HOW TO MONITOR, MANAGE AND IMPROVE YOUR COMPANY’S ONLINE REPUTATION
Hopefully you’ve never had that sickening feeling when you self-Google and the top result is someone slamming your company, your brand or yourself.
And now it’s even more challenging as conversations about your company are taking place at a variety of social media sites–such as Facebook or Twitter–that don’t necessarily rank well at Google, but can still influence your potential customers.
There are plenty of Web sites, applications and companies that will help you monitor and manage your online reputation…for a fee. Let’s talk about what you can do for little to no cost.
Note: when I talk about “company keywords” below I mean your company name, your brands, your personnel and yourself.
How to Monitor Your Online Reputation
There are dozens—if not hundreds—of online reputation tools, many with overlapping features. Here are a few good places to start:
- Google.com – Since many potential customers will Google your business, it’s important to see what they see. If you have a Google account, make sure you’re logged out so you see results that haven’t been colored by your previous searches.
- Search.Twitter.com – This is a real time search of what people are discussing at Twitter. Just plug in your company keywords to see what people are saying about you. You can even subscribe to an RSS feed of the results.
- Google Alerts or Yahoo Alerts – Get blog posts, news stories and more emailed to you that contain company keywords.
Discussion Forums – If there are some popular discussion forums where your audience can be found, it’s important to at least monitor conversations going on there by performing the occasional search.
- Yelp, TripAdvisor and similar sites – Many people post their experiences with restaurants, hotels, and even doctors and plumbers to sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Find out what sites are popular in your industry and see what people are saying about you.
How to Manage Your Online Reputation
I want to be absolutely clear that this next section isn’t about how to obfuscate your online reputation; if you’re doing a really bad job out there, nothing in the next section is going to save your bacon. You should skip down to the third bullet in How to Improve Your Online Reputation below.
One of the best things you can do to manage people’s first impression of you is by “owning” the first page in Google for your company keywords, pushing negative feedback to page two or beyond. Here’s how:
- Search engine optimize your site. You should rank well for your company name unless 1) you have the world’s most generic company name, or 2) your Web developer didn’t know the first thing about SEO. Make sure you rank well for all your company keywords.
- Start/Build up your company blog. A blog will help with search, reputation, establishing your expertise and more. It also allows people to get to know you better, which can build loyalty and diminish animosity. In addition, a blog can take up more of those “page one” search engine results.
- Get involved in a wide variety of social media sites. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Plaxo. These social media sites and others can all help bolster your site’s search engine visibility and take up additional page one results.
- Post videos to YouTube. Google loves YouTube videos and often places them as page one results.
How to Improve Your Online Reputation
- Engage your fan base. Do customers send you complimentary letters and emails? You may want to thank them, and ask if they’d be willing to post something publicly on your behalf. Direct them to review you on Google maps, Yelp, LinkedIn or other sites that may be specific to your industry. Never create personas to defend or promote you. Companies such as Sony and Walmart have discovered the wrath of people who feel they have been lied to or betrayed.
- Negative feedback: engage or ignore?This is a difficult question to answer. If someone is posting factually incorrect information about you, it might make sense to calmly and evenhandedly correct that information. However, if you’ve got a crank out there it might make more sense just to ignore them.
You may also want to look at that person’s sphere of influence as a deciding factor. If they have few Twitter followers or a blog that attracts few readers or comments, the simplest answer may be to just let sleeping dogs lie. Never get into a flame war.
- Be a better company. You know, maybe there’s something to those complaints on Angie’s Listabout your staff’s use of foul language in front of their kids or the dozens of blog posts about how your skin care product turned people’s skin purple. The silver lining about online negative feedback is at least you can respond to it.
If it’s warranted, apologize for a surly waiter or a dirty hotel room, offer compensation and do it right below the original complaint. People can be amazingly forgiving when they feel you’re listening.
Use monitoring tools to see what people are saying about you, and use a combination of search engine optimization and social media to make sure customers’ first impression of your business is a good one.
While the Internet and social media may give customers unfettered ability to gripe and complain, it also gives you the ability to improve and respond to their feedback.
These conversations are going on whether you’re listening or not. If you truly want to improve your company’s online reputation, it only makes sense to listen and participate.
President, flyte new media