Funny story… While at Pubcon, I had this complete stranger drill me about online reputation management. I’d never been to Pubcon before; I figured he was somebody who’d read a previous post I wrote about ORM and was just testing me. I mean, everybody knows something at this conference, right?
In reality, he was just some guy who’d managed to wander into a Pubcon cocktail party and got interested. He wasn’t even part of conference! This was somebody “off the street” who really wanted to know about ORM.
– And, of course, this gives me a little bit of fodder for the following article…
Taking Control of Your Business Reputation
Trying to control your reputation on the Internet can often make you wish for the good old days when publications had to print retractions. What happened to the days when you could sue for liable if someone slandered your business? It’s still possible, but for some companies you’d spend more money suing than you would running your business.
Here, we need to answer the question:
How can I control my online business reputation?
Of course, the first thing is to make sure the steps you take last more than a day or two. You don’t want to have to go back every other day and repeat steps A – F. If time is money, you could conceivably pour millions out the door in time spent. Rather than wash, rinse, repeat, let’s roll up our sleeves and do some research.
There are several ways to manage your online reputation, but to talk about them all would take a book and a year to write it. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on social media.
Now, I’m sure you already knew I’d be bringing social media into the fray. After all, people use social networking platforms for many things, including reputation management and customer service. Imagine complaining about a company on Twitter and having a company representative immediately respond with;
“I’m sorry you had such a poor experience. What can I do to help?”
Now, many business owners just jump on board without thought, garnering hundreds of social media accounts. More accounts, in fact, than any business without a large social media department could handle.
This is a large mistake, however.
Choose a few strong accounts to build on…
Rather than 100 accounts you can’t handle, choose some of the top social networking sites: LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, for instance. Don’t just grab the account, however. USE the account.
If you park an account (create the account and then let it sit there), you may be protecting the branded name, but you’re wasting some valuable Internet real estate. As well, you have fantastic potential for ORM in your hot little hands. Use creative links pointing to these accounts, and links pointing to your sites from these accounts.
Fill out all those annoying profile details…
When you sign up for an account that allows you to interact with other people, you almost always have the option to fill out a profile. Don’t ignore this precious advertising space! Whatever questions the platform allows you to answer, take full advantage. Especially with niche sites, your company profile can often beat out even the high traffic social sites (because niche sites are more targeted).
Don’t pretend. People can tell when you’re not really interested in engaging them, even online where most conversation happens in text format. If you aren’t interested, don’t participate. If you don’t participate, you’re using the wrong platform. The more interested you really are in a topic, the easier it will be to engage others (who are also interested in the topic).
The Search Angle
What happens is this beautiful thing called “Universal Search”. A universal search can pull all these results into one search page:
- Blogs written by you/your company
- Articles written by you/your company
- Website pages
- Your Twitter feed
- Your Facebook feed
- YouTube videos
- Press releases
- Product/service reviews
All of the above gives the searcher a complete view of your company, brand and company reputation.
No matter what avenue you’re using for online reputation management, it’s important to remember that everything you do counts. If you think about each step, it can count for your reputation. However, one thoughtless action can count against you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
One final thought: Whether during work hours or off, if your name is tied to your company, you’re representing that company every time you get online. Every. Time. One misstep can turn into a PR nightmare. If you don’t get started on ORM now, it could take years to fix your reputation once it’s been dirtied.