Information about online reputation management has been flying around the web more and more as we move deeper into a net-based society. Still, though, most people we talk to don’t entirely understand what online reputation management is. Some have zero clue how it can improve their careers, many assume that it’s all social media-based and others think it’s something along the lines of public relations.
Here, we’ll explain what online reputation management is and the role it plays in our media-driven business landscape. This guide is intended to help individuals and companies of every size understand what online reputation management is and why it matters.
You Do Have an Online Reputation
Not far in the past, the internet was used much differently than it is now. Businesses were marketing to passive audiences, rarely engaging customers. The communication landscape was top down and people weren’t empowered to express their voices.
The present-day situation is very different. Websites have moved beyond the status of online brochures, and user-generated content has become critical. Furthermore, regular social media interaction is now vital to business and professional success.
Regardless of who you are, what your business is or how large it is, people – including customers, clients, investors, past employees and anyone else who wants to – are noticing your online reputation, and they’re talking about your business. People can and will post to social media sites like Facebook about your products or services, leave comments on your website and tweet about your customer experience, among other things.
Business owners who think they can bypass this are mistaken. People’s voices, reviews and opinions will give you an online reputation whether you like it or not, and you already have one.
With the modern age has come a new focus on transparency. All businesses and professionals are encouraged to be transparent, opening the doors to feedback and criticism to embrace today’s demand for audience communication.
Below are some basic rules of transparency that today’s businesses are expected to follow:
- Ask customers, clients and employees for feedback and reviews.
- Embrace and address criticism. Publicly.
- Create accessible, open communication channels.
- Invite employees to discuss your company’s products and services on public forum.
If you’re like most businesses, you know that this is easier to talk about than it is to do! Small and medium business owners often struggle with the concept of investing in transparency and communication. This leads to inconsistent, oft-unsuccessful results.
We agree with you that transparency poses a risk, but it’s more dangerous not to be transparent.
Failure in Online Reputation Management
Worrying about the risk that transparency creates has been the downfall of countless companies to. Being open does not come without a price, and misguided attempts end in failure more times than not. If your business or brand invites feedback and customer communication, you must be prepared to face all criticism and comments promptly, with the utmost professionalism.
If you think you don’t need an optimized online reputation management plan before you begin embracing your own transparency quest, consider the scenarios below:
- Your product or service sparks excess criticism online, some of which goes viral.
- Your employees aren’t social media savvy and make posts that damage your name.
- Your competitors take advantage of scenarios like those above.
Below are some of many famous cases of failure in online reputation management, and how it can destroy your business in today’s online age:
- American Airlines received a tweet from a disgruntled customer in February of 2013 and sent an automatic reply via an unintuitive program. Rather than offer an apology, the company’s twitter responded with “thanks for your support,” causing further customer rage. The reply spread to news channels and more, causing extensive brand damage.
- DiGiorno made a post in September of 2014 that made light of a circulating hashtag #WhyIStayed, which was created by Janay Palmer (the former fiancé of Ray Rice) to explain why she stayed in an abusive relationship. In a case of what’s known as hashtag jacking, DiGiorno posted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” without researching the context. Though the ill-advised tweet was deleted minutes later, it was screenshotted and spread throughout the web, forcing the brand to apologize extensively and admit their failure to research the hashtag.
- KitchenAid USA made a post in October of 2012, during the presidential debate that read “Obamas gma even know it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics” and though the tweet was deleted quickly, it spread like wildfire on the web. The tween was made by a staff member who mistakenly posted on the company Twitter instead of their personal one. KitchenAid USA apologized profusely and fired the member, but the damage was done, and many customers turned away from the brand.
Know the Online Sentiment About Your Brand
Do you know what the online sentiment is about your brand? Online reputation management is so much more than reacting appropriately to the conversation about your business. It’s also about knowing what’s being said about you so you can respond proactively, and thus monitoring all new content as soon as it hits the web.
Your online reputation is the sum of everything that’s ever been said about your brand online and you need to be up-to-date on the conversation.
If you monitor everything new about your brand, you can avoid the ineffective approach of responding only to crisis situations and instead stop disaster before it strikes. You can use social media monitoring technology, and review monitoring platforms like that offered by us at Internet Reputation, to process new public content as it comes in.
You also have DIY social media monitoring options like Google Alert, if you’re not ready for a professional route. While this doesn’t always end in disaster, stay mindful to avoid becoming another headache-inducing failure story.
A few tips for effective responses on social media accounts include:
- Respond quickly, and word each reply to stay true to your brand’s image.
- Always be honest and practice full transparency once you’ve committed to it.
- Accept responsibility for mistakes and poor customer service, then make it right.
- Don’t ignore context because it’s convenient for your argument.
- Use timing to your advantage and don’t wait until it’s too late to respond.
Online Reputation Attacks
There are two main types of negative media that business owners need to watch for. The first category includes complaints on social media networks and review sites, which need to be handled appropriately, but they don’t instantly spell “death” for your business. With a good reputation team, items in this category are relatively easy to deal with.
The second category includes direct attacks on your business’s online reputation. These can impact your online image for years, reducing your sales and damaging your business, often beyond recovery. Hate websites and direct attacks, unlike social media posts, are likely to appear high in search engine results. These will be quickly visible to anyone who looks up your brand if you don’t have a damage control method underway immediately.
For your reference, we’ve provided a closer examination of common sources of negative content below:
- Negative Feedback
Social media and review websites encourage customers to share their experiences with and opinions about your brand online every day. Review sites will ask questions about whether they customer liked your product or service, if they’d recommend your business and if they got a good value with their purchase, among other questions.
