Lately, much has been discussed about the subject of online reputation management and the larger issue of a business’ reputation. The recent highly publicized YouTube video of two Domino’s employees who put together a prank video (according to their claims) showing one employee performing gross and unsanitary acts while preparing one of Domino’s new hot sandwiches, is a case in point. The video that was of low quality was posted to YouTube. However, because the actual setting in a Domino’s kitchen was real, the authenticity was not questioned.

In less than two days the video had received hundreds of thousands of views. The authors did no promotion other than the initial posting with keywords. The viral nature of the video, combined with the powerful distribution capabilities of the Internet, made the video a first page YouTube featured video. Needless to say, the hit on Dominos’ reputation was significant. According to media reports, pkv domino qq s reported that their “favorability rating” (i.e. reputation) plummeted by over 50%. Millions of dollars in marketing and advertising dollars to initially launch their new hot sandwich product was effectively undone by the boneheaded efforts of two adult employees.

If two unsophisticated employees with no apparent axe to grind with their employer could cause so much damage to a national business, one has to as ask what would happen if a more sophisticated campaign was undertaken. For example: what if several accomplices posted simultaneous stories of becoming sick after eating a Domino’s hot sandwich?

This story is a good example of the developing power of Web 2.0. The evolution of the Internet from a text based media to a social, multimedia platform is unleashing new social media forces that are still poorly understood. Online reputation management is one such force. Prior to the availability of video and broadband in so many households and businesses, the Domino’s event would have not occurred.

Today we are seeing the popularity of numerous sites devoted to reviewing a business. These same sites will even allow a reviewer to submit a video review. Google and Yahoo Local versions allow users to weigh in on local businesses. All that is necessary is to register your email with the site and you are free to exercise your First Amendment rights. A recent study showed that despite awareness that reviews may be false or uninformed, over 2/3 of online viewers believed them according to Emarketer Research.

The good reputation of a business, especially a local business, can take years to build but in today’s world and the speed of the Internet, that reputation can be effectively undermined in a matter of days. So, you may ask, what is a business, especially a smaller business without a public relations department, able to do to protect its’ reputation?

The first step is to acknowledge the possibility that someone, be they a dissatisfied customer, ex-employee or competitor, can harm your reputation. The next step is to address the issue. This may be accomplished by honestly and strategically embarking on a campaign to manage your online reputation. Your campaign should include an ongoing effort to acquire favorable reviews, submit videos that are informational and/or review oriented. Having a blog to solicit feedback is an effective means of defusing potentially harmful publicity and also giving you an effective source for capturing favorable reviews.

All of these steps have the added benefit of giving your web site tremendous optimization benefits, since the search engines treat each entry about your business as added relevancy in search.

In conclusion, we all must be aware that someone is probably “Googleing” us. If you are not mindful of what your online reputation portrays, you run the serious risk of damage to your overall reputation and the subsequent loss of business. The new media can be effectively harnessed to your advantage. Do it now and you will become expert in using the new Internet 2.0 social media tools to your advantage. Take control over your business story and reputation or others may do it for you.