The Rapid Evolution of Reputation Management Strategies

ReputationManagementTracks3

The prototypical reputation management strategy is undergoing a rapid evolution as the means in which businesses communicate with their target markets are increasingly gravitating toward social media sites. It was not long ago that the standard online reputation management campaign, at its foundation, was very much like the public relations format based in traditional media outlets such as print, radio and television.

In both cases, while the mode of content delivery was different, the basic strategy would be to create a large enough suite of positive content to dilute the existing negative content surrounding the subject and then see to it that this content got in front of as many people as possible. In the traditional version, this content could be distributed en mass through all the same venues that contained negative information with the objective of drowning out the damaging material.

In the online version, the suite of positive content would distributed and then search engine optimized to occupy as many of the top listings on the search engine results pages as possible. Much like traditional PR, the objective was the same; bury negative material with positive content. In both situations, the reputation manager would do the talking while the public listened, with little in the way of engagement between the two parties.

This format of controlling what the public and consumers see and don’t see has now been rendered as basically irrelevant due to the advent of social media, which has changed the publishing of content from a one-way street to one where user generated content can be published by anyone with computer/smart phone and internet access. Additionally, the search engines are looking to signals from social media sites as true reference points for the credibility and relevance of businesses in determining how they rank on their results pages. This is an extremely important issue in reputation management as search engines strive to surface the pages that are the most relevant to their users’ search terms, whether highly ranked listings are positive or negative for the related business.

In this new paradigm, consumers have as much or more influence over the purchasing decisions of their followers as the businesses trying to sell to them and the process of branding is increasingly dependent on the conversations that occur between members of a business’ social media community. Engagement is now the name of the game, thus necessitating that reputation management strategies evolve to include a variety of social media platforms, as well as the two-way communication that serves as the foundation of this medium.

The Convergence of Reputation Management, SEO and Social Media and What it Means for Your Business

RM logo

As reputation management, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media continue their path to convergence, the ways in which businesses communicate with their customers, build their brand, and market their products are evolving as well. Here is a short list on how these trends can strengthen your business, your brand, and your bottom line:

  • The transition to highly effective reputation management, SEO, and marketing at a lower cost – The convergence of digital marketing venues is allowing companies to integrate branding and sales departments, which eliminates redundancies, saves money, and makes client acquisition through a variety of actions more effective. Companies that have outsourced these activities can experience the same benefits by working with a single company that coordinates and integrates marketing, media, search and branding campaigns. 
  • Participating in social media will be required for high rankings on the search engines – The search engines continue to shift their algorithms toward signals that originate from social media sites and away from traditional content distribution and link building strategies. Reputation management and SEO strategies that don’t incorporate social media initiatives will witness deteriorating results on the search engine results pages (SERPs) as the farming out of content and links falls out of favor at Google, Bing, and other search engines.
  • The convergence of sales and customer service personnel – As customer engagement migrates toward social media sites, the people tasked with customer engagement will have to possess a range of skill sets that includes marketing, customer service, brand building, reputation management, etc. Gone are the days when a staffer in customer service could put a caller on hold so that someone in marketing can talk to the customer about a product upgrade. Instead, the businesses that will achieve the best results in social media will have personnel that can provide solid customer service, speak with knowledge about products/services, and avoid reputation management issues while speaking in the context of brand building in the view of the customer and anyone else that reads the thread.

Social media is becoming such a huge game changer that even the experts and those at the forefront of the medium can’t say with certainty where it’s going to go. Even so, there are many distinct advantages for businesses that understand and adapt to the convergence of reputation management, SEO, and social media. Lastly, if the search engines and active consumers are migrating to social media, it only makes sense for businesses to do the same.

Social Media’s New Role in Reputation Management

Reputation-Management-Deluxe-Package

There is a new player in the reputation management arena and its name is social media. While it is now a well known fact that social media is revolutionizing everything from the way people communicate to marketing strategies for businesses, this new medium is also changing ways in which businesses can manage their online reputations.

