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Managing Reputation Online

Increasingly this broth threatens brands and corporate reputation and needs professionalism to immunise or doctor the effects of the brew.

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The Internet is driving a knowledge explosion. More knowledge has been accumulated by the Internet in the last five years than in the previous 50 years.
The nature of reputation. Reputation, derived from experience and third party commendation, needs to be nurtured in order for trust to develop.
There are and have been many forms of society. Religious, capitalist, communist, royalist, democratic and, now there is the Internet society. It has unique characteristics. Is about information, knowledge and communication. Is global, encourages activity and exchange and involvement round the clock.

Anyone can say and do almost anything without restraint. An uncanny knack of circumventing restraint attempted by conventional societies and a staggering ability to accept and use new technologies. Expectations of Internet users run ahead of those who stand between them and the Internet Society. Among members of the Internet Society, traditional companies have to be able to react as quickly. Creating an Internet reputation is hard for most directors of companies.

Most of Britain’s 10 million Internet Society spend 20 hours a week on the Internet. As in all societies, everyone is different. Activities include education, entertainment, shopping and communication are all applications for use of the Internet. One third of Internet surfing at work is not work related. Interaction and communication, (excluding e-mail ) are already significant aspects of Internet behaviour and are the fastest growing applications. Subjects people look for are very much about life interest. Only 31% of UK executives feel comfortable using the Internet.
Netzines using newsgroups and chat, sound (music), shopping and much more. Half the Internet population taking on-line news feeds. Big Internet brands are also opinion forming. Internet users like and seek its interactivity.
Individuals can be signed up to many different stakeholder groups. The component of the Internet that acts as silent lubricant is e-mail. Combined with newsgroups, discussion lists, Bulletin Boards and chat, e-mail provides a the means by which any person or group of people can influence events as never before. Every organisation is now porous in that its every activity can be and is exposed to public scrutiny. Once companies had control of what was said and believed about their activities. Now every stakeholder has, can and does provide knowledge and opinion freely.

Anyone can create a Web site. Unacceptable practice attracts comment, criticism and active opposition. At the same time the Internet has become the key to commercial success. It is a place to buy and sell. Organisations now have to fight for a presence in Internet Society.

The reputation of a company that is slow in Cyber Society must inevitably slide. Growth from 98 million on line in 1997 there will be 350 million by 2005. Over 4,000 new Web sites appear each day. Consumer on-line spending at UK sites grew from $15 in 1997 to $400 million at the end of 1999 and it is predicted to reach $1940 by 2002. Web advertising started at $500 million in 1997 and two years later was over £1750 million. Uptake of technologies. It took 38 years for the telephone to achieve 50 million users and 2.5 years for AOL chat services to achieve the same number. Technophobe reputation managers are now a corporate liability. At stake is reputation among 17 million on-line people queuing to buy Christmas presents on line at the end of the second millennium.
From a position of absolutely no knowledge people now capable of many applications. Eight hundred million pages of the Web are now searchable. In 1997 that figure as 320 million. Finding information is getting faster and smarter but less comprehensive. Clever 'thinking' technologies are coming forward. Conversations with robots. Some commercial Web sites have become interactive using humanoid robots interacting with prospects and customers. Full functioning broadcast sound and video is with us, virtual reality is near, cell phones with Internet access will be a great millennium Christmas present, And, with the advent of interactive TV, the range of opportunities grow. Being late into the Internet means we can't catch up, the technology is moving away from us fast.
Maintaining customer loyalty and building a reputation for service with Internet users is dependant on being able to interact with people. 40% of e-mail questions to company sites are left un-answered. Companies loose customers because they do not respond. Creating and re-creating the value of intellectual properties and brands is an issue. Dynamic Internet reputation management is becoming significant.
Internet newsgroups, chat and Newscasts are nice places for ordinary people talk about ordinary things. It is a place where anyone can ask if there is a kindred spirit with the same interests and because the Internet is so big, there always is. Over 30% of netzines use the Internet for communication excluding e-mail. The reputation of products and brands are much maligned in newsgroups. Consumers go to newsgroups to find out about products and service from other customers. Most users learn this at an early stage, come to rely on trusted sites.

Newsgroups can be damaging and malicious comment can spread like wild fire. Interjecting a posting into a newsgroup is akin to interrupting a conversation in a pub. People dislike getting unsolicited e-mails. To be effective, you have to use the right netiquette.

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