Perception is Reality in the Internet Age

The adage “perception is reality” has never been more true than when you consider online reputation management (ORM). If you are one of the many who has spent years building your personal brand or business and cultivating a positive Internet reputation, you should be confident that your customer base is by and large happy.

But what happens when one person has something negative to say about you or your company? If the issue occurred in a face-to-face situation, you would deal with the problem and move on. Given the anonymity of the Web, however, when someone speaks negatively about your company or brand, you are left with a much more difficult Internet reputation cleanup.

Put simply, ORM is a proactive approach to enhancing and preserving your positive online reputation. As in real life, negative situations must occasionally be dealt with. But ORM experts know that there’s more to Internet reputation management than just focusing on negative feedback. ORM has turned the page in recent years, and many view it as an exciting part of networking and growing a positive presence on the Web. Welcome to the brave new world of ORM, starring you.

 

It’s never too early to start shaping your reputation.

From your first few tentative clicks on the Web, you have been forging your personal social signature. The Internet has transformed itself over the past 10 years, growing from simple HTML websites to user-centered social networks. Given this rapid change in technology, it’s not surprising that the Web has become a place where your online reputation is just as important as your offline persona, and that now, perception is reality. 

 

Protect your online reputation and reap the rewards.

As the Web has changed, so have the rules for ORM. Whether you’re managing reputation for yourself or your company, understanding the impact that your online reputation has on your business and personal life is now essential to both online and offline success.

The popularity of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter has opened the door for anyone wishing to assess your character and true Internet reputation. With more than 500 million active users, Facebook has grown beyond the simple social networking platform for which it was created. Potential employers now use Facebook to evaluate job applicants before offering them an interview or hiring them. Insurance companies use Facebook’s database for photos or updates that would reflect poorly on an individual seeking insurance.

There were other search engines before Google, but the company’s unique algorithm has created the need for individuals and corporate entities to manage their reputations. “Googled” is now an official word in English-language dictionaries. When someone wants to know more about you, s/he simply types your name into the search engine. All that is to say: In order to put your best face forward in these changing times, you must keep your positive online reputation at the top of Google’s search engine index.

Google can pick up small bits of information scattered across the invisible Web that could potentially affect your online reputation. Negative content on high-ranking pages is often driven to the top of the search engine’s results, causing an ORM crisis for the person or business in question. In addition, Google now puts reputation scores on its Google Places pages. These scores are collated from online feedback and stamped onto businesses’ pages.

The use of mobile phones has altered the way people manage their Internet reputations. Photos can be instantly uploaded and opinions made public in no time — and if they’re posted to a social network or high-ranking website, Google or another search engine will index them quickly. The offending content can spread to the far corners of the deep Web like wildfire. You might have the photo removed the next day, but the image can still exist on other websites. Because the Internet doesn’t have a permanent delete button, a watchful approach to ORM is your best bet.

 

Technology is shaping the future of ORM.

Web 3.0 is on its way, as social networks and data mining create new challenges for people and companies focusing on their online reputations. An ORM program should become part of your daily networking in the same way that you use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. A new world is upon us: Are you ready to use the fact that perception is reality to your advantage?

 

Shelly Wutke is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, BC. Shelly has been published in Vancouver-based LOVE Magazine, local newspapers and on various websites.