Due to the increasing popularity of social media sites, proactive online reputation management is becoming more important than ever. According to the 2010 Pew Internet & American Life study, 78% of American consumers review a company online prior to giving it their business, and most of those potential customers are immediately going to Facebook, Twitter or review forums such as AngiesList to determine if the company they are interested in provides a product or service up to their standards.
Customers can find reviews on multiple channels in minutes, and if they find negative information in multiple areas, a company can bet the chances of losing that potential customer just increased.
To ensure only the positive information about a company is found, brand managers must be proactive in online reputation management. Easy and effective ways to do so include:
â–¶ Checking the Brand Online Daily: While this sounds like a no-brainer, many small businesses and large companies alike do not properly monitor their brands online. Checking site rankings occasionally or typing your company’s name into a search engine once a month to see what comes up will most likely leave a company being reactive and not proactive about their online reputation.
Online reputation management’s primary goal is to keep a company looking credible and reputable, not damage control. To ensure brand managers are remaining proactive, they need to:
• Check site rankings and use SEO tactics to keep the sites they want ranking high in the search engine index. It is smart to take advantage of companies that provide rank-checking software, which can save time in finding the different pages on your site.
• Check all sites connected to your company. This includes all domains owned by your company and all affiliates.
• Review search engines for anything pertinent to business, including company name, products, intent and sentiment.
• Monitor all keywords relevant to your company and products. Keyword searches are extremely important and can be time consuming; however, keyword searches take little technical know-how and can be completed by a trained intern.
â–¶ Manage Customer Reviews: An organization may not be able to prevent customers or competitors from negatively commenting on its products or services, but it can definitely manage a response and the ranking of those negative reviews. A few tips for successfully managing customer reviews are:
• Respond quickly to negative reviews or comments in a manner that demonstrates the company’s goal to provide only exceptional services and products.
• Make sure all positive information ranks higher than the negative through SEO techniques. There’s nothing you can do to remove a post on someone else’s site, short of contacting the site owner, and that is why SEO is so important.
• Encourage customers to post reviews online, and make sure to thank the customer for their reviews.
â–¶ Maintain Social Media Sites: Social media sites have become hot spots for company promotion. Not only can an organization enhance its brand through these sites, they can also use them for public relations. To effectively use social media sites as tools for online reputation management, communicators should:
• Obtain accounts to multiple sites even if the company does not plan to use all sites. This will prevent other companies or other brand loyalists from maliciously creating an account similar to your company’s name
• Post on social media sites daily. However, remember that Facebook and Twitter are two different monsters. Facebook has the best response to one post a day, while Twitter followers can easily handle three to five posts per day. Also, when posting to your social media accounts, remember to target your user to the time of day they will be online. For instance, if you are targeting a college student, it might be wise to wait until noon before sending out a tweet or posting.
Managing an online reputation is a time-consuming yet important task for any company wishing to thrive on the Web.
It takes years to build up a brand and only a few seconds to ruin one, so business should take the time and care needed to employ excellent online brand management.
This article is written by Matt Polsky, senior content manager and reputation manager for VA Mortgage Center, which helps members of the military secure home loans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.