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Reputation management is the understanding or influencing of an individual's or business's reputation. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but advancement in computing, the internet and social media made it primarily an issue of search results. Some parts of reputation management are often associated with ethical grey areas, such as astroturfing review sites, censoring negative complaints or using SEO tactics to game the system and influence results. There are also ethical forms of reputation management, which are frequently used, such as responding to customer complaints, asking sites to take down incorrect information and using online feedback to influence product development.
The concept was initially intended to broaden public relations outside of media relations. As the Internet and social media became more popular, the meaning has shifted to focus on review sites, social media and—most prominently—the top search results on a brand or individual.
In 2007, a study by the University of California Berkeley found that some sellers were undertaking reputation management on eBay by selling products at a discount in exchange for positive feedback to game the system.
Reputation management is the practice of monitoring the reputation of an individual or brand, addressing contents which are damaging to it, and using customer feedback solutions to get feedback or early warning signals to reputation problems. Most of reputation management is focused on pushing down negative search results. Reputation management may attempt to bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.
Some examples of websites where a company may conduct reputation management is the feedback system on eBay, and WorldHeritage. Google search results are the primary target of reputation management efforts. Some of the tactics used by reputation management firms include the following:
The practice of reputation management raises many ethical considerations. There is no agreement within the industry on where to draw the line on issues of disclosure, astroturfing, and censorship. Firms have been known to hire staff to pose as bloggers on third party sites without disclosing they were paid, and some have been criticized for asking websites to remove negative posts. In some instances, the act of unethical reputation management can itself be risky to the reputation of the firm, if their tactics to hide negative information are exposed.
Some firms practice ethical forms of reputation management. The Online Reputation Management Association tries to promote ethical best practices through a certification program. Google considers there to be nothing inherently wrong with reputation management as the industry was formed in 2007. Google even introduced a toolset in 2011 for users to monitor their online identity and request removal of unwanted content. Many firms are selective about clients they accept. For example, they may avoid individuals that committed violent crimes that are looking to push information about their crimes lower on search results.
According to a 2010 study by
There are cases of reputable organizations or individuals—even those with newly created websites—that may find their brand or name listed in
A joint study by online reputation management company BrandYourself and Harris Interactive found that:
Sociology, Psychology, Science, Social entrepreneurship, Public administration
Internet, Indianapolis, Microfinance, Open source, Sustainable development
Google, Web analytics, Spamdexing, Bing, DMOZ
Reputation management, Amazon.com, Brand marketing, Nielsen Media Research, Social proof
Search engine optimization, Reputation management, Inbound marketing, Pay per click, Social media marketing
Design, Aesthetics, Photography, Typography, Architecture