If someone posts an offensive or defamatory comment about you or your company online, you may be faced with an online reputation management crisis that is difficult to control. This week, Igniyte explores why trolling is potentially a big issue for small businesses.

What is trolling?

Online trolling is when someone deliberately posts a provocative or offensive comment on the Internet with the intention of upsetting or angering users. The practice is likely to have an adverse impact on any company’s reputation should they be subjected to it.

Because ‘trolls’ tend to post on social media sites, forums and other online sites, which Google ranks highly, the content they publish is likely to be seen by anyone searching for your company name and other key search terms.

Online trolling – a case for the High Court

One high profile case last year illustrated the effect trolling can have on ‘big business’. According to the BBC, former Morgan Stanley banker Daniel Hegglin took Google to the High Court over a number of malicious posts that appeared about him in the search results.

Hegglin first became aware of the abuse in 2011. The former banker said that he discovered 3,600 websites which contained untrue and abusive material about him. Hegglin was being targeted by an online troll.

The usual course of action is to report the websites to Google for removal from its search results. Yet Hegglin decided to forgo this path. He suggested that there were so many posts that listing them for removal would be time-consuming, expensive and ultimately ineffective. Instead he chose to take out an injunction against Google with the High Court to ensure the posts did not appear in search results for his name. The case has since been settled, however the damage has been done.

Online trolling – a big issue for small business

Unlike high profile executives or large companies, small businesses tend to have limited flow of capital. Furthermore, they depend far more on the day-to-day revenue they receive from their customers than their larger equivalents. Not only do smaller businesses lack access to the funds they need to take the type of step Hegglin took to lessen the damage a troll wrought on his online reputation, any unwanted content may drive away vital customers before the company has a chance to deal with the issue.

So how do smaller companies to deal with defamation and online privacy quickly and effectively?

Get proactive

Igniyte advises companies to be proactive when it comes to protecting their online reputation. The best chance of ensuring potentially damaging content does not rank on the first page of Google for your company’s name, and consequentially driving your customers away, is to build a strong online presence. Here are some online reputation management techniques that will help you promote your business online and build your company reputation:

  • Promote your business in the press: Newspapers have high authority in Google, so actively push out positive PR to trade publications, and local and national press.
  • Social media: Social and professional media sites are great for networking with influential people and organisations, and help you connect with business professionals within the same field.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR): Getting involved with a community project may provide you with an opportunity to promote your business, and boost your reputation online.
  • Industry listings: Being associated with a recognised trade or professional organisation provides you with access to a range of skills from business development to policy and best practice, which may help you to enhance your company’s online profile.
  • Sentiment monitoring: It is important to monitor what is being said about your company online – where it is being said, when and why. Setting up alerts will bring any potential issues to your attention, allowing you more chance to deal with them before they become a crisis.

For more information about protecting your company reputation online, download Igniyte’s free e-book – A guide to building your company reputation online.  Alternatively contact Simon Wadsworth by email: simon@testing.igniyte.co.uk or phone him on: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 in confidence.

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