Protect your online reputation

Online reputation management (ORM) has become critical for most companies or establishments in their public relations strategy. With the advent and entrenchment of Social Media even more online conversations are happening today. At this moment, are you aware of what is being said about your brand or your company?

Whether right or wrong, what is being said online will undoubtedly have a major influence on how others perceive your company. I am of the opinion that online reputation is one of the biggest dangers for any company’s future success.

A negative review or comment about your business can cause serious damage online. Your reputation is everything. Trust, credibility and the value you offer are essential on the Web. One negative review or comment can destroy the trust you’ve spent years building and drive away potential customers.

The question is how to set up the right strategy to help protect your brand from negative influences? Dealing with these issues on behalf of clients on a daily basis, I have put together some pointers which, in my experience, will help you to maintain a positive online reputation.

1. Don’t be caught off guard

Ensure that you are aware of the flaws in your products and/or shortcomings in your service offerings.

Major reputation crises don’t just happen. They’re often caused by company weaknesses that get amplified and exposed.

You might not be able to correct these immediately, but be sure to identify these problem areas, as you can then be better prepared in the event that they become the focus of a negative sentiment or reputation attack.

Various issues can result in customer resentment and make its way onto the Web. Don’t be caught off guard. Know your shortcomings and anticipate the criticism.

2. Expect every little thing might make its way to the web

You should assume that every conversation you have, every memo issued, and every comment you make might be published on the web.

Your company’s online reputation is not just about what you put online, but as much about what others put online about you. The internet has a very wide reach and a negative sentiment about your company can go viral in a matter of minutes. So ensure that your company remains transparent in its dealings with employees and customers alike.

3. Create a great on-line impression

We meet with many groups that suffer from a poor online reputation, only to discover they’re neglecting their biggest asset – their own website content.

Prospective customers, partners as well as marketers and future employees are just a few of the parties that will turn to your own website when determining the reputation of your company. Ensure that they are able to find all the relevant information they would most probably need. It also helps having additional info which they might usually search for somewhere else. Link to reviews of your products and services, publish positive reviews, upload audiovisual elements, and make sure all content is social media shareable.

4. Choose the right social network

While social networks are great for building brand loyalty, you need to be selective in your approach.

Use the social networks where you are most likely to encounter conversations about your company or industry–and then create your social network profile there.

It is also of vast importance that you realize you would have to keep at it. Social Media, even more so than other marketing channels, requires engagement on a regular basis.

Setting up, for example, a Facebook or Twitter account and not actively managing these could in itself result in negative sentiment. By “actively managing”, we don’t mean posting or tweeting irrelevant info just to show activity. Supply relevant content that fits your target audience and respond timeously to requests or comments from you community.

Growing your community on these platforms are vital and your strategy needs to be incorporated across all your marketing channels. One of the most effective channels (regularly overlooked) to drive traffic to your social media platforms is your everyday email.

We use the Rocketseed Mail system distributed by Clikit Media and find it highly effective in growing these communities. (See example below).

If you don’t feel up to the task or don’t have the time to actively manage you should either hold off on Social Media (at your own peril) or contract someone to manage this on your behalf.

5. Google reputation

Google is not just a search engine; it is also a very powerful reputation engine. Where do prospective clients turn to first for information about your company or establishment? Yip, it’s Google.

By creating content with a positive sentiment now, it will ultimately ensure that in the event that negative sentiment about your company is published to the web, it is much less likely to make it to the first page of Google.

6. Monitor your online reputation

The digital highway is a two-way street. Your customers can reach out as easily as you can. And what they say about your company online can have a serious impact on your image.

The Internet affects every company’s reputation. Some companies are cheered as champions of innovation. Others become synonymous with bad customer service. It’s your responsibility to monitor what people are saying about your company and respond when necessary to keep your image in good standing.

There is a multitude of online reputation monitoring tools to choose from, but you need to ensure that the solution is the right one for your industry. We use a software service for our clients that specifically meets the unique needs of the hospitality industry (for more info click here). It ensures that our clients are able to access, monitor and receive reports across various platforms on the web. Invaluable in managing your online reputation!

Another great way of measuring customer service levels is by incorporating “service rating” banners within your everyday email. The Rocketseed Mail system allows our clients to track and respond to feedback in real time, ensuring that they can resolve any negative feedback prior to it becoming an even bigger issue (Example below).

This also bring us to our next point, the need to:

7. Respond Quickly

The moment you become aware of any negative sentiment or reputation attack you should take action immediately. The key is to respond quickly, address the situation and apologize if need be. Take these measures and you should hopefully be able to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

8. Consistency

Consistency is a vital component for any reputation management strategy. Your clients will forgive an isolated failure, but if you’re not consistently delivering the goods, they’ll find a company that does.

Halo Media
Dorian de Clerck has been in the Sales, Marketing and Hospitality industry for 18 years and is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Active Ice Studio. Active Ice Studio specializes in Digital Media design, development, online marketing and project management.
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Website: www.activeice.co.za
Twitter: twitter/ActiveIceStudio
Facebook: facebook.com/activeicestudio
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