Online Reputation Management For Dummies
Whether you're a business, a blogger, or even a Hollywood star, online reputation management is an important part of your life. Thanks to the Internet and social media, it's easy for customers to disseminate information (good and bad) to an increasingly large audience. So, be prepared: Establish a response plan, and build a solid online foundation for your reputation. And, above all, when crises arise, take action quickly.
Getting Started with Online Reputation Management
It's essential for you to take charge of cultivating a positive reputation for your online brand and for yourself. It can make the difference between getting the kind of professional opportunities you deserve and missing out, based on how you look next to your competitors online.
When you're getting started managing your reputation online be sure to consider the following guidelines:
Set reasonable boundaries for what kinds of information you will share anywhere online. Some people choose to avoid talking about their kids, in order to spare them potential privacy issues and embarrassment. Others share everything as part of an online scrapbook approach. Decide ahead of time what you want to share about so that you can remain consistent and protect your privacy.
Understand that transparency is for brands, not people. People often talk about being transparent and authentic online as though those terms are interchangeable. Transparency, however, is something only brands have to consider. Being transparent refers more to when an oil company has a leak and needs to report what's happened and what's being done about it to the public without holding back vital information. Individuals, on the other hand, don't have to worry about that. No one expects transparency from them. However, an individual can benefit from being as authentic as possible online — meaning that you're the same person online as you are when you're, say, at the grocery store. It's an integrity issue.
Decide that prevention is the best cure. Paying attention to what you're presenting to the world via a Google search (for starters) is key to preventing online reputation management trouble. Create opportunities to share valuable, good news about you and your brand, if applicable.
Assess whether you need to fly solo or assemble an online monitoring team for your everyday strategy. A lot of this depends on the size of your organization and your budget. It's always better to be "loaded for bear" than struggling and missing important information, especially if an online reputation crisis should start escalating.
Be prepared. It's a great motto! One of the best things you can do to strengthen your online reputation management strategy is to brainstorm for nightmare scenarios with a senior level team, if possible. Come up with worst-case scenarios and what the best remedies and plans of action online would be for that event. Just having something like this is like having extra money in the bank for a rainy day.
Focus your energies by setting clear goals. If you never set a clear goal you never know whether you've reached it! Setting "being popular" online is a nebulous term because it can mean different things at different times in different contexts. Sounds a little different, doesn't it?
Take a look at your Facebook privacy settings, as applicable. No matter what privacy settings you set on photos you share on Facebook, somebody can always figure out a way to share them. Remember that the lines have blurred. Employers tend to look you up on Facebook and other social networks to see what you're like or what you did over the weekend. Assume that Facebook is never the place to post pictures you wouldn't want your Grandma or employer to see online and you'll be in the best shape possible.
Use a professional e-mail address. Lots of people use addresses like "snookibunnies2cute" without considering that they might be giving the wrong impression. Use a professional e-mail address for all your business-related correspondence. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Brand Protection: Building a Team to Manage Your Online Reputation
The smartest thing you can do to establish and protect your online reputation is to craft a strategy that's going to work for you and your organization. Many times a single person can ran a day-to-day engagement to implement that strategy, but you may discover that you need to create a team of people devoted to the task. Either approach can work well, but be sure to consider the following:
One person can work miracles for a small, relatively quiet organization by using a kitchen timer. Kitchen egg timers can be a lifesaver for time management when you're researching hypnotic social networks like *cough* Facebook. Set your timer for 15 minutes and then move on to new tasks. Do this a few times a day so you stay on course.
Recruit people who are naturally friendly. Introverts can be outstanding at setting up monitoring tools, interpreting analytics, and doing just about anything besides engaging with others, even online. However, interaction energizes extroverts. These folks will need that egg timer to remind them that it's time to get offline again!
Closely consider who you will hire. Being outgoing is just a start. Make sure that your prospective team members are diplomatic, cool under pressure, and emotionally mature.
Maintain a rotating schedule for online engagement. Weekends are a great time to take time off and forget about work for a while — unless you're responsible for monitoring a brand online. The majority of online crises start over the weekend. Like wildfires, they spark unobserved and quickly blossom into a full conflagrations. Create an equitable rotation where people check in a few times throughout weekends and evenings and stick with it.
Ongoing training and objective feedback keep your team in top shape. During an escalating online crisis, maintaining your team's enthusiastic support even while you hold them to high standards works like having lots of money in the bank.
Create a senior level crisis team. This team needs to have people from Human Resources, Marketing, Legal, PR, and at least one executive level representative. Together, they need to brainstorm for worst case scenarios and concoct effective remedies for both the problem and the way that they would transparently deal with it via social media and the blogosphere.
Planning ahead. Investigate back up team members that can effectively pitch in during an escalating crisis. This might include hiring an outside firm.
