Entering into a business agreement is a major decision – one that should not be entered into without a bit of due diligence and a healthy amount of skepticism where future associates are concerned. Part of online reputation management means performing thorough research. The Internet has made it easier than ever to get a fairly accurate overview of potential partners prior to signing an agreement.
Here are five reasons to take a look at someone’s online reputation before establishing a business relationship.
1. Criminal history
Most states offer the opportunity to download a complete criminal activity record online. This is absolutely vital to ensure that any future business partner isn’t hiding a slew of felony offenses. Owners and managers would obviously hate to find out that their operations were being handled by a less-than-upstanding citizen.
This advice also holds true to those looking to franchise a business or intake independent sales representatives. One prime example: Nashville, Tennessee-based “homeless newspaper”, The Contributor, was flung into the spotlight in March of 2013 not for its supposed business opportunity for the city’s downtrodden, but for allowing a known sex offender to register as a representative and distribute papers across the street from a middle school. When the 50-year-old Independent contractor was arrested for sexual battery, a 25-year-long criminal record was uncovered by the press. Had the newspaper performed a simple background check on this individual, this bad publicity could’ve been avoided.
2. Professional/personal maturity
In order for a business to succeed it must emanate professionalism and respectability at all times. Social-media sites like Facebook – where online reputation management disasters are found every day – make it easy to see how an individual portrays themselves when not dressed in a business suit. While no one should be expected to be perfect all the time, either on or off-line, is probably a good bet to stay away from partnering with someone whose college frat party photos are easily accessible and proudly displayed.
Honesty and integrity are key traits in a business partner. The Internet – specifically social media outlets – can help pinpoint whether or not the intended entrepreneur is one worthy of a partnership. Status updates, tweets, and even forum posts and comments may show conflicting information than presented in person. Facts about people’s political views, religious affiliations, and even family circumstances can be found online with little effort.
A quick investigation into a future partner’s online habits can reveal whether or not they’re reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. This information may come in the form of photographs posted online, location updates, or even affiliations with community service organizations.
The Internet can often make it difficult to gauge someone’s tone in a conversation. However, the way the person interacts with current and former employees, employers, friends, relatives, and other business associates can offer clues to their real-world personality. Finding negative or belittling remarks or hostile online exchanges is a major red flag that the individual posting them may not be the person they say they are.
A business’s online reputation management strategy must absolutely begin and end with honest and forthright information. If the partnership is launched with the wrong skeletons in the closet, it may fail long before given the opportunity to prove its professional merit.
Despite the best efforts, it may not always be possible to find out everything there is to know about a business partner before it’s too late. Many a business has fallen for previous indiscretions of their owners. Those looking to regain their reputation can halt some of the damage by blogging, updating social media regularly, or using the services of a professional online reputation management services provider.