Most business people accept the need for Social Media both on on a personal and Brand level. Most will also agree that a good reputation is important. When you ask what Online Reputation Management consists of you’ll start to get a lot of very different answers. For many people the term ‘Reputation Management gets them thinking about crisis management, what they need to be doing when their reputation comes under attack. In the modern, always-online world Reputation Management has become a far wider practice and something you can’t afford to not be doing.
Everyone Needs To Be Managing Their Online Reputation
Whether you’re a CEO, a graduate looking for a job or a salesman everyone needs to be making some effort to manage their personal reputation. When it comes to your business or brand reputation it’s really not an option. Personal reputations can directly impact your business, whether it’s your reputation as CEO or a salesman’s reputation. Always remember that people do business with people as well as the brand. This is especially true in the B2B world. Your target customers might not be on the internet as much as you’d like, but people around them will be.
A lack of Digital Presence can be almost as harmful as a negative one. You don’t always need to spend money hiring someone to maintain your digital presence; you may be able to manage it yourself for now. But you should always be mindful of your online reputation even if you think it doesn’t really matter too much at the moment. In 5 years time it might matter. Better to have a long history of positive interactions than for everyone to be able to pinpoint the time at which all of your activity changed.
Proactively Seek A Good Reputation
In the age of the internet there have been two big changes to Reputation Management.
- Everything is out there, forever
- Things can change instantaneously
Because of the way search engines and other content curation services work you can expect anything written about you to stay on the internet pretty much forever. Gone are the days that a newspaper story would run and then if you wanted to see it again you’d have to head to a library and hunch over reels of microfilm. This is multiplied by the speed with which the internet reacts to things. A story can break and be reblogged, retweeted, shared and repeated hundreds of thousands of times in a matter of hours. Being reactive in this situation is almost impossible.
The mainstay of Online Reputation Management is cultivating your positive reputation to withstand something negative happening, rather than attempting to ‘get rid’ of the negative content. If you have 100 positive reviews on a review website and a disgruntled employee posts 5 neagtive ones then it’s a problem, but not a crisis. If you only have 5 reviews on that website because you haven’t actively sought them before this event, well now you have a real problem.
40% of consumers regularly search for reviews of a business or product before engaging with them. Review sites are optimised to feature highly in Search Engine results, especially if the word ‘review’ is used. There’s no way to outrank them in these instances. Hopefully you should never need to though. Simply asking customers to leave you feedback is incredibly powerful and helps to give you social proof across multiple sites.
Create Content, Make Connections, Be Found Easily
Negative results on the first page of Search Engines will seriously harm your brand and your revenue. The good news is that the vast majority of casual searchers won’t go beyond the first page of results on Google or Bing. Almost none will go past the third page. Use your SEO knowledge to push your own content to the first page for your brand and yourself. Claim all of your Social Media presences to help keep the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page) mostly on your terms. Developing a blog can be a great way to keep your presence strong on the first few SERPs.
Listen, Learn and Respond
An important part of Online Relationship Management is building relationship and rapport. Whether it’s with customers, business partners or industry experts. You need to hear what people are saying about you and learn from that. If it’s all positive then great! Engage with those people, thank them for their feedback and nurture the relationship. If it’s not all positive, then you need to react to it. If you’re doing this on Social Media then remember the spotlight is on you, everyone can see what you’re saying. Use this to your advantage, show great customer service and insight. There are some golden rules when responding to complaints or criticism on Social Media
- Respond quickly, but not without thought. If you need time to craft an answer then a simple ‘Thanks for getting in touch, we’ll get back to you as soon as we have an answer’ can work to give you time. People want to feel valued, a quick response speaks to that want and makes you look on the ball.
- Avoid being defensive. It can be easy to respond to criticism in a defensive manner. This is the worst thing you can do, people will see this. Remain professional at all times and try to resolve issues as you would with someone in front of 10 potential customers. After all, that’s what you’re doing really.
- Admit your mistakes. This can be a difficult one to get used to. I know in many industries employees are told to try and gloss over mistakes and redirect attention when dealing with problem customers. Online your words are out there forever once they’re posted. Never lie, being caught out can be hugely damaging to your reputation.
- Take the conversation off Social Media. If there’s a complaint that is ongoing or you’re having difficulty dealing with then you should try to move it off of Social Media. Contact the customer and try to resolve the issue via phone or email. Never simply ignore them, especially if you have already exchanged a number of messages on Social Media.
As a business you should claim all of your Social Media accounts, even ones you have no intention of using. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn are obvious. You should also claim your Foursquare, Pintrest, Tumblr and Instagram listings. This serves two purposes, firstly it can help with your footprint in Search Engine Results. Secondly it ensures people with malicious intent can’t hurt your brand by hijacking your name. It’s not always even malicious, but if an Instagram account happens to use your name and posts unsavoury content it can damage your reputation entirely by accident.
Managing your brand on Social Media has a lot of best practice that we’ve written about in this blog.
It’s important for you to have a Social Media presence, even though it can be a double edged sword. A strong, professional LinkedIn profile is a must for any professional person now. It’s also good to have other Social Media presences; recent studies have shown that people are suspicious of those without any Social Media presence. However it’s important to remember that your Social Media accounts will be found. Even if you lock them down with the tightest privacy settings nothing is completely private. Screenshots can be taken and photos taken by friends might be beyond your control. You need to stay on top of this, don’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter you wouldn’t say in polite company.
Bad Rep Happens To Good People
You might have been reading this article thinking it doesn’t apply to you. You’re always a consummate professional, your business prides itself on excellent customer service and without even trying there’s absolutely nothing negative on the first page of Google to do with your or your business. That’s great! Now is the perfect time to start practicing Online Reputation Management! Hopefully you’ll never need to worry about something negative being said, and if you don’t doesn’t it still make sense to make sure you have the best online reputation possible?
But remember, bad things happen to good people. It only takes one problem customer or disgruntled employee to be a problem. What if you’re linked to a supplier or business partner who has a reputation problem at some point in the future? It could just be someone trolling on Social Media. Unfortunately it’s much easier to damage someone’s reputation than it is to build good one.
For more insights on how to optimise your Online Reputation, download our practical handbook on online reviews management and take control of your online reputation.