Poor reviews, malicious posts and negative social media comments cost UK firms an average £46,815 (US$78,040) each annually, suggests a report commissioned by reputation management specialist Igniyte.
The research, canvassing the views of 500 UK business leaders, found that 88% of them recognise that a positive online presence is essential, but when things go wrong, the damage to a firm’s digital reputation and commercial value can be catastrophic.
Three in four firms admit that negative online publicity is their main commercial worry. More than half (52%) of the survey respondents have already been affected and one in five say ‘firefighting’ is now the focus of their entire online strategy – ahead of gaining new followers, generating sales or raising brand awareness.
The ‘bad’ content comes in many forms. Negative comment created by competitors was the most damaging, creating a problem for 43% of firms, followed by malicious postings from disgruntled former employees affecting 42%. Poor reviews cause problems for 41% of businesses, while 30% feel their online reputation has been affected by the online activity of existing employees.
Negative media coverage is also an issue for 17%, while one in 10 has suffered because of critical or offensive social media posts.
Nine per cent of the firms surveyed have lost between £50,000 and £100,000 as a direct result of negative content online, 20% said that it has cost them around £50,000 while 24% estimate the cost at nearer £10,000.
Despite growing awareness around the importance of maintaining a positive profile online, taking effective action is still a challenge for many UK companies, reports Igniyte. Forty-five per cent of those quizzed said they’d tried and failed to remove damaging posts, with 36% attempting to engage with critics themselves. A further 12% wanted to take action but didn’t know where to start.
Only one in three executives felt they had all the skills they needed to keep their company’s online reputation up to scratch, with one in 10 admitting they had no idea how to protect themselves. As a result, one in ten companies now outsource managing their digital profile to an expert agency.
“Reputation has always been everything in business and in the online age, it is more important than ever to maintain a positive image,” said Igniyte director, Caroline Skipsey.
“Companies work hard to stake a claim in the digital space but once you have that presence how do you police it? When posts can be made and shared within seconds, how can you maintain a positive online reputation?
“What this research shows very clearly is the damaging effect negative online content can have and the high cost to reputations and businesses.
“Companies know they have to take action but aren’t always sure how to go about it. That’s where we and other expert agencies can come in. We can work with businesses to tackle negativity and build and maintain the positive profile they need.”
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