For the uninitiated, an online reputation management strategy (or ORM) is all about controlling what others see when they search for your business online.
Some people think that ORM is about social media monitoring. Others think that it has something to do with public relations management.
But in reality, ORM has everything to do with your brand’s reputation in the online community.
What About Social Media Monitoring?
Now, social media monitoring is at the heart of a successful online reputation management strategy. It involves gathering and analyzing content from the following types of sources:
- online reviews
- blog posts
- social media posts
A small business must monitor this content to see if anything positive or negative is being said that affects the business’s reputation. If there’s negative sentiment, then it must be addressed professionally and promptly. Always do your best to address any concerns as quickly as possible in order to avoid a social media crisis for your business.
Benefits Of Having An Online Reputation Management Strategy
But a successful online reputation management strategy isn’t just about addressing negative feedback!
Social media monitoring also gives you the chance to discover positive feedback which you can use to hone in on your business’s strengths.
And these days, lots of people are asking questions on social media before they decide to do business with someone. So, social media monitoring will also give you the opportunity to bring in new customers!
While there’s a great positive side to ORM, it’s the negative side that gives most businesses trouble.
ORM In The Digital Age
Unfortunately, the majority of small businesses don’t know just how much an online reputation management strategy impacts sales.
But you only need to look at the statistics to see how important it really is:
- 77% of job recruiters must look up a potential employee’s name online before hiring.
- 45% of people discovered something from an online search that made them not want to work with somebody.
- According to a source from 2016, online reviews were shown to factor into 67.7% of purchasing decisions.
As you can see, Googling someone’s name is just common sense these days. That’s because everything we say and do online is recorded forever. So you must counter this with a well thought out online reputation management strategy paired with a strong social media management strategy.
Branding Is The Key
When people Google you, they’re looking for any important information – good or bad. But most businesses don’t know how they can leave a positive footprint online.
The secret is good branding.
Good branding will give you the power to control what others see online when they search for your business. In other words, it’s the key to a successful online reputation management strategy.
So what are some ways that you can brand your business online to achieve ORM success?
- You can use many online tools, like the one featured above (knowem.com) to grab all the available names for your brand on all the social websites you can. Think of it like building your own virtual real estate.
- Setup key social media accounts for your business. Right now these include Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Google Plus. Don’t forget about Google My Business too!
- Setup your blog. Blogs rank very well in search engines, which is a big reason why companies have them. Your blog posts can also provide a buffer in the search results against any negative content that’s written about your business.
Even when you’ve done these steps, dealing with negative feedback is inevitable for any business. So you must know how to deal with it properly.
6 Steps For A Victorious Online Reputation Management Strategy
In the following 6 steps, we’ll take you through the whole journey. From laying down the groundwork to doing damage control in case your business reputation has already suffered.
- Get Familiar With The Popular ORM Tools
There are many tools out there to help with online reputation management, but the following are absolutely essential. You should get to know them before moving forward:
Twitter is one of the best places to monitor your brand. People love to use Twitter to share their thoughts and feelings about things. The short character limit on tweets and the highly interactive nature of the platform makes it ideal for this.
But perhaps the best thing about Twitter for ORM is its numerous different search functions. You can setup the following parameters when searching on Twitter:
- search by Twitter account
- search by sentiment (yes, that’s a thing!)
- search by location
- search by date
- search links
Google Alerts allow you to track all online mentions of your brand in the following places:
- web results
- video results
- news results
- Google Groups results
Allows you to track news through the following channels:
- keyword search
- local news sources
- and even stock prices!
You can get notified of Yahoo Alerts via email or through Yahoo Messenger.
Now that you’re familiar with these key tools, it’s time to get to work on your online reputation management strategy!
- Lay Down The Groundwork
The most important thing with building a victorious online reputation management strategy is to build up the public’s respect. This means creating a business foundation based on trust.
As a small business, public trust is your most valuable asset. But it’s also a perishable asset. And, it’s very hard to get back, especially in the digital age.
So how do you ensure that potential customers trust you enough to buy from you? And how do you protect your most important asset (trust)?
The key is to take control of the search results for your business keyword. Ensure that your potential customers only see what you want them to see. And so long as you chose a unique business name, this should be within your control.
See how Best Buy owns their first page? Your business name should strive to do the same.
With a good SEO marketing strategy, you can ensure that your business’s content dominates the first page.
Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
Why is the 1st page so important? Because 94% of people never go beyond it, that’s why.
In fact, pretend that the 1st page of Google is your business card. It might as well be.
And you don’t want your business card to look questionable right?
Now, what’s the best way to get your business’s name all over the 1st page?
As we said earlier, you have to lay down the groundwork by first creating the key social media accounts for your business.
