Online reputation management is the management, monitoring and response to communications concerning your brand on third party websites. It’s about ensuring that the voice of your brand is present and engaging in the digital universe so that its reputation is maintained.
Developing your Online Presence
Essentially you want to maintain a broad web-presence for your brand. Running a blog, managing social media presence and making sure your sites rank well for brand related searches will help you control how your brand appears in the top positions on search engine results pages (SERP’s). This preventative approach means that if a bad news story is broken you have an opportunity to manage the problem.
Honesty is always best so it just doesn’t pay to try and bury a bad news story. Having a strong web presence at least means you’ll have your own communication platforms ready and waiting to make sure your side of the story also gets told.
It’s important that you maintain a presence on a number of different sites, so make good use of social media. Google’s plans to limit the number of times a single domain appears in the first few pages of results means that all your brand related results will appear as one if they all come from the same domain.
Engage Customers on Social Media
Having an engaging and active presence on a range of social media sites will also make sure you can present your image to your customers and develop a more personal voice like never before.
It’s important to make sure that all your in-house contributors to social media are on message and pay attention to detail. There have been several gaffs made by employees of big businesses over the years that could have easily been avoided with a little more care.
How not to do it
There are some definite grey / black hat areas to online reputation management. Fakery and unethical tactics can give the whole process a bad rap. Astroturfing – posting information such as reviews online as a neutral third party in order to improve your image is unethical and if discovered could be a PR disaster.
Creating fake blogs or websites and engaging in aggressive SEO in order to improve their rankings and fill the search results is also a dubious technique that is often employed when burying bad news. It’s one thing to do what you can to make legitimate pages that relate to your brand rank well, but creating fake sites for a similar effect is a much greyer area. It’s also a better PR strategy to face bad news head on, address it and move on.
Respond Quickly, with Concern to Complaints
Every business will occasionally get a bad review online. It’s important to notice them quickly and address them in a non-confrontational way. Showing your company to be reasonable in the face of complaints can help to undo the damage of a bad review.
You will need to monitor the use of your brand online to keep track of what people are posting and make a habit to check review sites and other places people may post comments about your company. Keeping check on this will mean you can respond to problems in a timely manner before too many potential customers are put off.
Whatever you do don’t try to bury bad reviews with fake good ones. It is so often obvious and could have the opposite of the intended effect. Instead always try to offer the best possible service and encourage your hoards of happy customers to post their opinions online.