Whether it’s pursuing personal connections or propelling your livelihood, projecting your image in cyber space is almost a given in today’s technology driven world.
Businesses who don’t have a website, a Facebook, or some other form of social media are at a competitive disadvantage to their neighbors who offer their hours, prices, contacts and employment opportunities with the click of a mouse.
People who lack a personal presence online risk making a smaller splash than the network savvy, Facebook-friendly candidate that many potential employers seek while digging deeper for qualifying traits on their new hire.
Though, as easy as it is to create an online identity, it’s becoming just as easy for our shining profiles to accumulate significant scuffs with the growing public use of review-oriented websites such as Yelp.com, TripAdvisor, and the like.
For many growing small businesses, this poses an issue for those that remain off the internet grid, while they can be subject to malicious and damaging reviews without their knowledge or a chance to defend themselves or reverse potential damage. Ironically, even many of those who are branding themselves and their businesses online remain blissfully unaware of the dangers their image can face.
John P. David, expert in online reputation management and author of How to Protect (or Destroy) Your Reputation Online, expands on this issue and why it’s important for all internet users to be aware of their own vulnerability.
“Any business can be reviewed online,” David states, “and I mean any business. Any person or business can be victimized by online complaint sites. The deep web and dark web create a whole new world of issues that give cybersecurity experts nightmares – your business may have online holes that you can’t even see. Hate blogs, revenge porn, and even honest mistakes can cause lasting digital damage.”
According to Statistica.com, by 2017, over 222.9 million Americans will possess smartphones. Worldwide, smartphone ownership will exceed 2 billion. These phones come equipped with high quality cameras that are prepared to catch the most vulnerable, compromising, and potentially incriminating moments, only to be instantly shared and perpetuated on the social media platform of the “photographer’s” choosing.
What Steps Can I Take to Ensure My Brand and Image Are Safe?
Fortunately, as technology advances, so do the measures taken to keep your online identity protected from attacks against it.
A good way to take steps against poor reviews before they’re written is to participate in all levels of social media. When marketing your brand, don’t expect to have a glimmering reputation right out of the gate. If your business is just beginning, understand that it takes time and patience to build a trusted reputation. Keep up with consistent updates on your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with current trusted content. This will deflect and push down any unanticipated bad reviews or posts that may arise when someone uses a search engine to find your name or business.
Create and maintain a good offline reputation. This may sound like a “duh” suggestion, but most of us know that not every unfavorable review that we read is a false one. Ensure you’re providing your customers with quality business practices, and don’t allow yourself to be personally subject to incriminating situations.
For many businesses and larger organizations alike, there is much more at stake. If your real-life small business coincides with website sales, be especially careful. “Any organization that touches private information – credit card numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license info, medical records, and so on – is vulnerable to security breakdown which could do irreparable harm to the business and its reputation,” David warned. “Whether we like it or not, as professional communicators we must embrace technology and understand that cybersecurity and reputation management are joined at the hip.”