Businesses urged to better manage online reputation

The management of a company's online reputation is now becoming a business imperative, warns analyst Gartner.

As the risks surrounding doing business online - at both a provider and recipient level - increase, companies need to be much more proactive in how they manage their reputations in this new web-centric world, according to Gartner.

By the end of 2010, criminals will habitually use the internet to extort organisational funds, by threatening to adversely affect routine search requests with negative or libellous results if their demands are not met, warns the analyst.

As the sophistication level of this kind of malice increases, so do the risks for businesses with a partial or whole online presence.

"If your business depends on a positive internet reputation, then you have little choice than to explicitly manage that reputation online. The internet is like a bad-news Petri dish; negative information multiplies and spreads with frightening speed and becomes virtually impossible to erase," said Jay Heiser, research vice president at Gartner.

"Reputational persistence is a unique internet phenomenon that traditional reputation specialists have never had to deal with. The fact is that where the internet is concerned the only way to counteract persistent negative information is to overcome it with a greater weight of positive information. This means getting to grips with internet reputation management."

Until a comprehensive 'scan and alert' mechanism exists to help businesses deal with these web-based challenges, Heiser suggests that companies work to better understand the role reputation plays in social and commercial relationships, in addition to educating employees and looking for positive opportunities to enhance reputation.

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