- LinkedIn accounts rank higher than other social media accounts.
- For blogs, WordPress blogs rank best.
- For a visual based account, we definitely suggest Instagram if it fits your business.
Find out which social media accounts are best for your business in our article: The Best Social Media Platforms for Social Media Marketing.
Clean Up Your Mess
Now, if you already have these social media accounts setup, the next step is to immediately delete or archive any old posts or photos that may be considered inappropriate. You can probably figure out which ones these are. But less obvious ones include polarizing topics covering religion and politics.
After you’ve finished, sign out of your Google account. You must do this first because Google results are personalized for each individual Google account. So when you do a Google search while signed out, you’ll get an accurate picture of what your potential customers will see when Googling your business’s name.
Now what do you see?
- Be Transparent
Do you see negativity? Don’t panic, this isn’t necessarily the end of the world!
Before we get into the different types of negative content, we want you to remember to look at negative feedback as a lesson. Oftentimes negative feedback holds valuable data about your target audience that you can use to improve what you offer them, whether it be a service or a product. So always be open to criticism.
Transparency Tips To Keep In Mind
Most businesses don’t invest much into responding to criticisms and feedback. So when they do occasionally respond to online feedback, they usually go about it the wrong way.
But it’s absolutely essential to be transparent when responding to feedback, whether the feedback is positive or negative. This may seem risky, but it’s even more risky in the long run to not be transparent.
Remember what we said about online content? What we do and say (or don’t say) is recorded forever.
So keep the following tips in mind for your online reputation management strategy:
- Be publicly transparent, especially when making changes that people asked for.
- Don’t hide complaints, address them publicly.
- Embrace negative feedback. Invite users to share their opinions. Good or bad.
- Don’t pretend that the negative feedback doesn’t exist!
- Allow your employees to publicly discuss your products and services.
- Incorporate a 1-1 communication channel into your ORM.
- Be Professional
An essential part of any online reputation management strategy is responding to feedback (positive or negative) in a professional manner.
When it comes to complaints, respond to them quickly and politely. Even if it’s just a simple reply, it’s better than a late or no reply.
Negative Attention = Bad Publicity
One lesson that some companies have learned the hard way is: not to be aggressive or defensive when responding to public criticism. That kind of bad attitude just doesn’t work, especially in the digital marketing age.
Online blogs WILL pickup on it and spread it as a bad public relations case. Local news stations might even pick up on it as well, which could destroy your new small business before it even gets off the ground.
So remember, attracting negative attention isn’t good for publicity. It might work for controversial public figures, but for a business it will ultimately hurt the brand.
- Understand The Different Types Of Negative Content Online
Not all negative feedback is equal of course.
Negative feedback on social media in the form of comments shouldn’t be too worrisome, unless your business is already in deep trouble.
Negative Feedback To Worry About
On the other hand, negative feedback that comes in the form of websites or blog posts are a bigger threat to your business’s reputation. These can be found on negative review websites like hate websites or a personal blog. These need to be dealt with immediately.
Think about if you were Googling a business you weren’t sure about and saw the words “Companyname Scam.” Wouldn’t you at least be somewhat concerned? Most people will go running for the hills (ie finding an alternative company).
And not only that, but unlike social media comments, the above sites usually rank higher in search engines.
How To Approach Negative Content
There are two approaches to dealing with this kind of negative feedback: a direct or indirect approach.
On the one hand, you can approach the website owner directly and humbly ask them to remove the content.
But if that doesn’t work, then you can try to bury them in the search. There are different ways that you can bury their content which we will discuss below.
- How To Deal With Negative Content
First of all, check to see if the negative content they’ve posted violates any of Google’s guidelines. If so, then you can make a petition to Google to de-index their content.
As for what you can do? If the negative content represents legitimate complaints about your business, then you can try to outrank them with positive content from your company or from third parties. Show searchers the positives of your business and how you can help them.
We know that negative reviews are generally less frequent than positive ones, but they stand out in a customer’s mind more than the positive ones do. And if not addressed, these negative reviews will be the only opinion that customers remember.
Should I Take Legal Action?
On the other hand, if the complaints aren’t legitimate, and if the situation is serious enough, then you may want to consider taking legal action. But remember that speed is of the essence.
The following three things are against the law:
- Defamatory language
- Reporting false information about a business
- Content that’s aimed at destroying a company’s reputation
If these things are happening to your business, either from within or without, then take action immediately! If you don’t, they might continue their illegitimate attacks.
Unfortunately, most businesses only consider online reputation management when the damage has already been done. But if there’s one thing we want you to take away from this article, it’s this: online reputation management isn’t about damage control – it’s about laying the groundwork for a successful brand image.
Make your business like Iron Man – contact us today and let us handle all your ORM concerns.