By Harshil Karia
Search engines handle millions of searches everyday. People searching for you are your potential consumers, business partners, stockholders, investors, journalists etc. and what they see on these search engines defines your business for them. With the increase in people turning online to search and share their thoughts, online brand reputation management is increasingly becoming difficult to maintain. It is very easy for a dissatisfied customer to post a comment, create a blog, make a video or create a hate website. So, it is important to maintain a clean search engine result. A brand’s online reputation can convert searchers into customers or loyal fans.
Leverage social media
A company’s net worth is tied in its intangible assets like brand equity and reputation and thus there are some things every brand must know about online reputation management. One bad review does not define a company or a brand. Every brand must know its presence online and must plan to use those assets to its advantage. A brand must try leveraging social media channels to attract, engage, promote and encourage positive feedback. It is important to plan your posts, your presence and answers to queries. Be sure to have a consistent approach on all platforms. It is impossible to censor every negative comment or piece of information but it helps to consistently attend to these posts in a positive manner and build and cultivate relations with key influencers online.
Follow these 9 steps towards effective online reputation management:
Step 1: Protect your name by registering or purchasing all domains, handles, usernames etc. This can prevent causing a gap in your brand strategy. New social network websites pop up every day and if you don’t act fast, someone else can register your name. This could be either a dissatisfied customer or just someone hoping to get cash from the real owner of the brand. You should purchase negative domains as well such as [companyname]sucks.com etc. This can prevent others from creating the hate site.
Step 2: After securing your user names, it is time to protect it. Set your privacy settings on all platforms where you are present, especially social networking websites. Inappropriate photos, comments, statements or remarks would do no good for your reputation on your own property.
Step 3: Now start with simple searches on search engines i.e. your name, company name, brand name, products, key executives and most importantly handles/usernames/domain names. Most users won’t look past the first page or two of search results, so you only need to look at a couple pages for each keyword.
Step 4: If you have a couple of keywords already ranking for you it means that it is about time you start your online reputation management. Why? Since you haven’t actively grown your search results it is much easier for something to creep to the top if someone does have a problem.
Step 5: Creating a website is important but it is also important to build your networks and get involved in professional, personal and media websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr etc. Showing your presence in industry relevant blogs, forums, groups and specific social networks also helps.
Apart from the above, other things that can help your brand are the kind of content you generate, share and how you connect with your fans. Donate to charity, sponsor an event or conference, receive nominations and awards, promote newsworthy information through press releases, get interviewed on other’s blogs or podcasts etc.
Step 6: Monitor your brand on all platforms. Set up alerts, feeds to catch everything being said or mentioned about your brand, company, domains, executives etc. There are hundreds of tools available online that can help you manage your and track the important conversations happening around your brand so that you can identify opportunities to get involved, locate people to engage, and to handle small customer service issues before they grow out of control.
Step 7: As you grow your presence online, it will get more and more difficult to track, manage and monitor your properties. Make use of tools such as Socialbakers, Hoot Suite, Disqus, SocialStream etc.
Step 8: Most reputation problems start because the customer is not being able to communicate easily with the brand/company. Some customers can get frustrated and turn to other sites, blogs, Twitter etc. hence be sure to be accessible and to invest in customer service. Display contact information, have a suggestion box and be listed on all relevant websites. If you find a negative comment being made or if someone is genuinely upset, contact him or her and address the issue. Either promise them that they will be treated differently in the future or refund or give a free product. The point is to make them feel that they are cared for and that you listen.
Step 9: Build your credibility by collecting testimonials from customers and posting them on the website or sites like Facebook and Twitter. Giving people the ability to add reviews or share comments can help build your credibility to prospective users. If you are a part of a trust or industry specific groups then this is the time to display their logos. Do the same with quality rating services as they make the users feel more secure.