Why wait for your online reputation to be tarnished when you can manage it as early as now? Online Reputation Management is important, especially during these times when anything and everything can be said about you and then it all gets publicized online. The Internet has a long memory span and even age-old issues can be quickly looked up in search engines. With the social media boom, it’s also very easy for anyone to post a blog, make a website, and create a video about you and make it go viral. Some pages and posts have been created with the sole objective to trash someone’s reputation or eliminate the competition. Sadly, some of the allegations are without merit and have given rise to cyber-bullying and a lot of emotional and financial damage.
That said, you have to take charge of your online reputation before someone else does. Even before things get ugly, you can do something to build your credibility and trust rating as a brand. There are ways by which you can ethically and proactively work on your online reputation.
Claim your name
I suggest that you do this as soon as you can. Take the cue from popular author Salman Rushdie who was forced to tweet under the handle @SalmanRushdie1 when he found out that an imposter had first dibs on the actual Salman Rushdie handle. From the onset, register at all the major social media sites so you can establish your brand name. A lot of fake profiles can crop up on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and people can easily mistake these fake accounts for authentic ones.
In general, make sure you claim your name on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. The Twitter microblogging site proactively verifies accounts of public personalities and celebrities by displaying a blue verified badge alongside their Twitter handles. This option isn’t available for the general public, but if you’re a known brand and haven’t received your badge yet, you’d have to wait. Some personalities have added authenticating words such as “TheReal” to their Twitter names to distinguish their handles from the fakes. Of course, anyone can do this.
If the social media site you joined doesn’t offer verification, you can ensure that people find your real accounts by linking your social media sites to your corporate website or blog. You can also place links to these social media accounts in your blog posts. Also, remember to list your blog in relevant blog directories.
Protect your account
Once you’ve claimed your name, you now have the task of protecting your account. Check the privacy settings of each social network you joined. If you want to build your online identity, you’d have to keep your profile public. But you can control what types of information gets shared on your sites. Remember to fill out your profile information and reread and review each post and upload. It would be best if your social media team has a designated Online Reputation Manager, a PR person, and a Marketing person, so your brand’s message remains consistent and well-crafted. You should also share your passwords only to employees who are given posting privileges. If an employee resigns, change passwords immediately. One employee from a company’s social media team got fired, and as an act of vengeance, she started posting the company’s dirty laundry on Facebook and Twitter. It would be an understatement to say that the company learned their lesson after the incident.
Ask for feedback
Don’t equate online reputation management for dishonest practices such as posting fake reviews of your product. Online reputation management can be honest and credible, depending on your practices as a company. One of the best things you can do is to take the initiative to ask for feedback from your connections. On my old selling site, I used to ask my buyers to give their honest feedback after each transaction. Many of the comments were valuable in helping me improve on my services. The comments were also a great way for potential customers to see that I was a credible seller. Anyone could easily have checked on the profiles of my reviewers and contacted them, as the reviewers also usually left a link to their sites or profiles.
Find out what people are saying about you
Be cognizant of what others are saying about you online. Google’s Me On the Web makes it easy for you to set up alerts and get notified when your personal data is placed on the Web. It can also help you remove unwanted content about you (like incorrect information) from online sources. Other tools you can use are Twitter Search, which lets you search Twitter for specific phrases; Trackur, which offers a diverse set of features to track your reputation, brand mentions, competition, and employees online; and Social Mention, which functions like Google Alerts for your other social media sites.
Make it a habit to check what others are saying about you by monitoring sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Answers, and Glassdoor. If ever you get a bad review, don’t strike back by badmouthing the poster. Instead, research the claims, and if they have merit, personally contact the reviewer and try to make amends. On the other hand, show your appreciation for positive reviews about your brand and give perks to your loyal customers. An inspiring example is Aaron Binder, the voice behind @WindsorYes, the Twitter account that serves as Windsor’s mouthpiece against Twitter users criticizing the Canadian City. Binder combats the negative tweets by injecting humor and making recommendations in his Twitter replies, instead of hitting back with aggression.
Engage your community
Last but not least, get involved in your social media sites. The best way to ward off wrong information and rumors is to create the right information and publicize it yourself. Connect your employees to your social media accounts, train them in social media usage, and encourage those who have posting access to create valuable online content. Keep your customers informed about your business and products and be responsive to their needs. You’d have to train your employees to recognize unhappy customers even before they get to posting bad reviews about your brand. Create the best content for your industry; come up with videos, press releases, podcasts, and guest posts. You can also take part in industry events such as charities, conferences, and workshops.
It takes authenticity, transparency, sincerity, and social media know-how to build your online reputation. Adhere to the best business practices and etiquette to protect your online identity.
This article is an original contribution by Iliana Snow.
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