Simple steps to improve your online reputation management
Your reputation is your most valuable asset, yet the vast majority of companies don’t take basic precautions to protect their own until they’re knee-deep in a mess. You can’t avoid every crisis, but you can create a cushion of goodwill and positive search results while positioning yourself to handle whatever’s thrown your way.
When we’re talking about reputation management today, the internet is the centerpiece. In the end all stakeholder experiences will lead back to the ‘net, whether it be through reviews, social media commentary, media coverage, or a multitude of other means. With 80% or more of consumers and as many as 94% of B2B decision-makers researching online before deciding to spend their money, you can’t afford to have a negative online reputation.
The time to act is now, before an online item becomes a serious source of problems. Here are 5 easy ways to strengthen and protect your online reputation:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the top ways to increase business and protect your reputation. 95% of searchers never go look past page two of results, meaning if positive results for your org (whether self-published, placed with PR, or online through any number of means) make up a good number of first-page results it’s highly unlikely single negative items will be seen. The backbone of any good SEO program is creating content your audience will find interesting or useful, something anyone with knowledge in their field and some writing chops can do.
- Amp up your social media presence
You probably have a presence on one or two social media sites, but have you created profiles on all of the major ones? While you do want to focus day-to-day efforts on doing a couple of platforms well, it’s important to have at least a minimal presence on all of the platforms your stakeholders use. This ensures your contact info is plastered in as many locations as possible, as well as giving you a platform to speak from in the event of a reputation issue or crisis situation.
Bonus: Social media is amazing for SEO. Just having social media profiles you use regularly can help you show up in search results more often.
- Claim review profiles, then use them
Yelp and Google Business Listings snag most of the press, but there are a number of sites where users can leave reviews, complaints, or rants against your company. Many of them even allow a profile for your business to be created by any anonymous user. In short, you need to get out there and grab control of your listing on every site you’re able to. Once you have control of the sites don’t let them sit and gather dust! Actively respond to negative reviews – it helps keep those individuals happy and shows researchers you’re committed to delivering a positive experience. At the same time, encourage happy stakeholders to leave reviews and take the time to respond to those who carved out a few minutes to share their own experience.
Note: You need to be careful here as each platform does have its own rules about soliciting reviews, the last thing you want to make a mistake and wind up on the naughty list. Penalties range from having positive reviews removed to Yelp’s big fat badge of shame.
- Listen to the people
The way people use the internet today means you have plenty of opportunity to spot good suggestions, catch wind of negative sentiment as it begins to build, and identify those influencing thought related to your brand and field…but none of that is possible if you’re not actively listening. Choose a social media monitoring platform you’re comfortable with, and combine that with a service that picks up mainstream media results as well. A good free combo to get you started is HootSuite and Google Alerts, although they’re relatively basic tools they provide you the capability to listen and identify where to respond if needed.
Compassion. It’s the single most powerful tool in the crisis manager’s arsenal, yet it’s completely absent from the vast majority of reputation management programs. If you care about your stakeholders, if you care about providing outstanding service, if you care about fixing mistakes, then it shows. If you don’t care, regardless of whether you have every technical aspect in place, your efforts will eventually fall flat.
Reputation management isn’t something you can “finish”, it’s an ongoing part of daily operations. Ingrain it in your routine, approach it with compassion, and when the inevitable reputation threat does appear on the horizon you’ll be ready to overcome.
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.