In 2010, a medium-sized business in the retail industry was shocked to discover that one of its former employees had posted destructive comments on an industry-specific forum with an anonymous username.
Just a day later, the company’s name and business had begun to take a hit. Yet, the company hardly took any pro-active step to arrest and erase such damaging online presence — in the hope that it would fade away.
Rather, it magnified.
This is where experts are needed – and they are called online reputation managers.
If a brand is not controlled on the internet by its creator, someone else will, says Neha Kumar of Appin Technology Lab (ATL), a company that is into what it describes as “internet reputation marketing”.
In fact, she adds, if the reaction time is not swift, the dent to reputation of a firm can reach irreversible proportions.
But there is more to online reputation management than correcting perceptions. “Internet reputation marketing is not limited to just the handling of a crisis. It is more about the sustenance of a constructive and encouraging presence,” said Kumar.
ATL believes that in the absence of censorship of internet content, the need for internet reputation and marketing professionals would grow exponentially in the coming days.
Companies would either hire such professionals on their payroll or outsource their internet reputation and marketing to specialists, says an industry insider.
ATL has, in fact, developed several internet reputation and marketing programmes – each customised to suit the specific requirements of its clients. “We intend to capture the training and placement market as well as services market in the internet reputation marketing space,” Kumar said.
Based on the analysis of requests of its small and medium enterprise customers, ATL has reached the conclusion that while Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) marketing and Social Media Marketing (SMM) are important for customers, the need for internet reputation and marketing is even higher.
ATL now offers a six-month, job-oriented course in online reputation management and marketing that spans 216 hours of theory and practicals, and covers technology, software, public relations, writing and communication, though technical skills are the key.
The programme is set for an October launch globally across all ATL centres.
It is a comprehensive course that prepares a student for all requirements of small and medium enterprise’s online needs — brand, reputation and leads.
Students trained in this information-age course would be placed in companies that handle internet reputation and management in-house, or at ATL’s own services division.
Appin Technology Lab recommends that in order to contest disparagement, maintain integrity and improve revenue, businesses should invest in internet reputation and marketing services.
According to industry insiders, most people think of “search engine optimisation” when they think of internet marketing. Some advanced courses in developing nations offer search engine marketing covering Google and Facebook advertisement for lead generation.
Internationally, the concept of SMM is gaining ground in developed nations and on the sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BlogSpot, WordPress and Wikipedia.
Such methods are collectively referred to as digital marketing, which
helps a company build a brand online.
ATL, through its 110-plus franchises spread across 70 cities, is also planning
to launch ‘Fort Appin IRM Services’ for small and medium enterprises. ATL’s staff will consult with the franchises to customise their management and various other needs.