Friday, January 25, 2008

Surf & Scrub... ReputationDefender

On a final note about managing reputations this week, I thought I'd explore the personal side of reputation management solutions.

Amidst the news stories of how employers are using social networks as reference and sensitive information checking tools, it's no shocker that services would appear to scrub online content that may negatively affect an individual's chances for employment.

I looked into Menlo Park, CA based ReputationDefender's services today. ReputationDefender was conceived in mid 2006 as a service that offers a monthly subscription based service that scrubs the internet for all content related to an individual. The service is still in beta, but has launched with subscribers receiving monthly reports detailing all references and content pertaining to the individual online so that they are then able to select what areas they would like to have deleted or "destroyed".

Most social networks allow users to submit requests to have items removed from their networks. The process can take some time but it is definitely available. For individuals that have been tagged in photos without permission, there are tools allowing them to disassociate themselves by removing tags.

ReputationDefender's value proposition may be found more in the reporting than in the destruction of negative content. They do not act as legal counsel and will not send cease and desist notes around the web. They simply go through the clean-up process on behalf of the customer.

The business reminds me a lot of the incorrect listings issues faced by the online yellow pages industry. While all the directories allowed businesses to submit correct information, the process was arduous and the results were either unsatisfactory or unacceptable in terms of time to correction. Finally, solution providers like Localeze stepped up, built partnerships with the major directories as "trusted sources", and put subscribing clients in the fast lane for listing corrections.

While the commercially driven need to manage reputations online is well established, the idea and demand to manage personal reputations has not yet reached its full potential. As late adopters continue to flock towards the social networks, the boom for this sector will emerge and echo for that matter.

I believe this type of service will become just as relevant as anti-virus software. The winners will be those that can provide the sleekest reporting and the fastest results. Early players to the field may benefit from their establishment as trusted sources with the major social networks and their unquestionable influence on the API features made available to procure the services.

A natural extension for this type of service would be to provide copywriting services to create positive content across the web. Once again, I'm drawing parallels with the Localeze model where the business profiles were created and pushed through the platform insuring consistency and SEO friendly rich data.

Let me guess what's next for personal reputation management companies....SEO friendly resume copywriting & management?

Reputatition Defender's Blog has a great NYTimes article about the usage of social networking investigations in the workplace...How to Lose your Job on Your Own Time

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