British bosses voice their concerns over the downside of digital; negative online content

75% of bosses in the UK have said that negative content online is their biggest commercial worry. Malicious posts, bad reviews and negative comments on social media sites are costing each firm in Britain an average of £46,815. Over half of firms have been affected by this trend, the so called ‘downside of digital’, while 1 in 5 have said that fighting the fire is now the main focus of their online strategy, putting it ahead of attracting followers and making sale. The latest  Reputation Report  has revealed that two thirds of bosses have admitted that they do not possess the specialist skills they feel are needed to deal with this growing problem.

Bad reviews, malicious comments and mis-judged social media posts can all damage a firm’s digital reputation and commercial value. And dealing with negative online content is now the number one business concern for three quarters of UK firms. According to a new Reputation Report commissioned by leading reputation management specialists, Igniyte, maintaining a positive presence online has become top priority for British bosses.

More than half of those quizzed (52 per cent) revealed business had already suffered because of damaging posts.The content wiped out sales and company value – prompting average losses of £46,815. Another ten per cent are unhappy with the way their firm is portrayed on their Google page one but two thirds of bosses have no idea what to do about it. Of those who hadn’t been affected yet, a third (31 per cent) worry they will be in future, with one in five revealing tackling negativity has become the main focus of their online strategy – ahead of winning new followers, generating sales or raising brand awareness.

This ‘bad’ content comes in many forms. Negative comment created by competitors was the most damaging, creating a problem for 43 per cent, followed by malicious postings from disgruntled former employees (affecting 42 per cent). Poor reviews are also causing problems for 41 per cent of businesses, while almost a third (30 per cent) feel their online reputation has been affected by the online activity of existing employees.

Negative media coverage is also an issue for 17 per cent, while one in ten have suffered because of critical or offensive social media posts. The research, which took in the views of 500 UK business leaders, also found that an overwhelming 88 per cent recognise that a positive online presence is of vital important to their customers. And when things go wrong, the impact on company finances can be catastrophic.

Almost one in ten (nine per cent) have lost between £50k and £100k as a direct result of negative content online, while close to a quarter (24 per cent) are up to £10k out of pocket. Another one in five (20 per cent) says poor their online reputation has cost them closer to £50k. And while there is growing awareness around the importance of maintaining a positive profile online, taking effective action is still a tricky issue for many UK companies.

A staggering 45 per cent of those quizzed said they’d tried and failed to remove damaging posts, with more than a third (36 per cent) attempting to engage with critics themselves. Another 12 per cent wanted to take action but didn’t know where to start. Only a third of bosses felt they had all the skills they needed to keep their company’s online reputation up to scratch, with one in ten 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. Speaking about the findings, Igniyte Director, Caroline Skipsey, says: “Reputation has always been everything in business and in the online age, it is more important than ever to maintain a positive image. 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.”