You may not give a second thought to your business’ online reputation, or you may not have even considered it. Everything and anything that is put on social media or the internet that mentions your business is a direct reflection on your reputation, so it is important to monitor and maintain your social media and online presence.
Don’t think social media can affect your brand’s reputation? Ask Roseanne Barr. In one ill-mannered, polarizing tweet, she effectively tarnished her reputation AND lost her “business”, in this instance, her TV show. She has placed herself in a position where no one wants to do business with her for fear of backlash, and have their business’s reputation suffer in the process. All it takes is one faux pas on social media, or an advertising campaign that somehow offends people, or terrible reviews of your product or service to wipe out everything you have worked so hard to achieve. That is why reviewing your online reputation is key to your success.
So how exactly can you track your online reputation? You could enlist the assistance of an ORM, or an online reputation management firm, to search social media and the internet in regards to your brand or company. They monitor your reputation and address any potentially harmful content and work with you to solve problems regarding your reputation. This can be accomplished by having alerts set up around certain elements of your business, like keywords or phrases that are tied to your company. If negative information is found, a public relations specialist can help to defuse the situation on your behalf.
Many ORM’s services vary widely; you will need to determine what it is you need before you settle on a company to represent you. Some ORM’s cover all social media, online news sources, blogs, and review websites to see what people are saying about your business—good and bad. You would supply your reputation management firm with keywords or phrases to research and anytime those keywords pop up online, they are able to immediately uncover the information and its source. These can be set up by keyword frequency or even media type; whatever will best suit the needs of your business.
There are free tools available if you would like to track the information yourself, however, it is a time consuming process, and you may not even know where to begin to look. There are some internet programs—some free, some for a fee—that will provide you with any feedback you get on your product or service based on a certain number of websites and social media platforms. This information can be vital in determining trends, any areas of concern, and the overall impression your business has in the community. If you don’t have the time or expertise in what to do with the information gathered, you may want to consider hiring an ORM to manage and find solutions to any problems that are encountered.
Another type of reputation management you may not have considered is proprietary property. If your company has photographs or videos that are copyrighted, how do you know if someone else has pirated them and is using this information on their website without permission or compensation? There are online reputation management companies that can take a scanned photo or other media and view its usage on various search engines. This tool can also be used to see if any of your personal photos have been gleaned from innocuous social media sites and used for other purposes. No one wants to find vacation pictures of their children being used to sell a product by some shady business; this image detector can help ensure that doesn’t happen!
Let’s face it; your personal reputation or business reputation is your bread and butter; if people have a bad image of you, your product or your service, it is a difficult obstacle to overcome. That is why brand management is so crucial to your business’s success. Not only is it imperative to monitor your online presence, but to be able to appropriately handle any situations that may put you in a bad light, as well. Armed with the proper information and trending beliefs about your company, you can learn to address the issues and change the perception of the masses.
One of the most popular online reputation management tool is Google Alerts. They offer notifications when your company is mentioned in online articles or blog posts. While many other companies offer comparable services, this is one that many people have heard about. Whichever company you choose to use, you will want to make sure you research their tactics thoroughly to ensure they have your best interests at heart.
So say you stumble across an unfavorable review—how should you handle it? If you don’t have a PR person in your corner, your first inclination might be to fire back at the author, but that may do more damage than good. Tactfulness and a genuine effort to set things right will go a long way with public favor, but beware people who will post unkind reviews just to get reimbursed or free product or those who seem to have a personal vendetta against you or your business. Depending upon the situation, you could take legal action, if necessary.
There are steps you can take to maintain an excellent online presence, but they do require work. First, having a quality website that offers valuable information will help establish your credibility. If you include a blog, make sure it is updated frequently and with amazing content. Use social media sites to connect with other similar businesses and to enhance your brand’s recognition. Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram can all help you connect and reinforce your positive message. You can also link your website to other reputable sites, and vice versa. This drives traffic to your site and also associates you with other “good guys”. Permission is needed, of course, but it can help with your ranking on search engine results pages. You control this content; make it work for you! Remember, your online reputation might be the first impression your business makes on a potential new customer—make sure it is a positive one!