Online Reputation Management is a term thrown around a lot today.
However, it is a concept few understand in full, and even fewer employ correctly.
It is a marketing concept that has its roots in both social media and search, and it is as much about salvaging brands as it is about creating brands.
When thinking about how I would discuss the topic in full, without leaving anything out, and keeping a bit of entertainment in the mix, I had to think of a metaphor that fit ORM (online reputation management).
I am a big guy.
I am a lover of candy.
So here are my M&Ms of Online Reputation Management.
Too many people think ORM is about defending reputation issues once they arise.
ORM is about creating a management system that keeps reputation issues from ever arising.
The Customer is King
Before you even turn on your computer to setup and manage your online reputation you need to manage your customer service.
- Listen to your customers’ issues with your product or service and redesign based on those thoughts
- Add additional customer service outlets
- Telephone customer service
- Live site chat
- Customer forums
- Hire the right people to perform your customer service. Remember that if the phone call is going to upset your customer more it isn’t worth having a customer service phone line.
- Be proactive with your customer service. Send thank you notes, prefered customer discounts, or coupon codes. Let your customers know how much you value them.
- Never say no to a customer. Do whatever you can to say yes, realizing once you utter that “no” you likely lose that customer forever.
Once your customer service system is fully established it is time to open up your laptop and put on your SEO hat.
The #1 reputation issue facing companies in terms of search, are complaint sites such as the controversial RipOffReport.com.
Sites such as RipOffReport.com rank well in the engines, and often times for the names of brands and companies. This can create an ORM headache as millions of Internet users utilize search engines as their gateway to purchasing decisions.
The best way to combat these sites is to create a branded SERP (searc engine results page) that will keep the complaint sites of the first page.
You can create a branded SERP by utilizing UGC and Social Media sites to create content rich pages based on your brand. Twitter.com, FriendFeed, Youtube, and Flickr.com all provide great platforms for creating pages with brand equity.
The first step in this step in this strategy is both an offensive and defensive one, snag up all of your company’s names (CEOs names, high visibility employee’s names) in the social networks.
Below find a SlideShare presentation with some of my tips on this strategy.
Creating a Network of Publishers
After you have solidified SERP dominance it is time to look towards managing your reputation in the publishing and social media communities.
Every niche on the Internet has hundreds of blogs dedicated to it.
All of those blogs have publishers looking for content.
Befriend the publishers in your niche and feed them content. This could become a symbotic relationship if you ever need to put out a fire in your market.
However, even if you fair well on the web, those publishers can help get your message out when you have new product or service launches.
Even if you have a great plan in place to manage your online reputation hiccups can happen.
You cannot please all of the people all of the time.
It is important that once you have your ORM management in play you create a quality monitoring plan.
- Google Alerts
- Snydey Web
- Yahoo Pipes
- Tweet Scan
The Expensive (Robust)
You should approach your online monitoring system like any analytics system, you should put more energy into deciphering and utilizing the data than simply gathering the data.
An expensive shiny tool is great, and everyone loves the big name toy, but if you aren’t doing anything with your ORM system, then the guy using Google Alerts and spending time figuring out what that information means in terms of their reputation and product/service development is beating you.
Take the time to look at the data you are retrieving from your tools and make important decisions that can effect your future online reputation.
One of the main functions of the your online reputation strategy needs to be a measurement of negative and positive utterances of your key terms online.
There is a wealth of information in these simple data sets.
How are products being accepted by consumers?
How is your customer service being viewed?
All of these questions can be answered by viewing how the Internet community is discussing you in terms of approval and disapproval.
Aproach it Like Its 1999
Before we became such a “give to me now” industry, we used to do things called Focus Groups.
These groups were comprised of differing types of prospective customers, whom marketers could bounce ideas off of to help better products and marketing approaches.
Fast forward to the days of the Google Machine.
You can now use the data extracted from your monitoring system as a Focus Group of the new millenium.
Dig through the data.
Look at the language your customers are using to describe your product. Isn’t that the language you are going to use when selling your product?
Take negative sentiment and use it to reshape products and services. This could increase sales and have an effect on your profits and losses. Combining old school marketing mentality with new school tools isn’t outdated thinking its just smart.
This is probably the most important section of the M & Ms.
Don’t approach your online reputation management form the perspective of a company drone, approach it as a mediator.
In order to get customers to buy into your effort to better your online reputation, you need become transparent, and look out for the best interest of your customer as much as your company.
This is a sound business ethics concept regardless.
However, in the world of the social web it becomes increasingly important.
Stone walling for a company, and keeping a corporate face, and add gas to a consumer flame ware. By taking down that wall, admiting wrong doing, and acting as a mediator between “the brand” and “the customer” you can solve most issues with ease. You may even be able to turn negative sentiment into positive sentiment with your willingness to put the customer first.
The companies that are not willing to make these strategic changes are the same companies that have ongoing online reputation issues.
Learn from their mistakes, and mediate.
And there you have them…
My M&Ms of online reputation management.
If you setup a comprehensive plan focusing on each of these factors within your company, you will be ready for online reputation issues both big and small.
You will also be prepared to utilize the wealth of information available on the web to restructure your product, service, or even business to meet the difficulties that face all companies as they grow and age.
Online reputation management isn’t just about saving revenue, its about generating it as well.