The manner in which you manage your online reputation will play strategically into the overall success of your business efforts.
From an internet professional’s definition, online reputation management (ORM) is the way your brand is perceived based on internet search results.
Plain ‘Reputation Management’ has been around in the PR world a long time, but is usually applied to big brands with the big budget for advertising-agency led mediums of print-tv-radio.
In the Internet age, where brands and companies of any scale are given a once-over by their audience from a 2-minute Google search, the online identity has become the more important reputation that needs managing.
The scale does not matter as virtually anybody now has an online reputation. If huge organizations (multinational brands, government entities, celebrities) hire their own team just to manage their social media), a small to midsized business will do well to come up with its own online reputation policy.
It’s not so difficult after all. Grounding all these is a simple value for common sense.
As one begins, an examination of both internal and external activities is necessary to shape the kind of reputation that will equal a positive mindshare within your audience. Keep the following recommendations in mind:
Pinpoint areas where opportunities to affect your reputation happens
Though there are some general ORM principles applicable across the board, every business requires a unique strategy tailored to its individual needs and activities.
Three essential ORM questions to get you going, no matter the scale or industry:
- Do you audience already have a preconceived image of your brand in cyberspace?
- How does your brand interact with customers/end users? By this, your existing venues for customer relationship management is the matter in question.
- Take a look at your employee’s behavior on the internet (their use of social media tools for example). How do these manifestations add/take away from the image of your business?
For instance, do you run a customer-centered business, such as a place where people go for food or frequent service (examples: a restaurant or salon)? Then you need to be conscious what your audience says about your brand on review websites like Yelp or Google Local. Personal blog reviews also count here.
On the other hand, if your brand involves a team that delivers customer service (a nursing home, a car repair facility, a call center) then you need to be careful that your team members make use of social media in an appropriate manner.
Know exactly where you’re brand stands
This step will consume a chunk of time. Take an entire afternoon to determine your actual reputaton on the internet, warts and all. Start by searching the following:
- your brand name
- keywords related to your entity, or the business you’re involved in
- the name of your business leaders/managers/endorsers
- the name of products/services on offer
Go beyond a Google search. Key in the same on Twitter, Facebook, popular review sites and blogs.
Rule of thumb: Good regard for customers is the centerpiece of great ORM
Before one even busy yourself with social media or anything that takes place online, make absolute sure your customer support operation is well oiled. The best impressions (both offline and online) come from satisfied customers.
Below outlined are a couple of ORM steps you can take from the outside:
- Keep a list of unhappy customers. These are the most likely source of bad feedback.
- Train your frontliners to recognize issues and fix them then and there.
- Reach out to your reviewers.
There are a couple of ways to handle your negative feedback. You can opt to fix the issue, provide a discount or even a gratis peace offering. Positive feedback, on the other hand, should always be showcased. Positive reviewers should be thanked and acknowledged always.
- Revert to social media only when appropriate
Don’t post indiscriminately. The best approach here is to post content that is useful for your readers, and by extension, your brand. Useful content is guaranteed to be reposted.
- Just say no to fake reviews and competitor attack
Going this way usually leads to negative press, even leading up to court on legal matters.
- Strive to always be authentic and honest
If your audience feels your sincerity about providing the best service, if they can see you take their constructive advise, when they view you actively rectifying missteps, they begin to see you not as a soulless product, it will reflect well on your online reputation
As I end, I’d like to cite the one important ORP strategy you need to cultivate from inside.
Carefully craft social media policies for employees.
Empower your team members by offering a social media policy that underscores the positive things they can do. Too often, employees are told to veer away from social media with the threat of regulation. Do the opposite and encourage your internal team members to use the medium to bring good to the brand, of course within appropriate limits.
These business approach also lends itself well when applied to personal reputation management. Modified accordingly, they do a double job of keeping your online as well as personal reputation in good stead.