There is a perception out there that may lead some to believe that online reputation management is only for big brands. After all, they put out a product for all to see and ostensibly stand to gain or lose the most from brand perception issues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. People are their own brand and this information is being sought all the time by employers, associates, clients and more. All you need to find to reinforce this notion is the fact of how big social media is today, and that review sites contributed to and serving users on the web have grown in popularity. Amazon review, Yelp, GlassDoor are all examples of this new type of public community review. It used to be you had to ask people about that place, about that person and if you were lucky, they knew something about the subject and had something honest to share. Today, the information is instant which can be a blessing or a curse depending on what is being shared. It is something that can quickly get out of hand and that’s one reason online reputation management exists.
Intro: online reputation management (ORM)
It is true that reputation management was once the domain of large companies with a brand to protect. Associations like the Better Business Bureau and others worked as a liaison in between customers and companies to work out situations and boost credibility. Companies engaged in the practice of reputation management. Today that has merged with the world of online media. Reputations are made and broken on the internet and it has extended its reach to individuals in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Today, all kinds of people, brands and companies strive to influence their reputation by means of online reputation management. It includes web searches, public databases, review sites and social media. Suffice it to say what applies to companies also applies to people so online reputation management may be critical to you, even in ways you haven’t considered before.
That social media connection
For a company or a brand, reputation is more important than ever. The balance of message has shifted towards the consumers in a way that can’t be rebottled. Social media, review sites and other venues spread their message quickly, effectively and the tone of these messages endure for longer than many people expect. It has now become a matter of carefully crafted messaging played out in advertising, email, social and every kind of media along with a finely tuned attention to public response and perception. The larger the brand, the larger the audience, and the larger impact. This has become a major business initiative in many industries. Those that fail to attend to image might find themselves reacting once it is too late and they are well into damage repair mode.
For individuals, it can be a much more significant affair. If an individual’s reputation has gotten to a point where they need to manage it or they are in a damage repair situation, this could amount to a monumental task on its own. That is because there is a tremendous amount of know-how, vigilance, and persistence required to perform online reputation management alone. The internet has gotten to where information persists for a very long time and that information spreads to multiple other sites. With that many points of information, the task can be monumental.
The social media search
For any party interested in online reputation management, knowledge of what is being said about a person or brand in social media circles is a critical step to protecting a reputation. Social channels have search functionality and you should decide what keywords and searches to conduct regularly, using hashtags and names where appropriate. Many people watch competitors or employers as well.
While searching for reputation is best served in a manual process, it is something that could be automated in a number of interesting places. One thing you can do is set up automated search terms in Google Alerts, which looks for those keywords in Google’s index and emails you results on a daily basis when new ones appear.
Find, Plan, Respond
At this point, you’ve hopefully gotten a glimpse into what’s being said about the brand you’re interested in and have an idea of what’s positive and negative. You’ve searched Twitter, Facebook, and other forums. If it’s something you need to respond to, time is of the essence. The Once you’re aware of what’s being said about your brand online, you’ll need to respond appropriately. That said, this is where you’ll want to tread very carefully. Sometimes, just knowing what people are saying will be enough to help guide and inform your customer service-based decisions.
Responding strategically with public perception in mind is the intelligent thing to do. Praise and criticism should be met with equal importance. These guidelines will help you gauge your social media responses:
- Rapid response: Don’t let comments or reviews linger. While you need to respond appropriately, be careful not to let too much time pass or you may give off the feel that you do not care. It’s the kind of thing that could get out of hand quickly, so watch your response time.
- Keep it professional and upbeat: Some things shouldn’t play out on line. As in business, these matters should never become one that gets down to a personal level. Sometimes issues need to be taken offline and settled there. If you have this option, you should explore it. For everything else, your responses should be upbeat, informative and aware of the public at all times. In the public forum, responses travel as rapidly as any other news and can quickly become the subject of criticism.
- Keep it honest: You shouldn’t get in the habit of deleting negative comments unless they are offensive, illegal or otherwise not fit for publication. The reason why is that once public comments are made, there are people that see these comments before you even do. If you delete them, you could be giving off the impression that you are in damage control or have something to hide. An appropriate response is always preferred and a negative comment can be made into a positive comment with the right response and follow-up.
Jordan Kretchmer, the Founder and CEO of Livefyre shared the following in regards to the social marketing experience:
Give people content experiences they actually care about and want to engage with, and in turn you’ll create your own distribution channel for future content. Return visits increase organically as audiences begin to see you as the central hub for your brand, but great content also gives them an incentive to register. And from there, your content storm shifts to more personal, direct conversations with your fans.
As you can see, just from a social point of view, there’s a lot that goes into maintaining your reputation online. It takes a bit of tact, practice and planning to put it together effectively. Things like reviews, public comments and other sources of public commentary can be harnessed, groomed and managed as a positive rather than a negative.