The internet has come a long way — from a web of interconnected computers that were once the sole domain of academics and government agencies to a vast network that houses more data than storage companies can ever keep track of.
With this massive explosion of information comes a barrage of new problems, especially the newfound freedom for nearly anyone to say anything about anyone else. Unflattering comments can be shared with the world almost instantly, and once that happens, it’s nearly impossible to remove the offending remarks.
For many years, people have turned to traditional forms of reputation management such as media advisories and spin doctoring to shape their public image. But these techniques seem pitiful when set against instant online access.
What’s Online Reputation Management?
Quite simply, online reputation management is the process of safeguarding your identity on the internet. It’s a practice that’s becoming increasingly important, especially since employers, clients, customers, etc., are all turning to search engines and social media to research brands, potential partners, or hires.
Much like an online resume, your name may turn up links that have nothing to do with you. If the search results return unflattering, unproven, and otherwise invalid information, then you might find it hard to convince a potential employer or client to trust you.
How Does Online Reputation Management Work?
The best way to manage your online reputation is through search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, this involves finding the right keywords and key phrases to direct potential customers, clients, or employers to the content that you want them to see, rather than just letting Google or social media channels dictate what gets displayed.
Once you’ve registered one or two solid SEO results for your name, you can use third-party verification services to prove your identity and keep your name from being associated with unsavoury topics. The best part is that you don’t need to do anything other than ensuring the information you want people to see is visible on all the key channels.
Who Needs Online Reputation Management?
I say anyone with an online presence: bloggers, freelancers, realtors, doctors, lawyers.
Any business person wants to avoid anything negative or even having their name or business associated with it.
Whether you wrote a scathing blog post, posted something on social media that ended up being misinterpreted by others, or just had the unfortunate luck of being included in an unflattering comment thread, scrubbing this information from public view is a challenge in itself.
How Does Online Reputation Management (ORM) Impact Your Business?
The truth is people will judge you or your organization by the kind of information they find online.
In a world where even the smallest businesses have websites, are present on social media outlets, and are actively engaging with a community of customers or prospects, your online presence is almost synonymous with your brand.
That means that whether you’re looking for new opportunities, investors, clients/customers, employees – if your online presence is lackluster or absent, people are likely to form poor opinions without even seeing the other side of the story.
A negative review of your brand, product, or organization will have a devastating impact on your business, irrespective of whether it’s true or not.
What are the Benefits of Online Reputation Management?
The benefits of good online reputation management are numerous, but perhaps the biggest boon is that it will open doors for you.
Whether you’re looking to start a business, secure financing, solicit new customers or recruit talent – having a visible positive online presence often facilitates your ability to do so.
What are the Benefits of Online Reputation Management?
The benefits of good online reputation management are numerous:
- You’ll find it easier to leverage positive media attention and reviews
- People who don’t know you will see your best side and not just the worst
- Your name will be associated with success instead of failure
- It prevents people from thinking poorly of you without any real reason
- Your business will be more successful since it’s easier to find your brand online
- It increases transparency and trust and helps you focus on the most important elements of your business
- It gives control over your search engine results, so you can decide what people see
- Protects your brand from defamation, libel, impersonation, and other damaging content that could be associated with it
- Enables you to reach new customers and strengthen your relationship with current ones
- Boost your credibility and increase the value of your brand
Suffice it to say, your online reputation is more valuable than any other form of marketing because it’s based on real-life experiences and not generated hype – so learn to take advantage of it while you can.
Online Reputation Management Facts and Statistics
Don’t take our word for it – check out the following statistics:
- 96% of consumers use online resources to research a company or product before making a purchase. (Nielson)
- 85% of people trust peer recommendations, while 49% will want to see a 4-star rating at least before they buy from you
- 3 out of 4 customers say they’re more likely to trust a company if other customers review it positively
- 92 of customers say they’ll never visit a company or business after reading negative reviews
- 47% of people who post a negative review expect a response, and 88% of positive reviews mention that they’ll return to the business in question if they experience excellent service.
These numbers are upsetting, but the message is clear: research and reviews matter.
We’re not saying that you need to be on every single social media outlet – we’re just saying that if people can find damaging information about your brand, then you need to address it with the utmost care and consideration.
The truth is, people won’t just take your word for it – you can’t just tell people that everything is great and expect them to believe you.
That being said, once your name gets associated with a negative impression, there’s no turning back – so the best course of action is to take control over what people see before it becomes a bigger problem.
The Difference Between Brand Management and Online Reputation Management
The truth is, most businesses don’t realize the difference between brand management and online reputation management.
