The Truth About Online Reputation Management

Occasionally, Wikipedia has spot-on information. On this occasion, it’s their definition of online reputation management: “Online reputation management (or monitoring) is the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely, or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility. [It's] the act of monitoring, addressing or mitigating SERPs (search engine result pages) or mentions in online media and Web sphere content.”

Not bad. Not bad at all. –But is that all ORM is? Suppressing negative mentions? We don’t think so.

Reputation Is All Inclusive, and It Starts With You

ReputationYou don’t build your online reputation in the SERPs alone, as many would have you believe. Word of mouth marketing, for example, is a huge asset – or a huge obstacle – for any business. While WOM may translate to your search rankings eventually, it translates to the consumer first. –And, while you want positive rankings in the SERPs, the search results should never be seen as the end all, be all of your marketing or reputation management concerns.

It starts with you:

Your website. It starts with how visitors perceive your business, based on the information you provide. For example, if you shout “Transparency!” while hiding your privacy policy or (for ecommerce) shipping information, your claims of transparency won’t mesh with your actions.

Other examples are the sites that offer you a “free trial” loud and clear. Once you order the free trial, you find out that you also signed up for a membership. Oh, yes, the membership was mentioned, but in print so tiny you’d need a telescope to see it.

Your customer service and promises kept. It continues with how you deal with your customers’ problems – or don’t deal, as the case may be. For instance:

  • Do you provide more than one way for your customers to reach you, such as a phone number and a dedicated customer email address?
  • Is the phone manned, or do they have to leave a message for you to call back?
  • Do you clearly outline on your website what the customer should expect from your service team?
  • Do you actively watch social networks for positive/negative mentions?
red alert

Red Alert

In social media, you should always keep an eye out for mentions of your company and social accounts. Of course, you don’t have to respond to every comment (although it helps), but certain types of comments should definitely be addressed and not left to float away.

For example, the following hashtags, along with your company name or Twitter account:

  • Alert – Comments with #sucks
  • Yellow Alert – Comments with #fail
  • Orange Alert – Comments with #epicfail
  • Red Alert – Comments with #scam

On Facebook, you might see comments like this: “I went to the [company name] event where I was promised a fancy, four-course meal freshly prepared, and all I got was this T-Shirt. No, really – all I got was the T-Shirt.”

Of course, the truth is that you probably won’t see this comment, because it was posted on their wall instead of yours. Therefore, it’d be hidden for you, but not, unfortunately, to their 500+ friends, family and fans. You can’t fight what you can’t see.

However, keeping your promises and providing excellent customer service really aren’t that important… that is, if your reputation doesn’t mean anything to you.

How you deal with publicity. When you’re publicly lauded, do you brag about it? When you’re publicly criticized, do you whine and moan (or worse, ignore/delete the criticism)? Think about this; you’re online. It’s one of the most public venues the world has ever known. You can’t silence the critics, and you can only cheapen the compliments. Think carefully before you respond to comments for, or against, your company.

How you extend your business. Comment spam, anyone? No? How about article spamming? Many business owners look at tactics like these as the quickest ways to grow their business. However, we have to ask – what does comment spam actually achieve in terms of reputation, other than creating disgust in the spammed bloggers?

True, not all bloggers moderate, their comments. However, what about readers who come across spammy comments with your company name and website in them? How can you not see that it reeks of desperation, when it appears that the only way you can get publicity is to fake it? Enough said, we think.

Bad Stuff Can and Does Happen, BUT…

1989 Corvette C4 Coupe - Wrecked. Dec 21, 2008.

Bad things happen...

Yes, your competition can get online and post fake, horrible reviews about you. –And yes, it’s true that not every customer will be a happy one. This is when Wikipedia’s definition comes in to play.

-BUT –

Online, you are your own worst enemy. To be more exact, you are your company’s worst enemy. Everything you say and do, as we have said multiple times before, is visible online. It can be passed from person to person, and often is.

Online reputation management is more than just dealing with bad publicity. It starts with you, doing your best to make sure the publicity never goes bad.

About Gabriella Sannino

International SEO consultant is my title...but who cares about those? What I love is, writing about marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog, will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I'm not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I'm crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.

Comments

  1. Hi Gabriella. This is probably one of the best posts I have read about ORM in some time. Really well done. I agree with what you say about it all starting with ‘you’

  2. Exceptionally said, Gabriella :).

  3. Excellent post Gabriella! Probably one of the best posts on ORM I have read.

  4. Thanks Peter :) maybe it’s due to working with clients that have yet to grasp what and how to drive their ORM into a safe zone. Jahnelle just discovered a very interesting aspect about privacy and ORM which we will publish tomorrow. Hope to see you again :)

  5. Very well written about online reputations. I know that at times I don’t worry about such a thing because I feel that my intentions are good, but that could be the wrong approach. I hope that it doesn’t come to worrying so much that it is hard to find the right words to use when commenting and writing. A soiled reputation is not easy to eliminate.

  6. Jen from Search Engine Optimization Tips says:

    Nice post! It’s good to watch your online reputation by using free tools that help you monitor mentions of your name or your products. These tools can save you some time so you know when your business has been mentioned and you can respond appropriately. Negative comments don’t have to turn out bad – if you address the problem you can frequently turn the situation around into a good one.

  7. Excellent post, I especially love the first picture. Very powerful to me.

  8. I agree with almost everything you say. Depending on each country, we need to use accurate tools to measure our ORM. It´s true that tools may safe you time, but if you need to find out the real sentiment, you need to research and create your social dashboard manually.
    The real thing is that when someone talks bad about us it can get very viral. But again, that´s the risk of being so exposed:-)

  9. I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome blog!We stumbled over here from a different web address and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.Our question to writing an article, how do you spell out your thoughts into a post? Thanks for any reply. Your writing is appreciated.

  10. Do you have any tips or guidelines if you rep has already been maliciously smeared?

  11. Thank you for the great article. Online reputation management is a real challenge. Angry customers are the one who write bad reviews, you hardly find a happy customer who wants to write how awesome and happy he felt. what should I do about that? new potential customers read reviews before deciding to make business with you… !!!!! any advice?

  12. You make such an important point about it all beginning with you! So many people forget that & are busy chasing their tails to fix things instead of doing them right in the 1st place.
    If you make your clients happy & actually give them what they are looking for, it’s so much easier to control your reputation. No, you cannot keep everyone happy 100% of the time but many times if we start out with keeping ourselves in check, the rest is easier.
    Great article & tips for any business owner or person looking to keep their online reputation in a safer zone.

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