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June 7, 2011

5 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation – A SPN Exclusive Article

In the online world, your reputation is one of your most valuable business assets. A good reputation instills confidence in your consumers and business partners, and can also help carry your company though bad press if/when it arises. Much of your online success is related to your online reputation, so that reputation needs to be carefully protected and maintained.

The maturation of social media has taken the control of a brand and placed it squarely in the hands of the consumer. It doesn’t matter how you define your brand, it all comes down to what your audience says. One negative comment on a social networking site can spread like wildfire in a matter of seconds and companies have to be prepared to deal with any related fall-out.

Here are 5 ways you can better manage your online reputation:

Set up e-mail alerts

All you need is a Gmail account. An e-mail alert is Google’s attempt to condense web activity around a given keyword or search phrase into a daily e-mail. While it doesn’t show you the entire buzz about your company and related keywords, it is a good way to get a snapshot every day of what is going on online.

Keep an eye on industry forums

Forums are like the hybrid cousin of blogging and social networking, and they are a ripe breeding ground for consumer complaints and grievances. Many consumers turn to forums when they have troubleshooting questions about a product. They are looking to their peers for the solution to their problem. Others look at online forums as a great way to bash (sometimes anonymously) companies about their products, services and more. By becoming an active member of the big consumer forums in your industry, you can keep an eye out for places where your company is mentioned. You’ll be able to directly respond to consumer questions or complaints, building a stronger reputation and
customer service program in the process.

Social media silence = death

If you find your company on the defense, make sure you respond quickly and efficiently. Companies no longer have the luxury of waiting a week, a day, or even a few hours to issue a press release or hold a press conference to tell their side of the story. When bad news breaks you better come up with a response, and it better be fast. Social media is all about instant connections, so consumers have little patience for a company that takes their time responding to a bad situation. Don’t stick your head in the sand and wait for things to pass. Silence only hurts your reputation. Take a look at the recent Urban Outfitters debacle to see what kind of damage the combination of social media and silence can produce. By not addressing an issue immediately, you only add fuel to the fire.

Build strong relationships with industry leaders

Bloggers have a lot of power. Popular and well-respected bloggers have even more. Their blog could be reaching thousands of people every day, so what they say has a very far-reaching effect. No smart blogger is going to align themselves with a company that has a bad reputation, doesn’t deliver on their promises, sells low-quality products or dismisses the concerns of their customers. Having that blogger on your side means you have their unspoken endorsement. It also means that you have a strong support network should online trolls start attacking your company. Having a community of industry leaders rally to your side is a great way to defend your online reputation.

Keep the lines of communication open

One of the easiest ways to hurt your online reputation is to shut yourself off from your consumers. If you don’t allow them to communicate with you (for better AND for worse), you are removing yourself from the conversation. You should encourage your customers to write online reviews about your company. Thank the ones who write a glowing review and reach out to those who gave you two thumbs down. If you try to bury negative reviews or comments, you’re asking for trouble. Consumers start wondering why you are so quick to hide the bad as opposed to fixing the situation. Hiding in your ivory tower is no way to manage your online reputation. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business and you need to be willing and able to communicate with them.

Basically, the best way to manage your online reputation is to be proactive about it. You want to build as strong and solid a reputation as possible BEFORE you have to defend yourself. It’s hard to play catch-up online, because news literally travels around the world in a matter of moments; once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Old news stories can rank in the search engines long after the scandal is settled (sometimes years!), making it harder to sweep that situation under the rug.

A lot of online reputation management companies have built their business on repairing a damaged reputation. Isn’t it better to build a reputation that is hard to damage? Think of your online reputation like the walls of a medieval castle. You want to be sure those walls will hold out against a Saxon attack long before the Saxons show up. Once the assault on your online reputation begins, you won’t have time to build higher walls.

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, full-service Internet marketing services company based in Boston. With over 12 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO articles to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 130,000 opt-in subscribers.

10 Responses to “5 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation – A SPN Exclusive Article

    Very nice article! Congratulation!

    avatar Pen says:

    You are so right Nick! I am currently trying to recover a friend’s online reputation and it’s certainly not easy. Thanks for your article – it makes very good sense.

    avatar Local Search Reputation says:

    If I may suggest, a 6th way of managing online reputation is via local search (Google Places/Maps and Bing Local/Maps).

    For local businesses, a #1 ranking with a 2 star review is less productive than a #2 ranking with a 5 star review. For sample reports, see the Rank Ace link:

    avatar Ecash10 says:

    The worse thing is Google is also doing its Panda and Farmer thing or algorithm changes…adds to the complication especially if you’re sandboxed or worse.

    avatar Aaron at WebsiteTraffic says:

    In the end, however, all a business can do when they are in the right is do what they can do to remedy the issue, and cross their fingers that their target buying public is comprised of reasonable, critically thinking people. I hate to say it, but any off-kilter fool with a grudge can go on an Internet tirade armed with little other than the knowledge that most people (myself often included, unfortunately) are predisposed to thinking that most businesses become unresponsive once they have one’s money.

    In my opinion, this is the most difficult aspect of e-commerce: attempting to manage the perceptions of perfect strangers that one has never met, or ever will meet, who often make up their minds in the time it takes to read a sentence.

    That being said, ethical proprietors ultimately have exceedingly little to worry about; which, in its own way, makes what I would rather refer to as ‘perception management’ a non-issue… sort of. lol, I guess my point, for merchants, is that the truth ultimately wins the day. I firmly believe that if a merchant is not conducting business with that as a principle, they are more than likely not very honest proprietors.

    avatar Auction Blog says:

    This can apply to individuals as well as businesses. Good information for all to read!

    avatar Tomatoe Growing says:

    I think there are many ways to manage your online reputation. The first is be honest with your customers and give value. Learn more > Tomatoe growing

    avatar Cheshire solicitor says:

    Great article. Its word of mouth advertising- with 1000s of people listening!

    avatar Web Copywriter says:

    It’s also really important to make your website easy to find and easy to read. If your website is hard to locate, your online reputation will hardly get off the ground. And if your web content is too wordy or unappealingly set out, that won’t do your cred any favours either. Getting a skilled web copywriter on the job can be a terrific investment in boosting your online reputation. You’ll get engaging user-friendly content. Look into enhancing your search engine rankings with effective seo too. Two powerful complements to the other great suggestions outlined in this article.

    avatar SEO copywriter says:

    I’d follow the previous comment by suggesting that your social media buttons should be 1. present ,and 2. clearly locatable on your website. Encouraging visitors to share your content and join the conversation about your organisation.

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