In fact, they’re two completely different things – albeit with a few commonalities.
Brand Management is about managing your name, logo, slogan, and other trademarks that you use to identify your business or organization. In general, it focuses on shaping a perspective, controlling a message, and protecting your image.
Online Reputation Management, on the other hand, is about managing real-life experiences online. It’s a way of manipulating what people see when they search for your brand online. It’s more like putting your best foot forward.
It focuses on managing what other people say about you online – both positive and negative.
|Brand Management||Online Reputation Management|
|It’s about the historical point of view. You have to ask yourself questions like, “how do we look now compared to 2 years ago?”||Online Reputation Management is guided by what people are saying about you right now. You have to ask yourself questions like, “should we address this content or wait for it to go away naturally?”|
|Brand management is all about controlling your brand’s position in the industry.||Online reputation management is about controlling what people see without necessarily influencing it. You don’t want to fool people into thinking something that isn’t true, but you want them to see things from your perspective.|
|Brand management is about having everyone think one thing.||Online reputation management is about letting everyone have their say but controlling the important messages.|
|Brand management is often optimized for big brands. As such, it tends to be less effective for small brands.||Online reputation management is for everyone.|
The Problems Associated with Reputation Management
It’s not that easy to manage your online reputation – challenges abound.
Reputation management requires consistent action, which can be difficult for small businesses to achieve without the help of a dedicated team.
Here are some of the problems you might have to deal with:
SEO Problems – Google is actively trying to stop reputation managers from influencing search results. That has left many companies playing complex games to try and control what people see.
Search Ranking is Important – if you’re not showing up for any search terms, then it doesn’t matter what people are saying about your company. It’s not about blocking negative comments but ensuring positive ones shine through.
Monitoring Problems – Monitoring what people say about your brand online isn’t easy.
Most companies lack the tools and staffing necessary to track every mention of their brand online, leading to important messages inevitably slipping through the cracks.
Some services offer good monitoring tools such as Mention. However, you still need a dedicated team focused only on monitoring your brand reputation.
Vendor Problems – Third-party monitoring services can be expensive, and there’s a good chance you won’t be satisfied with the results you get.
For example, some services will charge you based on the number of mentions or score of mentions. If your brand is mentioned often enough, you could end up paying more than the value of the service being offered.
Content Problems – The people that are commenting on your brand aren’t professional writers. That means their comments are likely to be rambling, unfocused, and sometimes completely irrelevant.
To get around this challenge, reputation management services look at the sentiment of people’s comments. They then filter out comments that seem to be disagreeing with your brand purely out of spite.
Public Relations Problems – Reputation managers can’t always control the situation. So, unless careful, this can lead to some embarrassing moments.
For example, some restaurant chains discovered that their reputation managers had resorted to deleting negative reviews from their Yelp pages instead of handling them the right way.
Here’s an article you want to read about handling negative reviews online:
Keep in mind that this came immediately after the company had received an award for being one of the top places to eat in that area.
False Positives and Negatives: Additionally, reputation management services also have to deal with false positives and negatives. Getting a whole lot of positive mentions is still useless if those comments are just automated spam.
False negatives are particularly troublesome too. Suppose your company gets lots of complaints about its service. In that case, you don’t want to miss out on turning those individuals into loyal customers simply because the negative comments weren’t noticed in time.
The Pros and Cons of Using Reputation Management Services
Tools alone aren’t enough to maintain a good online reputation. It would be best if you had a dedicated team of professionals actively working to manage your company’s reputation (and listening and responding to your employees and customers).
Having a dedicated team of professionals managing your company’s online reputation can be expensive because you’re trusting them with some of your most critical information: your product catalogue, way of doing business, how you communicate with customers and employees, and more.
5 Biggest Myths About Online Reputation Management
The internet is filled with misinformation about online reputation management, putting many companies at risk of making poor decisions that could potentially harm their brands:
Myth 1: Everyone can see everything you do online
Truth: Not everyone will notice every single thing you do on the Internet. For example, if your company has a blog, not everyone who uses social media will see your latest blog post. That’s because information like that only goes to the people who follow you on social media.
Myth 2: Anyone can tell anyone about anything
Truth: Just because you can share information on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will read it. Some people are more likely to be interested in certain topics than others, so they only follow those who talk about them.
Myth 3: Only Big, International Brands Need Online Reputation Management
Truth: Small businesses are more likely to benefit from online reputation management services because it can be harder for them to get noticed. However, even big corporations are using online reputation management tools. For example, when customers complain about McDonald’s on Facebook, they have a dedicated team that responds quickly to stop these complaints from escalating to a serious issue.
