The online reputation management market has exploded in recent years. Although somewhat ignored or looked down-upon, managing one’s reputation online is becoming increasingly important. Public figures and large corporations have been the first to tackle head-on the headaches that can arise from negative content and buzz online. But, with the rise of social media, forums and other engagement platforms as well as the often uncomfortable truth that once something’s on the web it’s there forever, individual users are now starting to worry about their e-reputations too.
There are numerous firms that have been popping up in this still burgeoning market, with the most well-known being the US-based Reputation.com. In France, one of the stars in this area at the moment is ReputationVIP, started by a five cofounder team of tech and industry veterans – Bertrand Girin, Nicolas Nguyen, Laurence Houdeville, Martin Genot, and Olivier Rozenkranc. I sat down recently with lead cofounder Bertrand Girin to discuss what they offer and where they’re headed next.
Tell me about what ReputationVIP does.
At the moment our solution centers around the user’s Google results. We allow you to monitor, protect and, ultimately, improve your Google results. This isn’t a platform where a user hands over everything to us and we deal with it. We give users the tools to do the things I just mentioned. So, as a first step, the user is required to, at the very least, qualify their first page search results (by result) as either positive and negative. This is necessary because what one considers ‘good’ or ‘bad’ result really depends on the user’s perception. This can be a very subjective thing.
How does it work exactly?
Based on the results and the user’s first qualification, the user (individual, company, or brand) gets a score. Via the monitoring system, everyday the user will get an update that will highlight new results that the user will need to qualify (if there are any), which could also change the score. The user will also be alerted if there are any new results coming on the first page. While seeing the initial results and first score is interesting, the most interesting thing is seeing how the score changes overtime. Based on the results from the monitoring system, the user will be suggested specific tasks that they can do to improve the score, such as better configuring your accounts, increasing activity or content, etc., and ultimately overtime will be able to see if these tasks are effective.
Are your customers equipped and prepared to manage this so frequently?
When we launched we wondered if people would understand the process and whether they would actively use it. We find that people do and we are impressed about the number of engaged users using it. Not only that but our customers are also asking for new functionalities, such as asking to requesting to expand the access on an account so that more people (within a team or organization) can actively participate. We, of course, monitor the frequency that users are logging in and it’s quite high.
How about the business model?
At the moment it’s free to sign-up and get going. We do currently offer tailored services, such as consulting or campaigns to improve your results drawing on our proprietary technology and/or SEO, for a fee. In the future, however, we’ll probably offer paid access to certain types of new functionalities. One example may be a similar reputation management service for certain applications with APIs (ie Facebook). Users would then be able to manage activity across these applications from the central interface.
I know you’ve recently had a big relaunch. What are some of the key highlights of the new site / solution?
One of the most important functionalities we’ve added in the new version is the ability to track Google outside of France. We also have a stop and go alert system, but will soon be evolving this and launching a more sophisticated one. Every ten days we add new updates to the system, so improving (the platform) all the time.
How does Google feel about services such as yours? Do you think they see these services as a threat to the purity of their algorithm?
I actually think they’re secretly thankful that we exist. They have often have situations where public people contact them and ask them to remove negative search results. A recent example was a senator in the US republican primary, who held and expressed some pretty negative views about gay marriage and was consequently ‘Google bombed’. He then asked Google to remove the search results he perceived as negative. Google refused. They can, in no way, make an exception and change the results for anyone. This would put the whole value of their approach to search at risk. So having services such as ours actually removes some of the burden from Google by offering users an alternative way to deal with these problems.
The site is currently only available in French. When are you launching the english version?
Yes, for the moment it’s only in French, but we’ll be changing this soon. In fact we have quite a few American customers. We’re actually starting to beat Reputation.com on some US deals even though they’ve raised $80 million thus far. For example, we have a new US contract for 18 what we call ‘digital fortresses’, so things are going well for us there. Adding the ability to track Google outside of France has obviously been a very important step in our internationalization and will enable us to expand further in the US and elsewhere.
I had a pretty in-depth demo of their relaunched site and platform with Girin. The strengths of the platform are definitely it’s UX which is extremely easy to use and well presented. The thing to keep in mind is that while it’s very quick to get started on it, it must be used frequently in order to get the most value out of it. The great thing is that the team are extremely responsive to user feedback and often draw on that input to regularly evolve their platform. If they eventually roll-out similar services within applications (social media and otherwise) with a central point of reputation management, this would be an extremely useful add, making their solution even more powerful. They’re off to a great start and helping to put France on the map in a market that’s becoming more important to both companies and individuals by the day.