Basics of Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation ManagementIf you are in business, you already know reputation management is vital to your success. When everything is going your way and the press is positive, life is good. When it is not, well… You may have heard the saying “Nothing is so good that someone somewhere will not like it.” Bad reviews, an angry customer, even a typo can affect your reputation—and your bottom line—in a negative way. Because of that, when it comes to online reputation management, your motto should be “Expect nothing. Be ready for anything.”

While you are doing that, be sure your marketing and social media strategies secure the best-possible reputation for your company on a consistent basis. These fundamentals of online reputation management focus first on day-to-day practices, followed by the basics of crisis management.

Establish and Own Your Online Reputation

Control your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) with best practices in SEO.

  • Maintain as much property as possible on the first page for all your keywords.  This is where we find having a comprehensive online strategy in place can be the most helpful.  This can include press releases, your own site pages, your blog, and potentially other extensions to your online brand.
  • Keep your eyes focused on great online communication while also staying abreast of ever-changing search engine algorithms. We have learned that time and again the strategies that work the best are just solid marketing communications versus trying to leverage the latest tactic.  The long-term strategies are the ones that always win out.
  • Monitor your analytics and search engine reporting daily for upturns, downturns and identify long-term trends.  We are in love with the tools from gShiftLabs especially after reviewing scores of other tools gShiftLabs continually is reviewed at the top of the list.  They are also just a fantastic team to work with.

These trends can help you adjust your strategy to accommodate your consumers’ wants and needs.

Stay Socially Active Online.  Engagement is key. Promote your brand with a constant and constantly growing online presence. Use a blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and press releases to engage consumers with regular updates and timely responses to your followers on all social media platforms.

Be creative in your approach for maximum engagement.  This is probably the most difficult part of the entire strategy because you really have to dig deep to determine what is going to work best for you and your brand.  What works for a retail business is probably not going to work for a B2B focused business.  There are some common themes that you may want to consider.  Host contests. Encourage followers to share videos or photos that demonstrate how they used your product and how it worked for them. Consider event sponsorship and partnerships worth promoting. Most importantly, an active blog does wonders to perk up a static website.

The blog’s domain name should reflect your brand. Content should provide professional, brand consistent information about your company and its products, trends in the industry, success stories and available support. Incorporate videos and images into your website and social media, and make your topics relevant to trending news whenever possible.

Maintain a Dynamic PR Strategy

“Unique” gets noticed. Fresh, informative content on a consistent basis is key to keeping your online reputation heading in a positive direction. Revisit your PR and social media plans on a regular basis, using reliable analytics to adjust your strategy when necessary. Always “Expect nothing. Be ready for anything.”

Create a Crisis Strategy

Do not wait for the bottom to drop out before outlining a strategy to handle issues with the potential to damage your reputation. Your first line of defense is to minimize the damage.

Create a supportive and encouraging environment for your employees. They will respond by providing good customer service. Happy, thriving employees will support your brand at the most critical moment—when customer meets company. It is wise to train your team in the use of social media tools, the benefits of social media and the caution required when responding on any social media outlet.

Monitor Website and Social Media Activity Around the Clock
Technology can fail at any time, in any capacity. It is wise to have a back-up system that alerts you to website failure and viruses as well as social media glitches. When something occurs that affects your
community’s ability to access information, you need to respond quickly and effectively.

As you can imagine, technology issues are often much easier to repair than negative perceptions of your company and product.

Respond to Negative Issues Immediately – Except When…

You must respond immediately with a message, even if it is simply to acknowledge there is a problem and you are on the job. Make your employees aware when you change the message so they can respond
accurately. Apologize for the inconvenience, error or whatever caused the issue. At this point, it is all about consistent, clear and encouraging communication.

There are times though when responding will only aggravate an already tense social media situation so carefully consider your response or if you should even respond.  For example, one client received a scathing comment to a video they posted.  The commenter pointed out how the video showed what appeared to be immigrants in the video working on an assembly line.  The commenter said that the company was hiring illegals (a statement that was completely untrue) to work on the assembly lines.  The internal legal team told the company not to respond, but the core company stakeholders who are all second generation immigrants used this comment as an opportunity to set the record straight and also talk about how the company and brand are a living showcase of the “American Dream”.  This response created a groundswell of positive company support.

What can frustrate some brand managers is when no response is the best response especially when it involves legal issues or personal attacks.  In these situations, a direct (non-social media) response might be the most productive.  One expert social media person mentioned to us that you always have to ask if your response is going to inflame or resolve the issue.  If your response might inflame the issue you may want to consider delaying the response to see whether you are dealing with an isolated issue or a larger issue that must be addressed.

Use social media to support your response to these issues, letting your followers and potential customers know everything is back on track and what you have done to avoid the problem in the future. Sounds like you are ready for anything!