Online channels, especially social media platforms are a powerful tool to share ideas with the world, but the wide-reaching nature of these channels can be a double edged sword since negative reputations can be hard to contain and have long-lasting consequences. As a testament to the importance of online reputation, a third of US business schools now screen their candidates’ social media platforms as part of the admissions process, up from 22% in 2011 (FT, 2018). As with individuals, maintaining a good online reputation is crucial for companies to navigate the increasingly intricate digital climate; in a survey by BrightLocal in 2017, 97% of consumers read online reviews and 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, 2017). With companies and consumers adopting more online channels, managing online reputation now requires companies to consider their presence on a myriad of different online platforms, not just online reviews.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Alexander Hilton from DREP. Reputation Management co., who taught me about how a company can manage its online reputation.
DREP enables organisations to understand their online reputation by using DREP Analytics which uses a combination of human intelligence and Artificial intelligence to trawl, crawl and filter megadata across the internet to produce a snapshot on an organisation’s online reputation. With a clear understanding of the company’s online reputation, DREP then provides strategic communications consultancy services to evolve this reputation to achieve the organisation’s objectives, for example selling products, winning elections or clinching contracts.
Trends in the region
Mr Hilton sees many new opportunities for digital strategists in the ASEAN region given the rapid economic growth. The ASEAN region is home to more than 650 million people accounting for 8.6% of the world’s population and is set to reach 669 million by 2020, which will account for 9.1% of the world’s population (Worldometers, 2018). In 2016, The ASEAN economy was worth USD 2.555 trillion, the 5th largest market, behind Japan, China, EU and USA (ASEAN UP, 2018). By 2030, the region’s economy is expected to reach USD 10 trillion to become the 4th largest market in the world (Iesingapore, 2017).
Additionally, South East Asia is becoming increasingly digitally-enabled. In 2016 alone, the number of internet users and active social media users both grew by 31%. This brings regional internet penetration to 53% which is 3% higher than the global average and social media penetration to 47% which is 10% higher than the global average (We are social, 2017).
Mr Hilton also sees that the ASEAN region is lagging behind in digital strategy due to the language barrier between large digital strategy management companies and the ASEAN population. Most large digital strategy management companies come from the west and thus offer solutions that are generally suited for English-speaking markets. However, with the exception of Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, English proficiency is moderate or lower in ASEAN countries (EF, 2017). Therefore Mr Hilton has observed that most large digital strategy management companies are not pursuing opportunities in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia since adapting solutions to the local language will require a huge amount of investment.
Riding on the trends
As the ASEAN economy continues to grow and become more digitally enabled, there will be a greater need for online reputation management solutions that are customised for the region. This market is exceptionally promising for companies like DREP since there are no giants dominating the market yet, given the language barrier.
To ride on these trends, Mr Hilton shared that DREP is focusing on product development to ensure that their analysis tools cast the right nets to capture the right information which will enable companies in the ASEAN region to take control of their online reputation using tools that have been customised to the nuances of the region.
DREP is an outward looking company and JTC has helped to establish their base in Singapore by providing subsidised rental of an office in the JTC Launchpad @One-north, one of Singapore’s most vibrant hubs for start-ups. Having their office at this location is particularly enjoyable as JTC organises plenty of events and community building activities. However to increase the participation rate of these programs, JTC should improve their communications with the tenants. There was a recent party where only around 20 people showed up, even though posters were pasted all over the Launchpad; which might suggest that posters might not be the best medium to promote events. Perhaps email invites or a frequently updated Facebook page will be a more effective way of ensuring all tenants are informed about the events.
On other government assistance, Mr Hilton shared that while grants can be a saviour to small businesses, these grants can also be a distraction for start-ups. Due to the grant requirements, applying and complying with these requirements may take up a significant amount of resources which may shift the focus away from product development.
Call to Singaporean companies
The rapid economic growth and rising access to digital media in the ASEAN region has been creating an abundance of market gaps in the digital space. For now, the market has yet to be dominated by behemoth companies from the west and thus Singaporean companies need to move fast to identify and fill these gaps, just as what DREP has done. If more Singaporean companies can follow the success of DREP, Singapore will become the dominant regional hub for online communications and strategy management.
ASEAN UP. (2018). 4 ASEAN infographics: population, market, economy – ASEAN UP. [online] Available at: https://aseanup.com/asean-infographics-population-market-economy/ [Accessed 27 Jan. 2018].
BrightLocal. (2017). Local Consumer Review Survey 2017 | The Impact Of Online Reviews. [online] Available at: https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2018].
- (2017). EF EPI 2017 – Asia. [online] Available at: https://www.ef.sg/epi/regions/asia/[Accessed 27 Jan. 2018].
- (2018). Careless tweets can cost your place at business school. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/118df2d6-f7cf-11e7-a4c9-bbdefa4f210b [Accessed 29 Jan. 2018].
Iesingapore. (2017). Outlook 2017: ASEAN Still Beckons. [online] Available at: https://www.iesingapore.gov.sg/-/media/Files/ASEAN-Outlook-2017/Presentation-Materials/Outlook-2017—ASEAN-still-Beckons.ashx?la=en [Accessed 27 Jan. 2018].
We Are Social. (2017). Digital in Southeast Asia in 2017 – We Are Social. [online] Available at: https://wearesocial.com/special-reports/digital-southeast-asia-2017 [Accessed 27 Jan. 2018].
Worldometers. (2018). Population of South-Eastern Asia (2018) – Worldometers. [online] Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-eastern-asia-population/ [Accessed 27 Jan. 2018].