Social media sites have become a prominent source of online marketing and brand advertising, so is it any wonder that sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can present and potentially major hazard to your online image? Companies and individual users often overlook the potential of social media to damage their online reputations, yet the prevalence of social media sites offer many ways for a competitor, employee, angry customer or even just a general naysayer to post and publish highly visible and negative items about your brand and/or your character. If you aren’t up to speed on your social media presence, you may be subject to damaging, and possibly even devastating consequences; disparaging items that, if left alone, can serve to destroy your online reputation. Customers who have undergone a negative experience with a business, according to Imsoup.com, are over twice as likely to post about it on a social media site than those who have undergone a positive one. In other words, though your business may be able to brag about a high customer satisfaction rate, you are far more likely to fall victim to negative commentary then to benefit from positive customer reviews. Another recent survey suggests that over 70% of potential customers will put their trust in a social media post made by a friend or family member, and that nearly 90% of all review searchers trust the commentary of other consumers. This fact alone underlines the need to be constantly aware of how both you and your company are seen in social media forums, as well as the necessity of a strong social media reputation strategy. Consumers, however, aren’t the only people who can negatively impact your online reputation. Disgruntled employees, both current and former, are also apt to make damaging and/or disparaging remarks about their companies through their Facebook and Twitter profiles. Without a strong social media policy in place, these posts can become a murky and highly-delicate legal matter that turns out to benefit no one. Sites like Startupsmart.com suggest the establishment of a strong and coherent social media policy, one that protects both your business and your employees from the potential of a publicly visible and negative dispute. Having a “clear and defined” social media policy, says Startupsmart.com, is a powerful reputation protection tool that helps to keep negativity out of the spotlight. It turns out that social media does matter, and that a proactive and positive social media presence can help you protect your business and yourself from the onslaught of unwarranted attacks.