A Basic Primer for Online Reputation Management
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What are the results when you search for your name (or business)?
The digital image seen by professionals and consumers can be the deciding factor in their contact.
Let’s imagine you’re a small business just now gaining traction with a website and social media. It’s the early stages of your Web presence but it doesn’t seem to be all too effective. When you search for your business you find a slew of blog posts, social shares, and reviews that come up negative. What gives?
As it turns out – a disgruntled customer took to the Web and began using every means possible to spread a negative image of your brand. There may have been a chance that these negative reviews came from a competitor (this happens a lot, actually).
Now your up-and-coming business is in the trenches. You’re losing business because the first thing people see when seeking your company is nothing but negative.
What if this was directed at you? Do you think it could prevent you from landing a job? What would others think of you for past deeds you’ve made amends?
The Purpose of Online Reputation Management
There are countless reasons to take note of your online reputation:
- Fake or negative reviews appearing more frequently than positive ones
- Overlap in listings due to a similar name of another individual
- Irate or disgruntled former employees attacking the company
- Gossip and news that is ill-informed or now outdated
Consider the fact that nearly everyone stops searching through Google results after the first few listings.
The first few items someone sees from their query will cause an immediate decision on how they perceive your brand. We do this in real life through first impressions – it’s the same online. You could offer the greatest product or service but if your brand is tarnished than you’re losing money.
Remember this: once it’s published it’s there to stay.
Google and Bing are trying their best to use fresh results in search engines but even these results can become problematic if your business (or personal brand) is under constant fire. The instant/suggested results shown by Google can also quickly spread gossip which is worse when the user bases their information on a single line and fails to do their research.
What you need to know about Online Reputation Management is that it’s a set of best practices for handling your Web presence and brand perception.
There are ways to combat illegitimate information. There are ways to promote positive opinion. It’s through these ORM strategies that you’ll gain control.
Managing Your Online Reputation
Managing your ORM comes down to being active, online.
The general concept is that you:
A. Build and maintain your presence on your terms
B. Manage the message when it’s from them
The following are various ways to handle ORM:
Your first course of action when handling your ORM is to develop a system and a set of guidelines for monitoring and managing. This will create a process of finding positive/negative reviews, comments, or coverage, and how to properly respond without igniting the flames.
- Delegate who will respond to the opinion or feedback
- Select content channels that are best to share these items to the public
- Set times for checking on your online reputation
Next, begin pushing hard with content production. Release blog posts, video on YouTube, podcasts, images, and other media which will flood the search results with your positive message. Developing an authority site will allow you to outrank the pages that may misrepresent your brand.
- Develop an authority website that’s packed with helpful information about your company
- Create and publish content on your company blog frequently
- Solicit reviews and feedback (then use them as part of your promotional strategy)
- Utilize press release services for industry/company updates
Social should also be a critical element of your ORM as it will allow you to quickly address positive and negative opinions and feedback through open channels. Public responses are visible to others which will share how your brand handles customer support. Social will also allow you to push the content to improve its chances of overriding the negative ones.
- Monitor social mentions using Google Alerts and other search features in SEM tools
- Completing your social media profiles and sharing regular updates
- Active participation in forums
- Address reviews by responding to them
- Contact bloggers, news reporters, and other content producers to change outdated information
Finally, consider the use of software or services to streamline and aid in the process. These tools and resources can be helpful for expediting the process. They will generally give you access to high-ranking platforms to build profiles and channels to share information which will work against negative items.
One More Thing
Online Reputation Management software and services are meant to aid you take control of your Web presence. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to abuse these services for gain.
The spread of fake reviews, comments, and endorsements are rampant. With the right budget you can essentially game the system. This approach, however, can have substantial ramifications.
A quick bump in building buzz around a product launch through fake reviews and comments may be enticing but organizations (like the FTC) are cracking down, hard.
Don’t break the rules else the game will come to an end.
People and businesses aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes. It’s unfortunate that others will become vicious in their attacks against our brand but it’s simply a fact of life.
The Web has given them a platform and they’ve chosen to use it to spread their thoughts and opinions. Some are legitimate while others are defamatory. Our control on this information will become an increasingly important practice as we move forward in maintaining a positive Web presence.
Don’t wait any longer. Begin implementing an Online Reputation Management strategy today.