Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 9:08 AM
Image by sxc.hu user ortonesque
Online reputation management is not just the province of those businesses and public figures that have been subject to scandal. On the contrary, in this age of Google where anyone can look up anything and anyone, reputation management is vital. For small businesses, it’s not a vanity or a luxury, but a true necessity.
Think about it this way. Whether you’re a small business owner, the manager of a dental practice, professional services provider or the owner of a café, you need to bring in new customers. And you typically bring them in one at a time, not en masse. The thing is, customers you bring in are likely doing their due diligence, checking you out on Google and seeing what other customers have said about you.
If Google only brings up positive information about your brand, then you’re in fine shape. If there are any negative listings or bad reviews out there, however, then your company’s online reputation is sunk — and along with it goes your business prospects.
It doesn’t matter if those unwanted listings are true or not. Maybe they’re legitimate customer reviews, or maybe they’re defamatory posts written by business rivals or disgruntled employees. What matters is that these undesirable Google listings are going to send potential clients to your competitors — and your small business will begin to fade into oblivion.
All of that is the bad news. The good news is that reputation defense is very possible — whether you choose to enlist the services of a professional reputation management company, or simply do reputation repair strategies on your own.
Here are five cost-effective steps that any small business can use to ensure maximum brand protection.
- Know your online reputation. This is the easiest, most significant step for protecting your business’ online reputation. It’s astonishing, the number of businesses who don’t realize what people are saying about its products and services on the Web. Monitoring your reputation can be as simple as using Google and Bing, and perhaps setting up a Google alert, as well. Searching on Twitter and Facebook is also a good idea.
- Build a strong, defensive wall around your brand identity. Now that you have a good idea of where your business stands in terms of its reputation, you’re ready for the next step of building a strong, defensive wall. Start by snatching up all domain names associated with your business — that is, the name of your company, .com, .net, .org and so on. You may not actively use these domains, but owning them helps you build a hedge of protection on Google and other search engines.
- Get active on social media. A good Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest presence can be vital for your company. It shores up goodwill for your brand, and it populates search engines with positive content. Perhaps most importantly, though: if you’ve claimed your company’s name on Facebook and Twitter, then your enemies can’t seize it to use against you. Watch for company mentions — good and bad — and respond to them as you would a customer who calls to complain or compliment. If you don’t have an answer to the problem, acknowledge you heard the customer and you’re working on it.
- Create positive content about your company. Once you’re bought up some prime online real estate, and started using social networks to your advantage, then you can begin the work of amassing some strong, compelling content about your company. Remember that the battle over your company’s reputation is a battle for Google dominance. If someone writes a bad review of your company, and it shows up on page 10 of a Google search, that doesn’t matter. It’s what’s on the first page that matters. The best thing you can do to protect your brand, then, is to inundate Google with as much positive, brand-enhancing content as you can — using the very domains and social media accounts you claimed earlier!
- Bury bad reviews and listings. The final step is to remain committed to the process of publishing positive content, and trusting that positive content to do its job. While responding to feedback is important, it’s equally important to remember that the creation of positive content is what will ultimately curb the effects of bad reviews. Stay resolute in your content creation, and remember that it’s likely to be an ongoing process, one where you build your defensive wall, one brick at a time.
A small business needs a sterling reputation on the Internet. Your online reputation is more than just your business card in the virtual world — it’s the source of all your credibility as a company. By taking these simple steps, however, you are effectively taking online reputation seriously — something that will pay huge dividends in the end.
About the author
Rich Gorman is an expert practitioner of reputation management techniques and a designer of direct response marketing programs for companies large and small. He leads the team at www.reputationchanger.com.
Monday, May 12th, 2008 at 7:11 AM
If your PR and marketing folks aren’t tracking your company, brand, and competition online, they need to get up to speed to better do their jobs. If you play all of the roles, tracking your company and brand isn’t as time consuming as it sounds.
Remember alert services, blogs, and social network sites. Many of these can deliver updates to your inbox or phone.
Alert Services: Sends e-mail, text, etc. whenever your keyword shows up somewhere. Media services such as BBC News and TMCNet have their own alerts — so check out sites that cover your industry and sign up for their alerts. Here are general free keyword alert services.
