Online reputation management (ORM) is a public relations tool used by companies and individuals to shape the way they are viewed online. It involves seeking out references, interacting with people online, generating positive references and content, and addressing negative content found online. A number of firms offer this service for a fee and some companies maintain an online reputation management department in their public relations department, with one or more full-time employees responsible for handling the company's presentation online.
As social networking and user-generated content exploded in the early 2000s, online reputation management became an increasingly pressing concern for many individuals and companies in the public eye. The ability to easily generate content, sometimes on sites specifically designed for review and discussion of products and services, meant that both happy and angry customers could quickly reach a wide audience with their thoughts and comments about companies and individuals. Companies that failed to monitor the way they were being perceived on the Internet could find themselves in trouble.
In online reputation management, regular searches are run to check for mentions of a company and to explore the content of those mentions. Companies generally want to promote positive references, while burying negative ones by addressing them or drowning them out with positive ones, if possible. The use of online reputation management allows companies to directly reach out and interact with unhappy customers to resolve their problems, improving customer service while managing their appearance online. Many companies use social networking platforms to communicate directly with consumers with everything from product promotions to solicitations for suggestions on ways they can improve.
Some companies offer services that will bury or hide negative reviews and commentary, typically by generating positive content to force negative reviews further down in search engine rankings. However, this is only one component of online reputation management. Many consumers expect companies to interact online, making a social media specialist a requirement for companies that want to engage fully with customers, and companies can use both positive and negative reviews as tools for improvement.
Tools people use for managing reputations online include automated searches, profiles on social networking sites, blogging, and subscriptions to review sites. Companies may also engage with customers by holding events, handing out discounts and other promotional materials, seeking recommendations and reviews from bloggers with high profiles online, and attending conferences dedicated to online communications, social networking, and Internet culture.