Overwhelmingly, and tragically, online businesses approach the subject of reputation management entirely from the wrong angle. That is to say they don’t manage their reputation at all until disaster strikes.
Without any doubt Proactive Reputation Management is the way to go.
If you lay the groundwork your reputation is going to be a lot easier to protect. In fact, if you’re truly proactive in your approach, you should end up in a position where no one single miscreant could possibly affect the way your audience or client-base sees you. The stronger your online network, and the wider your reputation, the more difficult it would be for any entity to affect your status online.
So how do expert reputation management gurus go about protecting themselves? Most professionals talk about ‘strengthening your brand,’ but give very little concrete advice on how you should go about doing this.
Strategies like providing a great product or service are common sense, but it’s not always enough. There’s always going to be the odd person who doesn’t see your product for what it is and raises the roof because he or she feels they have been sold short.
It all starts with a rock-solid network. If you have good connections online, you will have an approachable group of supportive friends and associates who will be happy to help you out with some social media voting-up, and who may even bring along the strength of their networks too.
When a company creates an interactive online profile, it’s effectively telling its stakeholders -customers, investors, employees, etc- that it cares about the community and wants to be a part of the conversation. When an online reputation crisis hits, companies that have an social media profile are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt and more likely to be able to respond quickly, within that channel.
I advise my clients to look for the “centres of influence.” Where are their stakeholders hanging-out online? When you understand the types of social media your stakeholders are using -maybe they prefer blogs over forums -you’ll increase your chances of successfully engaging them.
Social media channels that you may find useful for establishing a thriving social network, depending on your market and your niche, include:
Next, consider a creating a large amount of press release activity. Certainly you can do some of it yourself, but if you could be mentioned in press releases issued by other companies that’s a whole lot better. If you have been generous with mentions for members of your own network, this shouldn’t be at all difficult to arrange.
Many social media channels also have associated tools that will help you to monitor your reputation free of charge. Take Cherpa for example. This application allows you to type in a keyword or phrase and you’ll immediately see where the buzz is across Twitter. It’s amazing. Of course it has many other uses, but reputation management is a major one. Personally, I see it as such a useful tool it’s almost worth joining Twitter just for the reputation management possibilities alone.
Another free tool to see where you’re mentioned online is Google Alerts. It has its uses but I find it quite limited, especially when you compare it with a comprehensive tracking tool.
Trackur is not free, but it’s the best reputation tracking software out there. If you have had problems in the past, or if you are expecting reputation management crises, then this would be a modest investment that could really pay off in a big way.
There is a class of social networking sites that is not so much ‘social’ as professional, and while these won’t do you much good if you have a lot of negative stuff directed at you on the Internet, they are still powerful resources for getting the word out about you positively.
LinkedIn has a facility for having your professional associates leave feedback about you. While the system can be abused, it still has it’s uses and the person leaving feedback has to have a LinkedIn account and cannot comment anonymously.
To get the maximum benefit from this kind of site, you need to take a different approach to that you’re used to on FaceBook or Twitter. To get an idea of what’s acceptable and what’s not, you might find these tips for using professional networking sites over at the Washington Post quite useful.