“People are rating your services on sites like ServiceMagic and Yelp,”
said Brendan King, CEO of the Canadian Internet startup MyFrontSteps. “They’re
blogging, and commenting on each other’s blogs. One comment can be seen by
tens of thousands of people. It’s really upped the stakes.”

MyFrontSteps has just released a new service called StepRep, located at
http://steprep.myfrontsteps.com, to help small businesses and independent
contractors manage their online reputation. What makes this service different
from others that have come before?

The price, for one thing. StepRep is free. And it was designed with
simplicity in mind, to encourage non-tech-savvy users to give it a try.

“Small business owners might think, hey, I’ve got a low profile, no-one’s
talking about me,” said King. “But when you don’t have a large online
presence, the effect of each comment is magnified. It’s even more important to
keep on top of what people are seeing when they Google your name.” StepRep
sends out an alert via email whenever a new result appears, allowing users to
respond to blog posts or comments immediately.

Results can then be sorted and managed, and positive items promoted using
a “widget” that can be added to the user’s blog or website. These
search-friendly widgets draw search engines toward positive results and away
from negative ones.

For users without a blog or website, StepRep provides a simple profile
page that displays positive stories.

StepRep is only the first part of a larger strategy to connect businesses
and their customers through social networks. In March, MyFrontSteps will
launch Homebook, a place for homeowners to share photos of their homes and get
ideas for design and renovation. Homebook users will be invited to link to
their trusted home service providers on StepRep.

StepRep and MyFrontSteps are products of VendAsta Technologies, a
software development team based in Saskatoon, Canada. In August 2008 the
startup received $3 million funding from Victoria Park Capital to develop a
social networking initiative that would combine the founders’ expertise in
software and real estate services.