It goes without saying that online reputation management (sometimes known as ORM) is a term that has become grown considerably over the past 10 years.
If you are a business that operates online, and if you have one or more social media accounts or profiles, learning all about online reputation management is a must for 2019.
Within this article, I will discuss what online reputation management is, how it can affect your business, and what steps you can take to ensure a clean, healthy, and prosperous online reputation.
What is online reputation management?
Put simply, online reputation management is the curating of how a business (or a public person) is perceived by people on the internet. Sometimes a business will employ an online reputation management company to do this for them.
It will often involve the monitoring, reviewing, and influencing of information that is available online.
How a company is perceived on the internet is incredibly important, as it can affect whether a business succeeds or fails from day one.
As the online world is in a constant state of evolution, the way in which people interact and relate to businesses has changed dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years.
Whereas organisations once created websites and social profiles either to sell or promote their business, they are now the places that people turn to when they need help or information.
Why, as a person or a company, should you care about reputation management?
The old saying goes that a dissatisfied customer will tell more people when they have received a bad service than they would have if their experience had been positive.
With the advent of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this has never been truer, as someone can interact with hundreds or thousands of people with just the click of a button.
No matter how big your business might be, or what kind of services or products you provide, if your customers or consumers are active online, the chances are that they will be talking about you.
With this in mind, it is essential that companies allow for feedback, criticism, queries, and of course, praise, from their client base.
By allowing audiences to actively interact with your company, you can develop new levels of loyalty and trust, which means that, inevitably, your business will be viewed in a positive light, even among those who might not be entirely familiar with the brand name.
What happens when you don’t manage your reputation?
Although some people believe that reputation management is easy, there are times and occasions when companies have not paid proper due care and attention and have consequently paid the price.
Taking proper care of your online reputation is especially relevant when a business has a history of scandal, or when it operates in industries or verticals that are controversial or are generally unpopular with members of the public.
Below are some examples of when businesses have not paid proper attention to their online reputations, or have mismanaged them in some unfortunate way:
McDonald’s insults the President of the United States
On 16 March 2017 McDonald’s stunned the world when it sent the following tweet to millions of followers, causing one of the biggest social media firestorms of the year:
Within minutes the tweet received thousands of retweets and likes as well as the ire and negative comments of some of the President’s most loyal supporters and followers.
Although quickly deleted, the corporation was forced to issue an apology and blamed the errant tweet on a hack originating from an “outside source”.
Unfortunately for McDonald’s, the tweet spawned the hashtag #BoycottMcDonalds, which quickly spread throughout the social platform and inspired unwelcome discussion about other practices and concerns, such as workers’ rights and healthy eating.
Although the company dealt with the issue within a matter of hours, enforcing the tightest levels of security is key to maintaining good levels of reputation management.
Pepsi takes aim at Cristiano Ronaldo
In 2013, just before a crucial World Cup qualifying match between Sweden and Portugal, Pepsi’s Swedish marketing firm launched an advertising campaign across social media, depicting Cristiano Ronaldo as a voodoo doll.
In the images, which quickly went viral, the dolls were shown lying on train tracks or being smashed in the face with used Pepsi cans:
Although the images were undoubtedly popular among Swedish football fans, taking aim at one of the most popular and marketable players in the history of football did not go down well abroad.
Within a single day, Portuguese football fans created a Facebook group entitled “I will never drink Pepsi again”, and quickly attracted a membership of over 130,000 people.
It took only 24 hours before Pepsi pulled the adverts from rotation, while simultaneously issuing the following statement: “We would never want to put the sport or the spirit of competition in a negative light. We regret if people were offended by the posts; they were immediately taken down. We would like to extend our apologies to all concerned.”
The campaign goes to show that although impactful advertising can work for some, even the world’s biggest brands can mismanage their reputation through controversial and thoughtless advertising.
For those interested, Sweden went on to lose 3-2, with Ronaldo scoring all three goals.
Dove goes viral for the wrong reasons
When it comes to adverts, context is everything, and in October 2017, Dove released a Facebook picture advert that quickly went viral for entirely the wrong reasons.
Although posted with the best intentions, the advert featured a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal that she had in fact turned into a white woman. The video that stills were taken from made no such comparison:
The backlash was imminent and some even noted that the advertisement was strikingly similar to racist soap adverts that were produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In a statement, Dove said: “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us, and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”
The lesson here is clear, although the original ad was taken out of context from its video counterpart, a great deal of thought needs to be put into every single post, response, and campaign to ensure that it is watertight and creates a positive image of the brand.
Adverts that can be taken out of context can be quickly manipulated or used to cause offence, especially over social networks. With proper considerations and reputation management, this is one issue that could have been easily avoided.
What can you do to manage your personal business or brand?
Thankfully, with the correct rep management procedures in place, there are a vast number of tricks, tips, and tasks you can follow to ensure that your business or brand is being represented in the best possible way.
The following suggestions are tried and tested tips and solutions that can help you get started so that you can protect the reputation of your brand name in an online environment.
