The Importance of Maintaining Your Online Reputation

Whether looking for a great restaurant in your neighborhood or researching your next vacation, going online is quickly becoming the easiest way to find anything for which you might be looking. A company’s online reputation, therefore, is crucial to maintaining customer loyalty. Positive reviews can boost business, while negative comments can send shoppers elsewhere.

Yelp, a popular website featuring consumer reviews of local businesses, is a high-profile example of the damage that negative publicity can do to a company’s online reputation. A recent story in the East Bay Express claims that Yelp sales team members engaged in unethical practices by promising local business owners that negative reviews of their companies would be removed in exchange for advertisements. Regardless of whether the claims are true (Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s cofounder and CEO, adamantly denies the accusations), the allegations have caused many users to lose faith in the site’s credibility.

Just as companies must vigilantly monitor their online status, it’s important for individuals to manage their online reputations as well. With the booming popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, people are revealing information about their lives at an ever-increasing rate. However, revealing too much online can quickly get you into trouble. Including confidential company data in a post or complaining about your job in a tweet is grounds for termination, as these individuals found out the hard way. Job searchers must also carefully monitor their online personas, as companies are turning to these social platforms to do additional research on applicants. Inappropriate content on your profile page can quickly drop you to the bottom of the candidate list.

Losing your job isn’t the only risk for frequent Facebook and Twitter users. Cybercriminals have also capitalized on this blurring between our public and private lives in cyberspace. Revealing too much information in your profile can leave you susceptible to identity theft. Or, hackers can break into your account to spam your friends with direct messages that include links to phishing scams. Becoming a victim of this type of cybercrime might make your friends think twice before checking out a message from you in the future.

Managing your online reputation is crucial to both one’s professional and private lives. Using Yelp as an example once more, users must build trust through their history on the site. Other consumers can check out a variety of factors to evaluate the reviewer’s comments, including total number of reviews completed, and the distribution of their review ratings (on a 1- to 5-star scale). Grading everything too harshly or too generously can weaken one’s standing as a valuable resource.

It takes time to build trust in your online persona, but it can quickly vanish (just ask Yelp executives). Always take the time to think about what you’re publicizing in cyberspace and take steps to keep your profiles safe.

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