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.
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.
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.