Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
What is Online Reputation Management?
In Online Reputation Management (ORM), individuals or businesses keep track of and take control of their digital presence. ORM involves implementing various tactics and strategies to:
- Build a positive online image
- Tackle negative feedback or reviews
- Maintain a strong, positive brand reputation
In today’s digital age, businesses must prioritize their online reputation as much as their physical reputation. A negative online reputation can harm a business’s credibility, reduce customer trust, and lead to a decline in sales. Whether managing a personal brand or business reputation, ORM is a critical aspect of navigating the digital landscape in the modern world.
When Does Your Online Reputation Matter?
Why should you care about your online reputation? What situations make it important?
It may be tempting to “rest on your laurels” if you are a well-known professional with many referrals. Some may even believe that online reputation management and SEO are not necessary for a simple business website. However, there are several reasons why it is important to pay attention to what people are saying about you online.
For example, if you are a high school student trying to secure a scholarship for college or an internship at a prestigious institution, a positive online reputation can make a big difference. Similarly, if you want to advance in your career, whether in your current company or a competitor or if you are the face of a business, your online reputation can affect your opportunities. Even if you are an employee who uses social media to advocate for your employer, your online presence can impact your reputation.
In today’s world, people have lost their jobs due to social media posts and public profiles. For instance, Jessica Stacco’s tweet about AIDS before her flight to South Africa (#hasJessicaLandedYet) resulted in a Twitter backlash.
A man in Chicago lost his job because of an ill-advised tweet. Students have lost scholarships due to party pictures discovered by college boards, and interns have lost promising positions due to their online activity. It is clear that in almost any situation, other than being a couch potato, your reputation matters.
Reputation Is All Inclusive, And It Starts With You
You 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:
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 are 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?
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 isn’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 must ask – what does comment spam 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.
Tips for Building a Positive Online Reputation
Utilize Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms are a powerful tool for building a positive online reputation. By regularly posting high-quality content and engaging with customers, businesses can establish a strong online presence and build a loyal following.
Create High-Quality Content
Creating high-quality, relevant content is crucial for building a positive online reputation. By consistently publishing informative and engaging content, businesses can establish themselves as experts in their industry and build trust with potential customers.
Encourage Customer Reviews
Encouraging customers to leave reviews on popular review sites like Google My Business and Yelp is an effective way to build a positive online reputation. Positive reviews can increase a business’s credibility and attract new customers, while negative reviews can be used as an opportunity to address customer concerns and improve the overall customer experience.
Solving The Negative Reputation Problem
The worst thing you can do when negative content shows up is retaliating without thought. You can’t just react. In fact, sometimes you don’t have to act at all. First, go down the line of questions:
- Do I have access to it?
- How bad is it?
- Can I have it removed?
- Is it slander?
The first question is whether you can take it down yourself or not. For example, you’ve looked online and found some risque pictures of yourself that you posted on Facebook in a moment of drunken madness.
Or perhaps it’s not even that racy, but just doesn’t give your company or name a good bent. If it’s on a property that you own or a social media account of yours, just go in and clean it up – and then check your accounts to make sure nothing else has shown up.
If you can’t take it down, you need to assess how bad the content is. You could be spending quite a lot of resources getting it removed. Will it destroy your reputation? Does it really need to be dealt with?
If the answer is yes, see if you can contact the owner of the content to request them to take it down. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. For example, in the case of a negative review, the review site might take it down if it’s obviously a false review.
If they won’t, your last chance of it not turning into a long-term, full-on, reputation management campaign is Google or the authorities. Occasionally, such as in the case of slander, Google will take down the results and block them from being indexed. The standards are pretty strict, however, so don’t put a lot of hope into it.
How to Manage Your Online Reputation
If you answered the four questions above and the problem remains, the final step is to bury it in the search results.
Claiming Social Accounts
Do you have any social accounts you haven’t claimed?
- Find your social accounts. You can use KnowEm to find the ones you don’t have and claim them.
- Fill them out fully. If there’s a place to put information, use it:
- Write a complete bio. Use as much of the available character count as you can.
- Add images. Whether it’s an image of your smiling mug, the front of your business, or a few of your products, make your profile shine.
- Address (for companies)
- Contact information
- Manage and participate. There are several social media management apps and programs that can help you manage them. You can use cross-posting, as well.
- In other words, some apps allow you to push a single post to several social accounts. Participation helps build a positive reputation, so participate where you can.
Search for your company, your name, your business address, and your phone number. You should have at least a few business listing sites pop up that you haven’t actually invested in. A few examples of where you might claim a listing:
- Google Business
- Unofficial Facebook page
- Merchant Circle
When claiming and filling out listings, it’s important that you use the same NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) every time.
The bonus here is that you’re also helping your local SEO. Win, win. And again, if there’s a place you can fill out, do so. Add images and content – really beef out the profiles.
Stop The Problem Before It Starts.
It’s very seldom that a company manages to go through the business cycle of life untouched and pristine. It happens to everyone, whether the claims are legitimate or not: resentful employees, competitors, etc. can quickly destroy your online reputation. Because these complaints are easy to make anonymously, they’re hard to control and harder to take care of in a private setting.
Being proactive is one of the best ways for you to keep strong muscles on powerhouse prestige. Build your online reputation and keep it strong with the following tips:
Tip #1: Add YouTube RSS Feeds To Your Feed Reader.
