If there’s one thing that can be said about the advent of social media, it’s that conversations are everywhere on the Internet. These conversations can take the form of comments on blog posts, forums for customer rants, or user reviews, for example. The topics for these conversations can be about anything imaginable – from varieties of tropical fish food to nuclear-waste cleanup. This means that there is already a conversation going on about your industry, and possibly this conversation includes your brand. Whether you like it or not. You don’t have ultimate control over this conversation, but you do have the opportunity to participate in the conversation.
Online reputation management is all about your presence online. The sum total of all content about you, including mentions of your brand in places that you don’t control, makes up your business’s biomass online. You need to think in terms of the big picture: maintain a high-quality reputation, ensuring that at every turn your customers and potential customers will find good mentions, excellent content, and stellar reviews. You need to ensure that the cream of the crop rises in the search results, so you don’t find any negativity there instead.
Obviously, this doesn’t always happen. The Internet is full of places where consumers can vent their frustrations with products or services they’ve received. There are whole forums devoted to customer complaints. Customers do, in fact, take the time to comment on a product they’ve received, updating the original content with user-generated content (UGC) that is completely out of the control of the vendor. While this is great for consumer awareness, it can be challenging to present a balanced view of your product if there is vocalized negative press out there, especially when it seems to outweigh the good press.
To get your online reputation management working for your brand, fill the search page with your organization’s content and monitor the activity. For key executives, optimizing profiles or bio pages on your company website works well for ensuring that those pages rank in search. Social media profiles are the other obvious place that key executives will find their way in search. Social media can be challenging as work and personal lives overlap in these spheres. For the sake of the brand, social media activity will have to be kept at a reasonable level of professionalism.
For the long term, your strategy of online reputation management can beat negative content before it has a chance to infiltrate the search results. By keeping a finger to the wind, through tracking mentions of your brand in search, you can ensure that your content positions you strategically to avoid any bumps in the road. Monitor the search results for your brand and the keywords that will find your brand and your product. By keeping close track of this activity on a regular basis, you’ll get an early warning in the event that your content slips from the rankings, and of any negative content you may need to manage.
Keep in mind that reputation management is a major industry in its own right, and there are whole strategies to clear up a smeared reputation. A reputation that has been marred often requires a major effort to clean up, months of work and, unfortunately, a considerable financial investment.