Businesses need to be more proactive when it comes to managing their reputations online, according to Gartner. In a presentation at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Sydney, Jay Heiser said the level of risk is increasing as the Internet becomes larger and more complex and the level of sophistication of online crime increases, but many organisations were "still acting like nothing bad is going to happen".
"If your business depends on a positive Internet reputation, then you have little choice other than to explicitly manage that reputation online," said Heiser. "The Internet is like a bad-news Petri dish: negative information multiplies and spreads with frightening speed and becomes virtually impossible to erase," he added.
Gartner predicted that by the end of 2010, criminals will routinely use the Internet to extort funds from organisations, threatening corporate reputations by ensuring that routine online search requests will return negative or even libellous results.
Despite the plethora of reputational resources that are available to assess and help manage reputation -- from PR agencies and competitive analysis companies to identity verification services and content analytics tools -- a comprehensive scan and alert mechanism for the Internet does not yet exist.
"Reputational persistence is a unique Internet phenomenon that traditional reputation specialists have never had to deal with," Heiser said. "The fact is that where the Internet is concerned the only way to counteract persistent negative information is to overcome it with a greater weight of positive information. This means getting to grips with Internet reputation management."
Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report