Here are the areas in which social media can play a significant role in reputation management for businesses:

* Building a loyal following by providing valuable content, engaging with the community, and developing relationships by being a good “social” citizenSocial media is not only about what a company says about itself, it’s about what the business’ community is saying about the company as well. Building a loyal following that believes in what a company is doing and shares positive commentary with their networks can be a powerful weapon against posts that contain negative content. While a supportive community can’t eliminate negative commentary, their positive comments, shares, likes, etc. can greatly dilute comments that might otherwise hurt a company’s reputation.
* The provision of a variety of ways in which businesses can convey their message to their markets – The typical objective of a reputation management campaign is to control as much of the content that consumers see when they use search terms related to the sponsoring company. What often gets forgotten in this race to occupy high search engine rankings is the opportunity to create content that can double as marketing materials as well. Looked at in this light, deploying content through the variety of multimedia options available on social media platforms can both protect and build and company’s reputation while also serving as effective marketing and brand building materials.
* Playing a significant role in the algorithms used by search engines to determine rankings on their results pages – In their search to find SEO signals that are difficult to manipulate, the search engines have found that social media offers virtually everything they have been looking for in terms of links, content sharing, followers, etc. To that end, the search engines are increasingly prioritizing SEO signals originating from social media sites in the algorithms used to rank web pages in their results.

Reputation managers, due to the inherent advantages, are now essentially obligated to integrate social media sites into their reputation management campaigns. To do otherwise, as the saying goes, “Is like bringing a knife to a gunfight”.

Social Media Mistakes that can Keep You from Reaching Your Reputation Management Objectives

internet-reputation

Despite social media’s expanding role in terms of executing successful reputation management initiatives, many businesses are finding out that just showing up and creating a company page on numerous network sites is not going to help them reach their objectives. While this basic misperception can be corrected quickly, there are several common social media mistakes that prevent businesses from reaching their reputation management objectives over the long term.

These mistakes include:

* Spreading social media initiatives over too many networks – For many business owners the temptation is to set up accounts on every “hot” network to try to cover as much ground as possible. While this thought makes sense on the surface, the reality is that most businesses don’t have the resources to operate successfully on more than a few social media networks, especially as they are just getting started. Instead, launch your social media campaign by selecting small number of networks that will provide the best platform for your business and allocate the resources to ensure optimal performance.
* Losing interest – All reputation management campaigns take time to start showing results and the social media aspect will be no different. Remember, you’re engaging in your selected networks to establish a presence and build a relationship with your existing and potential customers. Your reputation management campaign will be a part of this process, all of which will take time to build. Losing interest and either neglecting your networks or changing strategies before they have a chance to play out will leave your reputation management initiatives in a perpetual state of stasis and/or rebuilding.
* Failure to communicate – Building your community and experiencing the benefits as your network follows your business, engages with it, and shares your content with their networks requires communication skills on a variety of levels. From the second a visitor first lands on one of your social media pages, the quality of the messaging you have set up will play a major role in whether that visitor decides to stick around or not. Having the wrong people in place for marketing, content creation, and interacting with your market can work against everything you have worked for by planting seeds of doubt that your business is the best solution for your customers’ needs.

Getting your reputation management initiatives in social media off to a good start requires both an understanding of what to expect and the avoidance of commonly made mistakes. By developing a strategy that works within your budget, committing enough time to see it through, and effectively communicating with your message, your business will be well on the way to experiencing the growing array of benefits provided in the social media arena.

Reputation Management: 3 Types of Posts that You Should Think About Before Going Public on Social Media Platforms

brand-reputation-management-300x300

While social media sites continue to provide an increasing number of opportunities for businesses, they also present the opportunity for businesses to ignite their own reputation management issues. One the ways in which these issues arise is by posting things that should never be posted, whether they go public in the heat of the moment or as an off-handed comment.

