QUICK TIPS FOR ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
Online Disinhibition Effect. That’s what an article in the Wall Street Journal called the phenomenon that is to blame for people acting badly on the Internet. It can turn ugly. When it goes toxic, it turns normally mild-mannered folk into an angry mob capable of writing things they’d never speak in real life. Business owners know this. Thanks to social media, business owners live in fear of what an angry Yelper, Twitterer or blogger might say about their brand.
You needn’t live in fear. There are proactive steps you can take to protect your brand. There are PR firms that specialize in brand control as well as reputation management guides that can help business owners protect and repair their online reputations. Below are four proactive steps you can take today to help lessen your chance for ultimate brand disaster.
Step 1: Claim your SERP.
When you own your Search Engine Results Page (the listings that come out on page one when you Google your own company’s name, also known as your Google 10), it puts you in a much better position to defend against possible brand attacks. Make sure you’re running some good defense by claiming and building out your vanity domain name. Spend time creating media that will rank. Register your social media accounts (even if you don’t plan to actively promote them). Do some guest blogging. Speak where you can. Etc. These efforts will help put positives listings on page one of any natural search of your company’s name. For most businesses, it’s not going to take an enormous amount of effort to dominate their Google 10. In three weeks, we’ll examine more closely how to own your Google 10.
Step 2: Ramp up your Customer Service.
Don’t enter social media, say all the right things…and then leave a customer waiting forever to deliver the goods or services promised. That’s not cool and it hands people a bat with which to beat you. If you know you can solve a customer’s problem, just do it. Don’t make them run in circles before they get service. Treat customers and clients better than they expect to be treated and they are far less likely to become the jilted customer who wants to negatively blog about your company. Successful social media and Online Reputation Management (ORM) campaigns have always been rooted in good customer service. It is that simple. Be fair to people. That’s usually all they want.
Step 3: Build your Listening Station.
Do not underestimate the value of a good listening station. Knowing what customers are saying is a great way to calm down angry people before they take to the streets to air their grievances. Some companies employ someone just to listen and respond to blogs, twitter messages, and general online chatter about the company. Why? Because if someone’s getting loud on Twitter because you didn’t give them a folder with their report or you made it harder than it needs to be to unsubscribe from something – it is important to get in that conversation. Chances are they’re not going to calm down on their own. Something that may seem trivial to you, may not be to your customer… and everyone listening to your customer.
Free tools like Google Alerts, Google Reader, Twitter Search, and Social Mention make it really easy for companies to stay in the loop and casually ‘overhear’ what people are saying about them. It’s also really important in helping to manage customer reviews, as well. More about that in two weeks. Your listening station and good customer service are the two most important tools you have in fighting off brand attacks. Reaching out to someone who left a negative review that’s ranking in your Search Engine Results Page is often worth your time– especially when they update it to mention the great new interaction they just had with you. But you can’t put out fires you don’t know exist.
Step 4: Learn when to Duck and When to Punch.
When a customer or competitor uses their blog to call you out…it’s not always bad. It may give you a forum to address a larger problem or maybe it just gives folks a reason to talk about you and build brand awareness. There are ways to use negative press and tactfully bring the conversation over to your side. Sometimes there’s a clever way to capitalize on the attention. Sometimes you simply need to just say something so that the Internet moves on and stops talking about you. Learn the difference. More about that next week.
While you can’t control every conversation people are having about your company online, you can play a part in shaping it. Often, that’s enough to keep both you and your brand safe from angry customers and jealous competitors.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos
© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.