More than half of UK businesses have been affected by online trolls in the past year. Some organisations were left in a worse position than they were 12 months ago, according to Igniyte’s recent research.

This latest Business of Reviews study took in the views of over 500 business owners and decision makers. Using this data, Igniyte formed a follow up to our 2014 survey of business professionals. The results this year found that online trolls have now had an effective on 52% of UK companies. This shows the increasing importance of factoring this risk into any online reputational strategy.

Importance of reviews

Online reviews and comments can have a huge impact on companies’ reputations. As well as significantly influencing consumer decisions. They can have an major effect on whether they chose to form a relationship with your business or not. In some cases, they may influence some people to work with a competitor brand instead.

The overall survey findings – which look in the comments of those working across eight different business sectors – found the below stand out points:

  • More than half (52%) of UK companies have experienced a decline because of postings online in the last 12 months.
  • One in five (21%) admitted they are terrified of the damage that further negative content could do – potentially destroying their company for good – up from one in six two years ago.
  • One in 10 (11%) reported that they feel the situation is getting worse.
  • Nearly half (47%) have been affected by malicious posts and trolls in the past year.
  • Another one in ten (10%) feel the landscape is becoming trickier to manage and one in eight – 12% – of those affected say they don’t know how to make things right.
  • An overwhelming 79% feel online reviews, comments and forum posts are important to the financial and reputational status of their businesses – an increase of 3% since 2013.

Raising awareness

This heightened awareness of the consequences of unmonitored content is growing. For those that are trying to protect their interests, the time costs can be huge. It’s also important for companies to determine which staff member or team would take responsibility to address potential negative comments. The research findings continue:

  • As many as a third (31%) say finding ways to monitor and manage negative content is becoming more important to their customer service and marketing strategy.
  • Nearly a third – 30% – are spending five hours a week managing reviews, with one in eight (13%) dedicating up to 20 hours each week.
  • Almost one in five (19%) have been forced to create an in-house role to monitor and review online content. While 12% have signed up to a third party review platform, such as Trust Pilot, in a bid to maintain a positive profile.

Dealing with online trolls

Speaking about the findings, Igniyte Managing Partner Simon Wadsworth said: “What this latest, 2016, data shows very clearly is just how damaging malicious or unfair postings can be – and just how important managing online content is to businesses today.

“Taking control of a company’s online review and content strategy is crucial to its success.

“Since we launched our Business of Reviews research we have seen a continuing awareness of the need to manage online content – and of the damage unchecked material can do.

“Our 2014 data revealed the scale of the problem and the confusion surrounding how to tackle it.

“The 2016 follow up research reveals people are more worried than ever – the number of people who feel bad reviews have the power to make or break their business has risen from 17% to 21%- but are struggling to find the right solution.

“In a world where online comments, posts and reviews are constantly gaining in significance, firms must find ways to monitor and where necessary, tackle, damaging content.

“Getting to the root of the problem is essential. Employing good customer service and using negative feedback productively can help improve operations.

“It’s about having a robust business with good customer service/complaint handling processes and strong positive dialogue as its starting point.

“As reputation specialists, we are perfectly placed to help people implement this kind of comprehensive approach; devising a wide range of long-term strategies that can contribute to a business’ future success.

“We recently launched our reputation index. It is a ground-breaking way for Igniyte to review how a brand or individual is perceived online. Thus allowing us to create informed strategies to benefit our clients.

“It allow clients to assess their online rating; helping them collate and evaluate themselves. For example PR, brand mentions and social media engagement can be evaluated to let people know exactly how they’re doing.

“It’s this ‘joined-up’ approach that creates the kind of reputational resilience businesses need.”

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