Let’s face it, people are talking about your brand – and not always in a positive way. Whether it’s true or not, negative information can hurt your brand.Potential customers, business partners, employees, and investors are all looking at your brand’s digital footprint. This includes mentions in social media and blogs, review sites, the media and countless other sources. If you Googled your brand right now, would you be happy with what you see?
Thanks to the relative ease with which people are now able to post information online, your company’s reputation is just as likely to be shaped by the opinions and feelings of others as it is your own carefully penned branding. Don’t be caught off-guard. Online reputation issues are difficult and sometimes impossible to fix.
Instead, take time now to build a strong positive reputation and make a habit of monitoring what’s being said about you online.
Establish Your Online Reputation
The first step in protecting your reputation is to establish a strong online presence. Cast a wide net to gain maximum exposure.
- Include your brand’s name in your online domain name and purchase all extensions (.org, .net, .com, etc.) even if you plan to use only one. This is especially helpful if your brand name is similar to others or there are other people with the same name as you.
- The same thinking goes with social media. Claim your brand’s profiles on all social media networks. Actively maintain the ones that are most useful to your brand.
- List your business in all relevant local listings and your blog in relevant blog directories.
- Use tools to help manage your social media accounts, or just limit yourself to the two essential networks for online reputation management: LinkedIn and Google+.
Grow Your Presence
This important step allows you to expand your audience by offering useful information about your brand.
- We can’t emphasize this enough: LinkedIn is an ORM superhero. As a highly ranked social networking platform, it helps fortify your brand’s online reputation. Keep your profile up to date, post interesting content, get involved in discussions, and answer other people’s questions.
- SEO can help you rank highly and give users a chance to read about your brand in your own words first. Use Google’s free webmaster tools and follow these SEO best practices.
Protect Your Online Reputation
You’ve worked hard to build your brand and establish and grow your online reputation, but don’t stop there. These additional steps will reinforce your position as a valued and trusted member of the online community:
- Keep content fresh: Offer a continuous stream of original content supporting your brand. Update your blog with helpful information about your products and keep your social media profiles up to date.
- Contact is key: Make it easy for customers to reach you by prominently displaying your contact information and letting them know their feedback is welcome.
- Personal vs. professional profiles: Social media profiles are indexed by search engines, which can make any photo, comment or social connection highly visible. Maximize privacy settings on your personal accounts and keep your professional profiles public. Be careful not to overshare.
- Be in the know: Actively monitor what’s being said about your brand online. Use Google Alerts for general web tracking, Technoarati to find mentions of your blog, SocialMention to monitor social media, and Disqus to track your comment threads.
- Use logos: Displaying the logos of industry associations or trade groups you belong to. If you participate in services that speak to the quality and security of your services such as the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Verisign, and be sure to display those logos as well.
Manage Brand Reputation Issues
Even the most successful brands receive negative feedback and criticism online. While there is no magic potion to remove it from the Internet, there’s still plenty you can do to keep negativity from marring your brand.
- Good customer service: It goes a long way. Offer timely and helpful responses when a customer expresses frustration or dissatisfaction with your brand.
- Keep reviews coming: Search engines rank your most recent reviews highest, so if you get a negative review be sure to ramp up your efforts to get more reviews. Hopefully this will yield positive reviews that can help push the negative ones further down the page.
- Respond to criticism: Know that some review sites such as Yelp allow business owners to respond to negative reviews, so take advantage of this when you feel it’s appropriate.
- Own up to it: If you get negative press for a mistake, offer an apology if appropriate and tell people what you are doing about it. Spread the word across all your digital channels.
- Get a professional: If things really go south, hire an experienced online reputation manager. They’re experts in helping push negative content down and restoring your brand’s good name.
There’s no doubt about it, online reputation management is essential for businesses of all sizes. Enhancements to universal search such as embedded videos and indented news results are drawing user’s eyes (and clicks) further down the page. If there’s negative information online about your brand, users are more likely than ever to find it.