Track your social media mentions
Across the internet, there are a range of free tools that you can use so that you can actively track and monitor brand mentions.
This can be especially helpful for platforms such as Twitter, where people can easily discuss brands to large audiences without ever directly involving the brand or company in question.
One of the most popular and widely used tracking platforms is Hootsuite, where users can monitor social mentions across a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even WordPress.
The weekly reports are also very useful for when there are multiple people tracking one business profile.
If you’re about to launch a new service or embark on a new public relations campaign, it’s also worth setting up Google Alerts so that you can keep track of mentions across news websites and industry magazines.
I also like using BrandMentions for this task as it provides an effective monitoring and alerting service. It’s a paid service but worth it in my opinion.
Search for your business in search engines
By searching for your business name or brand in search engines, you will be able to get a clear idea of what other people can see when they search for your company.
Remember to use a variety of engines, such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, so that you are able to establish a clear picture of how your brand is perceived by search engines, as well as what people see in the search engine results.
If you’re using a Chrome browser, it is also worth searching using Incognito Mode so that the engines don’t use your previous searches and personal information, which can skew and personalise the results that are offered.
By searching for your business through an engine, you will also be able to find professional reviews (this is an important factor if your business works in catering or tourism), links to your website, or links to websites where mentions or discussions of your business are taking place.
If you find that a business or website is talking positively about your brand, you could even contact them and ask if they would link to your company so that their audience can easily find your own website.
Actively monitor online reviews
Now more than ever people are using online reviews to not only leave their feedback for businesses, but to also research organisations before doing business or purchasing products from them.
By searching for a business name into Google, more often than not, people are served with important contact information for that business, as well as any online reviews that previous customers or clients have made.
It is crucial that businesses actively monitor such reviews so that they can resolve bad reviews and issues, provide solutions to any criticism, and of course, thank people for positive reviews when they have received a good customer experience.
Remember to check the most common review sites, such as Yelp, Trustpilot, Which?, and on Google, so that you can quickly resolve any negative content.
Identify negative mentions and links of your brand and fix any immediate issues
Whether you find negative mentions on a social platform, a review site, or on a normal webpage, it is important to locate and identify these so that you can resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Although any negative mention is of course unfortunate, by dealing with the problem openly and honestly, it is possible for a brand to find redemption even from the most negative review.
By reviewing negative mentions, it also offers brands the opportunity to see where they can improve and evolve for the future.
Most importantly, if you do decide to respond to negative mentions, remember that a lot of thought needs to go into each response, even if the comment or review is something that you disagree with. Here is a few good templates you can use to respond to negative reviews.
Here is a good example of a restaurant owner responding to a negative review.
Image credit: Reddit
If the conversation looks like it is not going the way that you intended, offer to continue it in private, whether through a personal email or message, or even over the phone.
Ensure that you own all the social media accounts for your business
Although this might seem obvious, there are occasions where people will set up fake social accounts either to parody a company or brand, or to extort it in the hopes that they will pay large sums of money for the account.
If you’ve worked with a digital marketing or a reputation management company in the past, it’s also worth ensuring that you have complete control of your accounts and that they do not have login access to your pages and brand assets.
Create new assets for your business and build authority
Whether you’re creating a blog on a platform such as Medium, or a WordPress hubsite, by building a strong online presence for your brand, you can create positive content for new customers and clients to discover and interact with your business.
What’s more, you can use new assets to create relatable mission statements as well as content that your audience and customers find genuinely interesting.
For example, it’s not uncommon for furniture business to curate and grow audiences by talking about décor and home living; allowing them to create a positive and knowledgeable image for prospective customers.
As well as providing relevant and genuinely interesting content to your customers, this also serves a positive purpose for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which can help your website rank higher in results pages when people search for related words or terms in Google Search and other engines.
Reward customers and turn them into brand ambassadors
It has never been easier to reward regular customers and people who actively interact with your business online.
Although businesses should never pay for positive reviews to build a brand’s reputation, it is possible to offer the position of “brand ambassador” to some of your most loyal customers so that they will be compelled to spread the good word of your brand.
Through online platforms, it’s also easier to offer deals and discounts to returning customers, which can help provide a positive image to those that are researching your brand, or are looking to purchase its products or use its services.
Create a reputation management plan and remember that prevention is better than the cure
By using some of the above methods and tips, you can create a robust reputation management plan for your business.
Remember to set up social media monitoring, notifications and alerts across platforms to ensure that you don’t miss any mentions or opportunity for interaction.
Decide who in your company will be responsible for monitoring and interacting with customers, or whether you need to hire a reputation manager for a completely new position. You could also consider hiring a reputation management company to help you build a good reputation.
Once that you have agreed on who will be undertaking the responsibilities, start building positive and natural online profiles that will help grow your company’s reputation across multiple platforms and channels.
At the end of the day, it’s much easier to create a positive and wholesome reputation than it is to recover from a bad one.