There has been a lot of misunderstanding about online reputation management. For some people, it is only about monitoring how you do in your social network, while others think of it as only something related to public relations. Also, there are many who still have no idea how it affects a business and it’s conversions.
This guide is meant to explain the role of online reputation management in today’s scenario. Regardless of the size, any business could benefit from the various features of online reputation management.
Why an online reputation is needed?
If not you, someone else will control your brand and that’s bad news for you. If you are not shielding yourself from slanderous results and negative comments, you will end up with a bad online image very soon, and it will be one hell-of-a-task to eradicate the online negativity. Someone can very easily post a negative comment on forums or review sites, create a video or blog post, file complaint, develop hate sites and more. Even worse, when your competitors (though not reputed ones), will start harassing you by employing someone who is good in creating bad image for others. So, managing your online reputation is, in fact, an act of defense and best practice for positive promotion. You aren’t doing bad to others, you are just being good to yourself.
Who is concerned about your online reputation?
Your online reputation can be perceived in a number of ways, notwithstanding the size of your business. Whether someone is looking for employment, or purchasing a product, looking for extending relations with you, they are going to resort of the search engine to learn more about you. The most common ones are consumers, stock holders, business partners, co-workers, prospective employers, journalists, to name a few.
How to assess your online reputation?
A majority of users will not go past the first page or the second of the search results. So, you just need to check on a couple of pages for each keywords on major search engines. You could start with Google, Yahoo and MSN for some simple keywords, namely your brand name, company name, your name, the products and services, usernames/handles, high profile employees.
Once the relevant keyword phrases are searched, you can create a simple spreadsheet to note down whether your brand is received in a good taste or not. This helps you in determining your online reputation and whether you need to manage it or not.
What are those reputation problems that you may face?
If the couple of search results for each keyword are ranking for your name/company and aren’t about you, it is time you started building your online reputation. It isn’t a problem, but still demands fast action. If you haven’t proactively worked towards growing your search results, then it’s much easier for something to turn up to the top when some person or company have a problem with your brand. Not having an online reputation management plan, will leave the doors open for someone else to do it for you.
The next reputation problem arises when there are search results about you, which seem to be indifferent. This is a cause of great worry as the searchers are not getting relevant information. Just imagine how your business might get affected when all the consumers, shareholders, job-seekers, media, to name a few, are unable to find the appropriate results relating to you. Wouldn’t you like them to find relevant positive results about you? How many of those results are within your control? The more results that are within your control the better.
The most obvious problem arises when your company is reported to the consumer watch groups, forums, negative comments left you your competitors or irate customers. It’s unbelievable, but there are people who devote hours to write hateful statements about you. This negatively affects your search results, and a number of such negative statements and comments only means one thing, that you need to fix it at the earliest.
Tools to keep a track of online reputation
Google Search: This is the primary tool for online reputation management, mainly because a majority of people tend to go to Google to search for information on a particular brand. So, going with this tool as the primary target is a safe bet.
Google Alerts: This could be set up to receive free to track web results, blogs, news, video and groups. Subscription is available through e-mail or a feed.
Yahoo Alerts: This one is also a convenient tool for free to track news. Receive notifications through e-mail, or on the move on your mobile as well.
Twitter Search: It was formerly known as Summarize. Twitter search makes it quite easy to search whole Twitter for any mentions of a specific keyword phrase. It also gives the option of advanced search parameters that lets us search by dates, links, sentiment, location, a person, or more.
Technorati: This helps in finding the mentions of our blog or keywords relevant to our industry, across other blogs. Subscription is available to get notified about new mentions.
Social Mention: It is similar to Google Alerts, but specifically meant for the mentions on social media. It immediately helps in catching social mentions for a specific keyword. There are options to subscribe to the feed, download an excel file or get e-mail alerts.
BoardReader: This tool helps in tracking conversations across message boards and forums. Results could be refined by date, by relevance, or from a particular domain.
Protect your name
The first step to build your online reputation is registering your username. Try to purchase all the relevant TLD’s and domains. If you haven’t registered yet, do it on major social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. It’s better to keep a track of all the new social networking sites and register your brand before someone else does. This could cause a major gap in your branding strategy. Using a service like KnowEM could help in building profiles across new social networks that surface on the web.
Set privacy settings
Once the username is secured, it has to be protected. You could manage your privacy settings. With the viral adoption of social networking, a number of users have found their reputation face sheer humiliation through a number of slanderous activities. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the privacy setting of each social network, as many of us just don’t realize that the social profiles do get indexed in search results or how we appear to users outside the network.
Buck up and get involved
Now that you have set up profiles, secured your username and have tools to track your online reputation, you have to dive in whatever is being said about you. If there are some negative comments, time to take action. If there isn’t much negative or positive, time to get involved. The following suggestions will help strengthen your rankings in the search engines.
The first and the foremost thing is to build your professional and personal networks. Start by finding your friends, co-workers, business partners and clients. Get involved in their conversations, giving answers to various questions pertaining to your business, give updates about your work-life, culture and business. This could be done on professional sites, personal sites, education sites, corporate sites, media, review,and bookmarking sites, to name a few.
Place yourself as an authority in your relevant industry. Seeing you as an authority, your community will most likely link to you, when they find something relevant to your business. The most common ways to grow your authority are given below:
- Start a group conversation
- Optimize your corporate profile on your company’s website
- Participate in Q&A sites
- List your business in local listings and maps
- Make podcasts
- Create videos
- List your blog in blog directories which are relevant to your industry
- Write guest posts on popular blog sites
- Conduct interviews with industry thought leaders
- Participate in industry events or conferences
- Do some donation
- Receive nominations and awards
Be easily accessible
Avoid major reputation problems by effectively communicating with the business or the individual. Failing to do so, will compel them to go to channels like Twitter or complaint sites and write something with a bad taste in the mouth. This could be combatted by giving out accurate information on and off site including the contact information. Make all the options available to the visitor to get in touch with you. Tell users that you will get back to them within a specific time frame, if it is really not possible to address the concern of the user.
Become an owner of a negative website as well
Purchasing a website with the domain (yourcompanyname)isaloser.com, will give you a chance to win over the frustrated users who are looking for an alternate website with your name to express their disappointment. Ranking for the negative websites will give you a chance to convince your users why they should stay back with you. Purchase all the negative domains, not providing others with the chance to create a simple hate site.
Respond to criticism
The biggest question is how to respond to negative comments that are made. If someone is utterly disgusted with your products or services, get in touch with them and try to resolve the matter. Rather than getting into the defensive mode, try to apologize and give them something to compensate for your inability to satisfy them. It could be anything from a promise to raise the level in the future, or a refund. This may not be the best practice if the user is entering false negative comments. In such a case, you could get in contact with the webmaster of the particular website and ask them to have the negative comments removed, provided that you have the evidence to show that the comments are false.
Branding techniques vary depending on the needs of the clients when it comes to online reputation management. This entire post is meant to be a quick guide for ORM, however there are a number of factors which goes into managing your image online.
Having said that, this post will be helpful for anyone who is proactively interested in starting a campaign on online reputation and follows all what has been discussed here. As an individual or as a business, you will definitely find the information helpful to boost your online reputation and recovering from negativity.