Listening Online to Develop Your Online Reputation
Listening to what people are saying is the basis for all harmonious communication. When you can show people that you're listening — and engage with them in a way that makes them feel understood — is very good business. And doing so can catapult your online reputation to greater heights. As you pull together your reputation-monitoring strategy, keep in mind the following considerations:
Set up Google Alerts. This is a free service that you can use to dive surprisingly deep into what people are saying about any search term — even your competitor's names!
Research your best "search engine optimization" keywords. This might sound a little intimidating right now, but it's relatively simple. Keywords are the words that people type into the "search" window on their browser when they want to find you. By choosing the right combinations of keywords, you can hit the sweet spot ("optimize") and attract more people than ever.
Have a look at popular aggregators. It's more fun to monitor your social profiles when you have them all in front of you on a single dashboard. Aggregators are tools that can do this, as well as serve up some pretty powerful features, such as allowing you to schedule updates in advance and work on campaigns as an integrated, secured team. Some of them also have some pretty impressive analytics.
Stop drinking from a firehose. Consider setting up lists on your social networks so that you can listen to key groups of people more closely and share their content, as desired.
Be a trend setter — or at least be aware of them. Google Trends is another free tool that keeps you aware of what's hot online at any given time. You get bonus points for figuring out how to relate these terms to your business in your status updates and blog posts.
Collect all the information you want together into one stream of information via Yahoo Pipes. You can have a grand time grouping interesting streams into one flow of information that's delivered right to you via e-mail. It can even be embedded onto your site via a badge. This service is also free to Yahoo account holders.
Branding: How to Establish Your Online Reputation
After you've established a system for determining what people are saying about you, your brand, and your industry (and possibly even your competitors reputations!), it's time to establish your online reputation. Developing your brand's voice is an art and a science all rolled into one.
As you start establishing your online reputation, be sure to consider the following:
Remember that quality of relationships trumps quantity of relationships every time. Hiring a college student to get 100 of their friends to "like" your page may increase your numbers, but isn't going to help you have genuine brand ambassadors. There are no sustainable shortcuts.
Keep it fresh. If the comments on your blog and social networks are old, search engines won't be as fond of you. Share quality content on a regular basis for the best results.
Focus where you get the best results. There will always be a new, hot social network, but it won't always be a good fit for your brand. Realistically consider your time management options and your probable success with this medium, and don't spread your influence too thin.
Create entertaining messages that people want to share. Remember that they're interested in enchanting their own audiences as well.
Pull it all together. If you've done SEO keyword research, by all means work those terms into your blog titles and posts as artfully and relevantly as possible. Some people write "for Google," but people with the most vibrant brands online write content for people to read, enjoy, and share.
"Picture" your brand as a positive online resource via using visuals to communicate. This includes photography, illustrations, infographics, cartoons, videos, and much more.
Remember that videos are shared more on Facebook than any other type of file. If you can create a great video or link a popular one to your brand in a clever way, then by all means share it.
Cultivate relationships with your most enthusiastic brand supporters online. Nobody will share your updates faster or defend you more passionately and from a place of credibility like a true brand ambassador when you've cultivated a healthy relationship online.
Brand Management: How to Respond to an Online-Reputation Crisis
When it comes to managing an online-reputation crisis, remember this adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But if you're in the middle of a crisis that could damage your brand, warnings don't work — you need to take action.
No matter what your situation, you will always do well to consider the following:
Spot the issue as early as possible via monitoring. Respond to people in real time as much as possible. Never leave people hanging for long, or else they will tend to share more emotionally. This is how issues escalate.
Be transparent via your brand. If there's a problem admit to it, apologize graciously, and tell what's being done to address the problem.
Keep people up to date. As new developments arise, let people know online.
Talk to your friends. During a crisis it's really effective to reach out to your brand ambassadors, as is appropriate. Don't impose on them, but if you happen to communicate with some during the crisis be sure to let them know what's going on and how much you would appreciate them being the first to share the news with their audiences online.
Reach out to industry leaders. If you have a relationship with a few industry leaders and the situation calls for it, don't be shy. Remember that your situation may well garner attention for those leaders' own blogs as they stand up for yours.
Turn lemons into lemonade. At every chance, look for opportunities to learn and improve from feedback.
Sort through the silly comments. All comments are not the same in terms of how important they are to your reputation online. Research your key commenters to see what kind of online influence they have. If they don't have much and their comments are out of touch, then either gently respond once or ignore.
Don't feed the fire. Appeasing a troublemaker or troll only makes them bolder. Set healthy boundaries for what your brand will and won't do in order to make people happy and stick by them where at all possible.
Reward your awesome team afterward. Managing a crisis online is emotionally and physically draining work. Publicly recognize your team for their brilliance and loyalty after the crisis is over and show them how much you genuinely appreciate them.