Online reputation management (ORM) is quickly becoming an important branding tool for marketers as people are spending more and more time online. Branding is still a major part of traditional advertising, but with so much business done online now, there is a need to take it to a new level. What is being said about you? How can you find out what is being said about you or your company? How do you engage your audience to influence your brand positively? I will address these questions and more.
What Is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is the process of proactively tracking and managing your brand, company, or personality online. Additionally you need to have a plan in place to handle negative feedback. So whether you are selling a product/service or you have a personal blog, you need to consider how to manage your reputation online. Armed with new social media tools, people are empowered to express themselves, share, and even complain about their online (and offline) experiences. With online reputation management, you will be armed and ready to take advantage of these conversations to help promote your brand.
How to Manage Your Reputation Online
I mentioned that online reputation management is a process. This process can be broken down to three main steps:
- Track/monitor: Develop and maintain a system for monitoring public perception and listening to what people are saying about you or your brand.
- Evaluate/interpret: Evaluate what is being said and the impact it has, or will have in the future. Interpret the meaning behind online conversations. Are there any risks? How big or small are they?
- Act/engage: Respond to comments, good or bad, that are being said about you or your brand in a timely manner. Position yourself or your brand strategically by engaging and participating in online conversations.
Remember, this is an ongoing process and should be acted on frequently. Set apart some time each week to go through this process. If you go too long without at least doing step one, you are likely going to miss opportunities.
Tracking Your Online Reputation
Let’s look at methods to track your online reputation. First of all, you probably need a tool or two instead of scouring the Internet researching on your own. Alerts are a good way to monitor online conversations because you get an e-mail when certain key phrases are used in search engines or on social media sites like Twitter.
Here are just a couple to get you started:
Google Alerts – google.com/alerts
Yahoo Alerts – alerts.yahoo.com
TweetBeep – tweetbeep.com
If you want to actively do some research on certain key phrases then here are a couple of tools that you can use to monitor blogs or social media tags:
Technorati – Technorati.com
BlogPulse – www.blogpulse.com
TagBulb – tagbulb.com
Keotag Labs – keotag.com
There are many other tools but these should get you started. If you are a larger company or brand and need something a little more robust you should consider Scoutlabs or Radian6, which are fee-based tools.
Now that you have some tools, what should you monitor? You should monitor your company name, your brands, products or services, and even key executives. You may want to include positive and negative modifiers like “fail,” “sucks,” “kudos,” etc. This will help to target your search and focus in on overall sentiment.
Evaluating and Interpreting Online Conversations
As you discover what is being said about you or your company online, you need to evaluate the impact this has or will have on you. Understand that healthy discussions always have positives and negatives. So there will always be the good and the bad. Remember feedback is a gift. Many of your opportunities will come from negative feedback or comments. Learn from them. Use them to make your business better. Then get out there and tell everyone about the new improvements you are making. By doing so you are saying that “we hear what you are saying and we are acting to bring you a better product or service.” I have seen countless situations where a negative was turned into a positive.
Engage and Act
After you have monitored online conversations and have evaluated them, you are now ready to act. Respond to comments or feedback; engage in conversations already happening or start your own. As you do so, be honest and transparent in your approach. People like the fact that you are paying attention and are actively participating in the conversation, not just being talked about.
You should always be prepared to act. If negative PR happens, it can happen very quickly and you need to have everything in place to respond immediately if need be. So even if you don’t participate on a regular basis you should always be prepared to do so.
As you reach out and sprinkle your remarks via blogs, social media sites, or discussion boards, you will be providing search engines positive content to show up in search results. In most cases this will displace any negative search results that might exist.
Remember that tracking your online reputation helps to keep you and your organization informed. As you develop your online reputation, it creates buzz and helps to highlight information you want your audience to know. The benefits are well worth the effort.
Ron is off today. This column was originally published on Oct. 4, 2010 on ClickZ.
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