Why? This Comcast video search goes a long way to giving the answer.
- Video is big and anybody can make one.
- Video can easily go viral.
- One bad video can bring about “bad video offshoots”, causing negative publicity and reputation to spread.
Bonus Video Management Tips:
- Set your feeds up with relevant tags, such as brand names, company names, head officers, etc.
- Have an action plan for how you would address negative video feedback – before it happens.
- Make sure you post the video “in response to” the negative video. This ensures that people seeing the first will also see a link to yours, giving it more visibility.
- Don’t forget to fill in all the available boxes for details – meta info, description, tightly focused keywords, etc. This also gives your video response more visibility in the video SERPs.
Tip #2: Subscribe To Google Alerts.
Why? Google Alerts can show you what’s being indexed in the SERPs for:
- Your name
- Your company name
- Your brand name
- Specific products
- Your website and/or URL
- Other specified, important key terms
Bonus Alerts Tips:
- Set your Google Alerts with carefully thought-out terms.
- Be specific with your terms: if you search for, say, “real estate”, you’ll get a slew of alerts you don’t want.
- Again, have an action plan for addressing negative feedback.
Tip #3: Monitor Realtime Social Media.
Why? Twitter is a daily conversation. People share dreams and disappointments, including reviews like “[Company] products suck!” or “Still trying to reach [Company] customer service rep. after three hours.” Not only do Twitter and Facebook (as well as others) give you a chance to monitor, but they also give you a chance to provide instant customer service.
Bonus Realtime Tips:
- Choose your social media monitoring tool.
- Find key terms your products /services /brand /company might come up in.
- Set email alerts for these terms.
- Be prepared to respond instantly to your alerts.
- Have an action plan for responding to other alerts.
Tip #4: Have A Loose Content Strategy Prepared For Damage Control.
Why? It’s harder – and less effective – to create an ORM campaign in the middle of the crisis. Content is the heaviest hitter when it comes to ORM.
Bonus Content Tips:
- Create a loose outline; “if this happens, we’ll do this.”
- Make “acquaintefriends” with people in your field who will let you add content to their site.
- Occasionally offer content, even if there isn’t a reputation management issue.
- Use each site as an “insta-posting” site (carefully), should damage control be needed.
Tip #5: Spend Time Creating Strong, Loyalty-Based Relationships.
Why? The obvious answer is that it’s good for business. The less obvious answer is that loyal customers make a more convincing argument against a negative brand reputation than the company mouths.
Bonus Relationship-Building Tips:
- Make sure your services/products meet the promises you make about them.
- Offer quality customer service and more than one way (email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, etc) for your customers to contact you.
- Don’t be afraid to address potential situations online. If you see a negative remark about your company on Twitter, address it immediately – live and in front of everybody. “I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Please tell me how I can help.”
- Always take the higher road. Never respond with a negative comment, no matter how much you might want to.
- Make sure your social relationships know you’re human. Don’t try so hard to be professional that people wonder if you’re a bot.
What Is The World Seeing About You?
How do you find out what your online reputation is? Many don’t even know why they didn’t get a job or were passed over for a promotion they were perfectly suited for. Thankfully, there are several paid and free tools out there to help you keep your reputation golden (or at least catch it when it starts to tank):
- Search engines – Search engines are often overlooked, but searching your name and/or company can help you uncover a lot of information. If nothing else, you get a good idea of how well the search engines know you and how much information is available to any researchers. Make sure you don’t just stop on the front page, though; those looking for you won’t. Go back three or four pages, or more.
- Google Alerts – Create a Google Alert with your name, any nicknames, your company, etc. Yes, you’ll get results that may not have anything to do with you, but make sure you do a quick scroll anyway. You never know when something negative will show up.
- Complaint Search – Check your name or company against 40 different complaint sites. This is an excellent little app for finding complaints and responding to them.
- TalkWalker Alerts – Much like Google Alerts, TalkWalker scans numerous areas around the web, dutifully listening for mentions of your keyterm, name, company, etc.
- ReviewTrackers – ReviewTrackers is a powerful online reputation management tool that allows businesses to track customer feedback and reviews from over 100 review sites, including Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. With ReviewTrackers, businesses can monitor their online reputation, respond to customer feedback, and improve their overall customer experience.
- Hootsuite Insights – Hootsuite Insights is a social media listening and monitoring tool that allows businesses to track mentions of their brand, monitor customer feedback, and measure the impact of their social media marketing efforts. With Hootsuite Insights, businesses can stay on top of customer feedback and address any issues before they become a larger problem.
In today’s digital age, a business’s online reputation is just as important as its physical reputation. By implementing effective online reputation management strategies, businesses can build a positive online presence, establish credibility and trust, and ultimately increase sales and revenue.
I can’t stress enough that what you do in an online reputation crisis matters. You can’t – CAN. NOT. – react with a knee-jerk reaction.
It takes planning and thought. Don’t just jump, create a campaign – or better yet, figure out ahead of time what you’ll do in a crisis. Yes, you may have to move quickly, but quickly isn’t the same as rashly.
Remember, when managing your reputation, you don’t just want to bury the negative. You want to come out better than you were before the crisis. What’s that saying, “haste makes waste”? Don’t waste the opportunity to better your business.
From your responses to your profiles to your conversations on social, make everything a carefully crafted communication. Let your words be golden!