Myth 4: Only Poorly-Managed Companies Need Online Reputation Management
Truth: Even the best brands are always at risk of receiving negative comments online. The way to stay ahead of problems is by using online reputation management services, even if the company is well-managed. It’s not about being poorly managed; it’s about being proactive in listening and responding to customers before things get out of hand.
Myth 5: Reputation Management is a Fad
Truth: While there has been a significant increase in online communication over the past ten years, some companies are still behind communication trends and fall victim to social media disasters. However, for companies that use tools like Google Alerts or Hootsuite, online reputation management is becoming an increasingly important part of their day-to-day business operations.
Google Search Will Reveal Critical Situations
89% of customers research supply chains before buying anything, meaning that the success or failure of your supply chain has a direct impact on your bottom line. You can identify problems before they morph into incorrigible crises by collecting information about people’s experiences with your supply chain.
Problem #1: Product Recalls
In 2013, Target recalled a line of water bottles manufactured in China due to lead contamination. Nestlé quickly identified the problem and responded quickly by removing all the affected products from store shelves by tracking negative news related to the brand online.
Problem#2: Sanitary Problem
In 2011, Starbucks dealt with a PR crisis after several consumers claimed they found worms in their drinks. Targeting negative news about the company online, Starbucks quickly identified what had triggered the problem and, as damage control, resorted to providing compensatory beverages to customers who had purchased products from those stores.
Problem #3: Bad Advertising
The clothing brand American Apparel got into hot water with consumers in 2013 when they released an advertisement featuring a young man holding an unconscious, naked woman. After tracking negative news related to the brand online, American Apparel had no option but to fire its marketing director and issue a public apology.
Online Reputation Management Tools You Should Have in Place:
Google Alerts: A free service that lets you keep track of any mentions or news related to your company online. You can sign up for alerts by using various subjects, phrases, and competitors’ names.
Google Scholar: An academic database of journal articles and conference papers relevant to your business. You have direct access to scholarly literature related to your industry, so you can see what others are researching about your company.
Hootsuite: Used by over 10 million people, Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard that can help you monitor and engage with your customers on social media.
Buzzsumo: Another dashboard used to track the most shared articles on the Internet. You can use this information as a benchmark for establishing your company’s online reputation.
Mention: Tracks your brand against over 460,000 online sources and alerts you when someone mentions it. You can respond to their comments or let them know that their post has been seen.
Pipl: A search engine for finding people with profiles on social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Influitive: Organizations are more likely to buy from companies that have a referral marketing program. Influitive helps you set up your own referral marketing campaign so customers can advocate for your company.
7 Places to Monitor Your Online Brand Reputation
Before you get to the actual process of managing your online brand reputation, it helps first to identify some of the places that your customers or prospects gather to discuss your company or products.
Google My Business
Let people know you exist by creating a page on Google’s business centre. Remember to make it as detailed as possible, including any awards or recognition your company has received. Keep your customers up-to-date with links to changes regarding your products and services.
Social Media Sites
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Keep your company’s profile updated with recent happenings and post updates related to your brand regularly. Add links to positive news about the brand and an FAQ section so prospects can find answers quickly instead of searching for them elsewhere.
What do people think about you in the real world? See what they are saying on forums regarding your company, its employees, or even specific brands. Identify negative remarks and address them quickly if necessary.
Look for clues in customer reviews to identify any concerns they have about your products or services. If these are not appropriately addressed, you could lose potential sales.
Company Review Sites
See what customers say about your business on customer review sites such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, or even Angie’s List. Addressing negative reviews promptly will help you sustain consumer confidence in your company over time.
Video Sharing Sites
YouTube is home to thousands of video reviews and testimonials from people who created and shared them. These can be great resources to learn more about your customer’s experiences with your company and get their feedback on what you could do better.
Social Bookmarking Sites
Automatically stay up to date with the latest information surrounding your industry by subscribing to social bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Delicious.
Create a blog on your company’s website to allow customers to express their opinions about your brand and products. Monitor what people are saying online using services like Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts.
Go beyond Google News to find out what other news sites are writing about your company or brand. You can use Google’s Custom Search to trawl the internet for brand mentions and news coverage.
5 Steps to Take if Your Company is Involved in a PR Crisis
Get the Facts Straight
If someone else started the fire with inaccurate information, put out the flames by getting all the facts straight about the information floating out there.
Be Vigilant and Always Ready to React
Be proactive instead of defensive to the problem at hand. Assign a team leader and create a plan ahead of time so your company can take action immediately when a crisis hits.