The content on these sites can impact your sales, and if you end up on sites like Pissed Consumer, it can cause serious problems.
- Hate Websites
Hate websites are a different breed from negative reviews and social media content. These are created by people bent on sharing hateful – often illegal, falsified or otherwise slanderous – material online. These sites often address business and public figures using their names as the .com.
It doesn’t take an SEO expert to understand why these can damage, if not kill, businesses who aren’t protected with proactive online reputation management.
- Negative Media Coverage
Before the age of the internet, many businesses believed the adage that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” While this still seems to hold true for certain celebrities, it is not the case for businesses. Once your business or name ends up in a negative news article, it can spread through the web like wildfire, causing massive damage.
Again, without proactive online reputation management, it’s easy to see how this could hurt your sales if it’s the first thing potential customers see when they google you.
Isn’t this Illegal?
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
This means that anyone can legally express their opinions about your brand, no matter how negatively they feel about you. Even if the post uses defamatory language, contains falsified claims or is created with the sole intent to damage your business’s reputation, there’s usually little you can do in response in the court of law.
The good news is that you can respond in positive ways and proactively defend your brand from these types of behaviors and posts. Popular methods of restoring online reputation include:
- Aggressive SEO and ORM
The first page of Google is the new business card. In fact, it’s more important than a business card and website combined, and sometimes so is page two. Consumers use these first two pages to understand your reputation according to popular news sources, and they form their opinions accordingly.
With aggressive SEO (search engine optimization) and ORM (online reputation management), you can move false and negative information off the first few pages and effectively out of sight. This dramatically reduces the impact the negative content has on your reputation. SEO through a respected ORM company like InternetReputation.com is the first step to a reclaiming your online presence.
- Review Removal
If a reviewer claimed something clearly false and defamatory about your business, or filled their review with improper language, you might be able to request removal via the review website. If this doesn’t work, and you don’t have an ORM team on your side, legal aid and fast action can improve your chances of review removal.
- Online Investigations
If you’ve been critically attacked with a hate website or scam alert, and you can prove the attack is false or illegal, you may be able to work with a skilled legal profession and online analysis team to investigate the identity of the attacker(s). This helps you gain enough leverage to take legal action and potentially force the removal of the content.
Our Top 10 Online Reputation Management Tips for 2019
By now, it should be clear that your online reputation and your reputation, in general, are the same thing. The internet is interwoven with our society, and it’s going to stay that way. Without a reputation management solution, you’re open to attacks and criticism from all angles.
These ten tips offer a positive, proactive takeaway from the information throughout this guide, and they’ll give you a good heading:
1.) Embrace Radical Transparency
Radical transparency means being open and honest with the public, and weighing each choice your brand makes against how it will look to the public. Many brands are getting on board with transparency, and the sooner you join them, the better.
2.) Build a Respected Name
Respect and trust go a long way when you’re trying to maintain a good brand image. Improve your company, offer meaningful content or services to your users and go out of your way to stay true to your brand identity no matter what.
3.) Stay on Top of the Conversation
If you’re not aware of what’s being said online about your brand, you won’t be able to keep up with customer demand. Consumers will use social media and review sites to decide whether they should buy from you whether you like it or not, and it’s up to you to track and respond to what’s being said.
4.) Address Criticism
When American Airlines received the tweet from a disgruntled customer mentioned earlier, their now-infamous automatic reply system dropped the ball. Don’t leave the task of addressing criticism up to anything or anyone less than a reputation expert. The correct response to a defamatory review can turn a negative review into a positive selling point.
5.) Always Respond Politely and Quickly
Even if you don’t have time for an in-depth response to a complaint that arises, a simple “Thank you for notifying us of this issue, we will contact you as soon as possible to resolve your complaint for complete satisfaction,” is better than no reply at all. This gives you time to discuss the best possible method of resolution with your team and handle the situation politely.
6.) Respect the Search Results
We said it before and we’ll say it again – the first page of Google is the new business card. First impressions are all you get with most of today’s customers, and if they’re seeing words like “scam” or “terrible” in the search results, they’ll take their money elsewhere. Don’t rest until the first two pages about your brand are flawless.
7.) Learn from Your Brand’s Mistakes
If you make a mistake and it tarnishes your brand’s reputation, own up to it and learn from it. Tell your audience what you’ll do to avoid making the same mistake in the future, change your policies accordingly and implement an online reputation management strategy to begin fixing the damage. Failure to do so could be the death of your company.
8.) Understand Your Audience
When you receive a large amount of criticism, use it to better understand your audience. This goes hand-in-hand with learning from your mistakes. Don’t get angry that your customers don’t like something, make an honest effort to understand. If a large portion of your audience is unhappy about something, the best response is usually to listen, apologize and make it right. Paired with effective reputation management, this can remove the previous criticism from public view for good.
9.) Fight Illegal Behavior
If your attackers are making illegitimate claims, fight back. When someone posts false information about you online, enlist the aid of an expert reputation team and a respected legal professional. Accepting and ignoring illegal attacks leaves you open to similar attacks in the future.
10.) Delegate Reputation Management
Great leaders know when to delegate and when to handle tasks on their own. Unless you have hours of spare time every week and an existing knowledge of online reputation management, delegation is the best way to ensure the job gets done right.
If you’re in the middle of a reputation crisis, of if you’d like to start being proactive, don’t hesitate to call us at 1-888-591-0930 to set up a free consultation or click here for additional information!
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