Know your reputation – Ignoring it won’t make it go away…

Companies spend years building their reputations but all of that work can be for naught if they don’t know how to manage it. I know what you are thinking, you have a great reputation for excellent products and outstanding customer service, but the reputation you have cultivated with your loyal customers over the years may not be the same thing that potential clients are seeing online. The main reason for this is that once something gets loose on the Net it is almost (if not completely) impossible to remove.

All it takes is one negative blog posting on a popular site and new prospects might overlook you out of hand because that negative posting about your inferior quality products or your non-existent customer service is showing up with higher rankings than your well designed, fully optimized corporate site. This type of information can hang around long after they are posted whether or not they were ever true or have since been fixed. And although these things may never go away completely, there are things that can be done to mitigate their impact:

  1. Control the message
    The key to any reputation management plan is to control the message. Make sure that all of your online communications follow the same guidelines. Wherever the company is mentioned, it should always be portrayed in the same light which means knowing what is being said on Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online outlets is a must. It is a big job but you need to set aside time to review these sites every week.
  2. What to monitor?
    Find a group of blogs or other social medial outlets to monitor. Not just your company but competition, industry as a whole and messages to see what is resonating. You can usually start this with a simple Google search to see what is going on in your space. But don’t stop there, it is also a good idea to keep en eye on employee blogs and personal websites to identify possible internal risks to your online reputation as well.
  3. Making sense of it all
    Not all conversations will affect the company. Focus on the ones that impact perception. Make note of the audience impacted using each platform as a guide (Twitter=followers, Facebook=Fans, etc). Know what is being said and to whom so you can determine the best way to respond.

Once you are set controlling, monitoring and interpreting, you will be ready if things go south and you suddenly find yourself facing some high-ranking negative information. If this happens, you can use social media to set it right again. Time is of the essence and with the recent roll out of Google’s Caffeine, and the fact that you have been paying attention, you can now make a bigger impact even faster. Keeping track of your online reputation allows you to take out those negative blips before they fester into any significant business impact by pushing them down to the level of insignificance in the search engines.