Deal with One Issue at a Time
As many news articles as there may be, it’s always good to focus on only one at a time. Don’t try to respond to every news article in the media; it will only make your company look more guilty.
Show Customers That You Care
Take a proactive approach and communicate with customers as much as possible during a PR crisis, no matter what time of day or night it may be. People want to hear from you, not read about you online.
Be Honest and Transparent
The truth will always come out sooner or later, so tell it as quickly as possible. Customers know when you are trying to cover something up, so don’t try to spin events in your favour just for short-term gain.
Working with an Online Reputation Management Company
Reputation management is an ongoing effort that requires a dedicated team with the right tools to monitor what’s being said online about your company. Working with an online reputation management company can help you stay on top of any negative remarks by ensuring you are always one step ahead of the game.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with an online reputation management company.
Understand the Company’s Online Reputation Strategy
Make sure you know what strategy the company plans to employ in protecting your brand online before you can go ahead and sign on the dotted line.
A reputable company will have a clear strategy in place to monitor, control and manage all online mentions of your brand. They should provide regular reports with data relevant to your company’s reputation management efforts.
The Quality of Their Tools Matter
It helps to look at the tools used by any company you are considering working with to make sure they have a complete arsenal at their disposal. Tools that can monitor, analyse and categorize online mentions of your brand are crucial to your company’s online reputation management efforts.
The Company Should Be Able to Tell Your Story
Look for a reputable company with the tools and expertise to tell your story with an unbiased approach. Having another set of eyes and ears on your company’s online reputation can be extremely valuable when making important decisions regarding your approach to managing it.
The Company Should Have a Proven Track Record
Only work with an online reputation management company with the history, skills, and knowledge necessary to get results. Research all companies before choosing one so you are sure they are the right fit for your needs.
Know Your Online Reputation Score
A reputable company will provide you with a detailed report outlining the state of your online reputation. Make sure they give you a clear understanding of how well or poorly your company is faring online and the improvements to be made.
An ongoing effort to monitor, control and manage all mentions of your brand across the internet takes time, energy, and resources. Have a clear understanding of your company’s online reputation goals to weigh in on their level of commitment.
Your Reputation Is Your Business, Not Everyone Else’s
When hiring an online reputation management company to help you manage your brand’s internet presence, it helps to understand that you are the person in charge of your company’s reputation, not them. If you feel like they are making misguided decisions on your behalf, don’t hesitate to take necessary action.
Listen to Feedback but Don’t React Emotionally
If customers or other stakeholders provide feedback about your brand online, listen closely and respond with integrity. Don’t react out of emotions; it will only make things worse for your company.
Don’t Let a Crisis Get You Down
The last thing you want is a PR crisis to distract you from your day-to-day business operations. Make sure your online reputation management company has the necessary crisis management skills to help ease your stress and keep you focused on your business.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Make sure you know who is representing your company during any interaction or conversation with an online reputation management company, as it’s easy for things to get lost in translation. If you can’t speak directly with the person in charge, make sure the company is forthcoming with that information.
Work on Your own Terms
In the end, you have to feel comfortable working with the online reputation management company you choose. For this, you want to make sure they are a good fit for your unique business needs. Always seek advice from those around you and consider their opinions, but use your better judgment to decide what’s best for you.
What Online Reputation Management Services Entails?
There’s nothing wrong with taking a DIY approach to managing your company’s online reputation, but there are benefits to letting a professional handle the work. Once you understand what goes into an online reputation management campaign, it will be easier to make this important decision.
Internet Monitoring and Analysis
The first phase of any online reputation management campaign is internet monitoring and analysis, which entails having skilled professionals comb through the web looking for your brand or company mentions. The goal is to find what’s being said, by whom, and on what platform. This information is crucial for keeping track of all the online conversations about your company or brand.
Next, the professionals use “social profiling” techniques to gauge the sentiment around your company or brand to determine how much good or bad attention you’re getting online. They will also rate the influence of key social media players so you can see where your company stands in your consumers’ eyes.
Once they have a better understanding of what’s being said about your brand, then comes the responsive outreach stage, when an online reputation management company reaches out to those posting harmful or defamatory content about your company or brand. The goal is to fix the problem by getting that person to remove the offending post or change it. You have to be diplomatic with how you approach the whole thing. Otherwise, it could backfire on you.
An online reputation management company will also put together a detailed report complete with recommendations on how to handle each problem they find while also planning on the best way forward. They should help you understand your company’s online reputation, what it will take to make improvements, and the best way to go about doing so from here on out.