- AOL Alerts
- Clip and Copy — three free searches in Basic account.
- GoogleAlert (not from Google) — gives three free searches).
- Twitbeep — Google alerts for twitter.
- Twilerts — Google alerts for twitter.
- Twitter Search — Even if you check your own @replies page, someone may have mentioned you and it’s good to check here.
- Windows Live Alerts
Blogs: You can most likely find blogs for every industry. Numerous blog directories exist that to make a list here would be futile. MasterNewMedia has a hey-ugggeee list.
Social network sites: Also too many to list, but it should include Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and conversations like Twitter and forums. Also look for social networks covering your industry. The following sites/tools let you search Twitter with keywords:
Track forums and other conversations with these sites:
Updated: January 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007 at 10:06 AM
The previous post looks at companies that help those that already have stuff on the Internet they want to go away, be deleted, be erased from the memories of man and machine.
Being proactive is always better than being reactive, so keep your name free of mud with these tips in mind whenever posting anything online — that includes comments and forum posts. These tips apply to writing emails and letters, and leaving messages.
1. Expect everyone to read it
That includes a potential employer and even your mom or some other family member that you don’t like to share with. But then again, if you don’t want them reading it, do you really want others to read it? Postings also reveal insight into a person’s personality (see #4).
I was going to post an experience on my Bionic Ear blog to give people insight in how a deaf person feels in a situation. But I opted not to share the experience. Though the blog aims to show the public what it’s like to be in a deaf person’s shoes, some experiences might be too personal to share and don’t belong online.
2. Wait 24 hours
If you’re mad, frustrated or sad, let time pass before responding to avoid regretting anything. Obviously, don’t post while drunk or on specific medicines, but who thinks clearly during these situations?
3. Run it by someone else
When you’re not sure about something, ask a trusted friend, colleague or family member to read it first.
While it’s best to resolve problems and uncomfortable situations in person or on the phone, it’s not always possible. In these situations, I ask a family member to read my note before sending.
4. Think of the future
Before writing a complaint, consider you could someday interview with the company or person you complain about. If not an employer, then remember that complaints can reveal how a person thinks and reacts to situations that bother him. Discussing an issue logically gets a different response than one that sounds like whining.
When I was unhappy with a company’s handling of an issue, I waited until things calmed down (#2). It was worth sharing since others might benefit from the experience. So I used a generic name instead of the company’s name.
5. Respond wisely
In some cases, someone could write something negative about you or your company. Rather than ask the person to remove the content, prepare an appropriate response.
Simply accepting responsibility says more. Try, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience. We’re investigating the situation to see how we can do better. Can we offer a free replacement?” While something negative is out there — mistakes happen to everyone — it’s how you respond to those mistakes that make a difference.
I messed up a client task. Immediately, I e-mailed the client admitting my mistake, apologized, and provided a discount on my next invoice.
Monday, December 17th, 2007 at 10:15 AM
I can’t imagine what kind of information I might have posted on the Internet had it become mainstream when I was a teen. Kids do stupid things. They don’t necessarily regret them since it’s a part of childhoold and growing up. But when if a prospective college or employer finds such things online?
Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 47 percent of Americans use a search engine to look up themselves while 53 percent look up information about people in their lives, both for personal and business reasons.
Knowing that a prospective client or employer could do a search on me, I monitor what I post in my blog. While it’s important to be honest and genuine when blogging, there’s a line a blogger doesn’t want to cross that could affect his reputation.
A few companies see this as an opportunity to help people whose names or companies have been tarnished online, but are they effective? This Wall Street Journal story explores companies that help with their clients’ online reputations.
Reputation Advisor, a blog focusing on managing online reputation, points out two lessons learned from the WSJ article as well as problems with the article.
However, the Rip-off Report shares one person’s negative experience with an online reputation management company. These companies can only control so much. One example from the WSJ article references a blogger who would not remove a person’s name.
This Seattle Times article discusses the topic and offers the perfect quote regarding online reputation management, “‘Sometimes you’re out of luck, you’re going to have to live with it,’ he (Michael Fertik) says of Internet nastiness. ‘There is no silver bullet, no button you can push.’”
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