With the amount of trouble that can be generated by a single post, taking a step back to think about how it may be received is the best way to avoid getting into a self-made reputation management debacle. Here are 3 of the most dangerous types of posts that should definitely be contemplated before making them public on social media sites:

  1. The heated counter-attack – These posts are usually written in response to critical comments posted on social media sites relating to the subject company, its products, services, employees, etc. The problem with a counter-attacking post to these types of comments is that it automatically reflects poorly on the business and positions the person who made the complaint as a victim, no matter how abusive the original comment may have been. Sharing of the business’ post can then ensue, making the business look like a bully to its customers and providing evidence that the person making the complaint was right all along.
  2. Posts on divisive topics – This type of discourse may be posted in response to events in the news or just because someone feels like expressing an opinion. Either way, commenting on divisive issues on the company’s social media pages is probably a 50/50 proposition where one half of those who see the post agree with it and move on while the other half becomes offended, put off, or angered to the point where they initiate plans to boycott your business.
  3. Flippant and/or condescending replies – These types of comments may not start the kind of reputation management firestorm that the first two types of replies are capable of but they still reflect poorly on the business that posts them. That being said, posting these types of replies on a consistent basis can paint a picture of a company that really does not care about its customers, a reputation management problem in and of itself.

Many reputation management issues in social media are of a self-inflicted nature. Taking a minute to think about how these types of comments will reflect back on the company can help to avoid making the kind of mistakes that can go viral in a bad way.

Online Reputation Management – Should You Comment and Respond to Negative Posts

The kneejerk reaction to negative reviews or commentary is to respond directly to the detractor. The question is, should a company respond to these posts?

Looking at it from the perspective of pure SEO, users search for a brand or product on the search engines using specific search terms. A savvy company will optimize the website and other content around the same set of search terms. It’s often the case that when a reputation management team starts repair work, they have to optimize for a different set of keywords. The reason for the new search terms is that users looking for information about certain negative reports about the company will search with keywords relating to the negative content. For example, while buyers will search using a product name, users looking for negative posts will use the product name plus “sucks” or “scam”.

Online reputation management teams have to optimize their content through such keywords so that positive content will be returned for the negative searches. Because search engines provide higher SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to web pages that are regularly updated, making comments on a negative review can actually raise its ranking by adding fresh and unique content to the page.These responses can trigger other comments adding even more fresh content to the page. Others joining the fray would make the online reputation management work even tougher and could lead to a bigger crisis.

Once a discussion gains momentum, the thread could go viral pushing it beyond the control of even the best reputation management services team. This goes counter to what the objectives of an online reputation management would be; instead of burying the negative content the fresh commentary would end up boosting the page ranks of those posts. Instead, using the same platform and starting a new conversational thread works much better by moving away from the negative posts which prevents them from benefiting from the fresh comments. While there are situations where threads must be joined, care must be taken to ensure that a crisis is not made worse by posting a hasty response.

For more information on handling a reputation crises, visit: http://www.reputationmanagementllc.com/ or call (866) 530 7703.

Reputation Management: Protecting Virtual Assets

Statistics show that searches which are specific to the name of a company, product, and/or service represent somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of all organic search traffic that ends up clicking through to a website. These types of specific searches are often associated with the late stages of the buy cycle, where the decision has been made and the searcher is simply trying to decide where the purchase will be made.

These late cycle searches typically result in the highest conversion rates, the longest time spent on a site, and the most pages per visit. These are searches that are paying your bills and making a large contribution to your bottom line. It’s surprising then that these searches are often ignored when it comes to protecting the company’s online reputation.

Leaving these search terms unprotected often results in nightmare reputation management scenarios when negative content shows up on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of branded search terms. These links can include unfavorable reviews from websites companies such as Yelp, Google Places, or any of the multitudes of sites where consumer feedback can be posted and seen by anyone on the web. If you consider how valuable these search terms are, they actually become some of the most important assets of an online business. As such, they should be protected and here’s how to do it:

  • Building social channels around your brand – This is a quick and relatively easy way to populate your brand’s SERP with content that you control. These channels include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter but don’t stop there.
  • Build your fan base – Local businesses are increasingly viewed at offsite user review sites like Yelp to determine where consumers are going to spend their money. While asking for reviews may seem awkward and is frowned upon by these sites, you can let happy customers know that your business is listed on those sites with buttons on your site that link to the conversations on these sites.
  • Optimize your web assets – Don’t miss the opportunity to optimize your social media pages, offsite blog, etc. with your most lucrative search terms.

