Small Business Online Reputation Management: Salvation or Scam?

As a business opportunity or other small business owner, what do your customers, employees and clients find out about you when they go looking for you online? Do you even know? If you don’t, should you? And once you do know, good or bad, what then?

Welcome to the world of online reputation management, otherwise known as ORM. It’s the ongoing endeavor to monitor and manage the way you and your company are perceived in today’s increasingly techno-savvy and interconnected world. And it’s something you need to know a little something about, if for no other reason than to be aware that where there are pros, there are also cons.

AvoidTraps

On the face of it, ORM may look like a completely reactive exercise focused on combatting negative reviews, addressing complaints, counteracting low ratings and overall salvaging your good name. But that’s only half the story.

It’s also about being proactive. In fact, ORM is as much or more about reputation building as it is repair. In this day and age, if you don’t take steps to guide and control the ongoing narrative about you and your company from the outset, someone else will…and that can become a real and expensive problem.

ORM’s ability to make or break a small business should come as no surprise when you consider that 74% of consumers say they will change their mind about a company based on a bad review, according to research findings from Harris Interactive. Add to that the fact that numerous research studies now show that the trust that your potential customers place in online reviews is growing exponentially with each passing year and engaging in some form of ORM only makes sense, if nothing else than for the sake of your bottom line.

Today the number of ORM companies that specialize in helping business opportunity and other small business owners like you to monitor and manage your and their online profiles is enormous and is growing every year. Their goal? To ensure only the most positive information about you, your company and your brand rises to the top—hovering somewhere on the first two enviable pages—as a result of any keyword or phrase search that matters most to you and your industry and to combat any negative fallout as well.

The good news? Some of them have gotten quite good at it.

However, there’s been some talk lately about whether or not this is an industry that can claim true bragging rights or if its own reputation should be called into question.

In her must-read Forbes article from last May titled “The Dark Side of Reputation Management: How It Affects Your Business,” Cheryl Conner writes, “It seems there is much currently happening that is unseemly and even illegal in the world of ORM.” She goes on to quote a source who goes so far as to label what even some of the more reputable ORM companies are doing as “mafia extortion,” leading Conner to sum it up this way: “What a racket!”

While going into all the details about how some of these companies are engaging in some pretty unseemly behavior and rigging the system would be way too cumbersome here, the takeaway is this…

Conner’s research makes it clear that there are more than a few bad apples in the ORM business right about now, and that is something that any smart business opportunity or other small business owner needs to be aware of and know more about. At the same time, there are also some very reputable companies who are doing good work for their clients in this area. So the onus is on you as an informed consumer to do the necessary legwork to find solid, reliable and, dare we say, reputable help to manage your online reputation when and if you need it.

So what’s your best bet if you want to make sure you’re getting what you need from a pro and not a con? Ask for references. Take the time to talk to prior customers of the ORM firm you want to work with before you sign a contract of any kind. And if you think you’re already in too deep and you’re being scammed, seek legal counsel to assist you right away.

Meantime, do yourself a favor and click here to read Conner’s article. It’s a great first step toward understanding the ins and outs of ORM, and it will get you thinking more clearly about what approach, if any, would be best for your business opportunity or other small business.

One thing you can be sure of when it comes to ORM? Taking a little time to read up on the whole subject is worth it when the stakes are so high.

 

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