses online before deciding to interact or do business with them.*
Reputation management is important for the individual as well as for the organization. On an individual level it affects various personal and social spheres but, more importantly, the effects are evident when seeking employment opportunities. According to the Handbook of Social Media Interactive Marketing, 70 percent of human resource recruiters in the United States have rejected a candidate based solely upon information found online.
On an organizational level, online reputation management is relevant to both the employees as well as the organization itself, especially in the way a company handles a social crisis. The way British Petroleum (BP) Oil handled the 2010 Gulf oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is an example on how an organization can use online reputation management to its advantage while trying to salvage a situation. Employees, especially those at senior management levels, can quite often be representative of the company or brand. Their online reputation can be reflective of the organization, the quality and quantity of press coverage, and sometimes even stock prices.
Creating a positive corporate online reputation
There are several steps an organization can take to support their online reputation. Being thoughtful and exercising good judgment are always good places to start. This should be followed by creating, regularly updating and monitoring the company’s social media sites. As the permanency of anything posted online should never be ignored, the company’s communication professionals must establish media platform guidelines for posting corporate messages. Press releases, blogs and quality digital content creation help an organization build a positive reputation, but also it is important to remember that the Internet is a dynamic environment, and building and preserving a positive reputation is an on-going process. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques can also help organizations bring focus on the positives while relegating the negatives to the background. Additionally, setting up a google alert can be a good option to keep a tab on what is going on in the virtual world about you, while information analytics can identify hot-button topics and user demographics.
Personal online reputation considerations
In the Handbook of Social Media Interactive Marketing, reasons for rejecting a job candidate are mostly due to concerns about his lifestyle, inappropriate comments, texts, unsuitable photos or videos posted online. While these might be justifiable in most situations, it also raises a question as to where to draw the line when it comes to intruding into someone’s personal space. An individual penalized for posting a picture on a personal account on Facebook who then loses out on a job for which they might have been qualified, might seem appropriate by some or excessive by others depending upon one’s point of view. In either case, before making a decision about a job applicant, the posts in question should be weighed along with the candidate’s qualifications for the job, as both merit careful consideration.
*Handbook of Social Media Interactive Marketing: Managing Traditional, Online and Social Media Touchpoints by Jeen-Su Lim & John H. Heinrichs
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