Online reputation has many synonyms: web-reputation, cyber-reputation, digital reputation, on the web, on the Internet or online. But how do we define it? E-reputation is the sum of all the information on the Internet that will influence the way in which Internet users (i.e. customers, suppliers, partners, competitors) perceive a brand, a company, a business or even a person. It can therefore be affected by all the videos, images, articles, web pages, publications on social networks and opinions posted by customers. Moreover, it is not necessary for the entity to be present on the Internet for it to have an e-reputation. In concrete terms, just because a brand, company or person does not have a website or pages on social networks does not mean that other internet actors do not talk about them online.
Online reputation is therefore a part of the general reputation of an entity on the Internet, and as such it can vary very quickly, so it is important to know the basics.
History of online reputation
It was in the 1990s that a researcher, Howard Rheingold (a specialist in the study of the social, cultural and political implications of the relationship between humans and new information and communication technologies) began to talk about e-reputation, referring to “digital social life”, i.e. living a parallel life thanks to new technologies.
The term online reputation appeared more concretely in 2000 in a survey on the relationship between seller reputation and sales performance on online auction sites. But it was in 2001 that the term e-reputation appeared more officially in an article entitled “E-reputation and brand management”. In the same year, law professor Susan Block-Lieb focused on building trust in online commerce sites in an article entitled “e-Reputation: Building Trust in Electronic Commerce”.
From then on, the notion of online reputation gradually appeared thanks to the learning of new technologies and the emergence of Web 2.0. More and more controversies are emerging from the Internet pages, which leads to an awareness of the importance of e-reputation for individuals as well as for companies, brands, politicians, etc.
Gradually, online reputation management tools are appearing. For example, eBay imagines the concept of the seller’s reputation by asking the buyer to rate him, and Amazon sets up a “reader’s opinion” for books with notes and comments. Now this type of rating by the individual has been widely democratised and is available on all websites: online sales, cinema, video games, music, etc.
Why pay attention to your online reputation?
It has become more and more systematic to consult social networks or blogs to look for information on an individual, whether in a professional context (an employer who wants to know more about a candidate) or a personal context (friends, spouses, etc.). This practice has become so common that we speak of “googling” a person when we want to do research on a person via the Internet.
The same is true for brands, companies, traders, etc. Indeed, prospects, before buying from a website, for example, often do research and comparisons by typing the name of the commercial entity in search engines. If, unfortunately, the business entity has a bad e-reputation, prospects will probably look elsewhere. Indeed, a survey by IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion), showed that 96% of Internet users are influenced by the e-reputation of a brand when making a purchase. We can even go further by pointing out that 66% of consumers who have come to seek advice before buying postpone their purchase in order to think about it. Moreover, in 30% of cases, they will even decide to cancel and not buy. Therefore, it is important to control your online reputation.
Have an impact on your online reputation
It is important to know that it is impossible to control one’s reputation online. Indeed, Internet users are free to post whatever they want on the Internet, good or bad. With this in mind, there is only one thing to do: influence your e-reputation. To do this, you can create your own content and respond to comments on social networks, for example.
Social networks are a good way to offer Internet users a place to exchange information about a brand, a company or a person. Thanks to these channels, it is therefore possible to have an impact on one’s e-reputation. Moreover, they offer a place for exchanges and communication with Internet users. For example, a brand or a company can directly discuss with its customers and listen to them in order to improve its services and thus have a good reputation.
It is also very important for a brand, in the broadest sense, to adopt a new customer relationship in line with new technologies. With Web 2.0, everything is instantaneous and prospects no longer want to wait hours for an answer. Consequently, it is imperative to respond to their requests quickly enough, so that crisis situations can be avoided.
Similarly, it is necessary to moderate comments on social networks, on customer reviews of products, etc. Racist, discriminatory and offensive comments that could have a negative impact on the brand’s image in the long term should be banned permanently.
Online reputation is therefore essential and it is important to know how to manage it well, both for individuals and for companies and brands. It is a vast and complex subject, but one that is essential in the age of Web 2.0. It is also possible to call upon specialised companies that have all the necessary skills to respond to the various problems of e-reputation.