You’ve probably insured the valuable physical assets of your company. Now it’s time to protect the assets that are driving high converting traffic to your site. For more information, visit: http://www.reputationmanagementllc.com/ or call (866) 530 7703.

Googles Book About You

As the saying goes, “You can’t read a book by its cover”. Maybe there should be a new asterisk added that states, “Unless Google writes the book”. That is increasingly the case as people go to Google to check out the past of people they may have a personal interest in, they’re contemplating to hire, or thinking of doing business with.

You can see for yourself by entering your name as search term in Google. This is actually a good thing to do anyway, just so you can get out ahead of anything that may be less than flattering. The results will depend on how common your name is. If it’s an uncommon name you’ll probably see your related results. If you name is relatively common, refine the search by adding terms like your hometown, school, employer, etc. Either way, you’ll probably find links ranging somewhere in between the good and the ugly.

While most of the links may be innocuous like social media profiles, you may have something in there that’s going to cost you in one way or another. While you may have forgotten about certain things in your life, the internet never does. If you feel that what you’re seeing is going to work against you, it may be time to consider some reputation management to rewrite the book that Google is showing to the world. The purpose of this re-write will be to push the negative content off of page one with an ultimate goal of pushing it lower than page three.

Depending on where the negative content originated, the process of re-writing your Google book could be relatively simple or could take some professional management. Either way, the primary focus of your reputation management campaign will most likely focus on the creation of online content which is linked to your name.

There are many ways to go about this including participating in social media sites, creating a personal blog, and/or submitting articles to directories like EzineArticles and HubPages. The key in creating a blog and/or articles is to remember that this new content is what is going to be seen when new searches for your name are done.

For more information on your personal reputation management, visit: http://www.reputationmanagementllc.com/ or call (866) 530 7703.

Becoming Your own Worst Enemy in Reputation Management

Jeff Cox, a Deputy Attorney General in Indiana is the latest example of people that blow themselves up on social media sites. His mistake? Mr. Cox retweeted a Mother Jones report on the protests occurring in Wisconsin over bargaining rights for state employees, which by itself wouldn’t have been a problem. What was a problem was that he added “Use live ammunition.” to the retweet. Mother Jones responded with an article headlined “Use Live Ammunition against Wisconsin protesters.” The result for Mr. Cox was that he was fired by the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

When challenged by Mother Jones about his retweet Mr. Cox replied “It was satirical, I was only trying to make people think.” Well, that didn’t fly very well either, especially in light of the recent shootings in Arizona. The suggestion from a deputy attorney general to use live ammunition on protestors and the flippant remarks that followed from him generated a firestorm of commentary involving Mr. Cox and the Mother Jones article.

In blowing up his online reputation with an ill-advised tweet and non-answers to questions from Mother Jones, Mr. Cox not only cost himself a job, he’s now got a link about the whole ordeal on the search engines which will be seen by anyone that searches for him. This will likely include future employers, rivals, etc. The link is likely to have a strong degree of staying power due to the amount of links which went back to the Mother Jones article. While the site doesn’t carry the authority that CNN does, for example, the Mother Jones link is going to be a tough one to displace on the search engine results pages even under the most rigorous of reputation management campaigns.
If this had happened prior to the advent of social media sites, this episode probably would have taken place in the form of an email and would not have seen the light of day unless it was leaked. Instead, Mr. Cox’s retweet was on display for the world to see the second it was posted. It’s a new game out there. Before posting anything, assume that everyone in your life both present and future is going to see it. It’s tough enough out there without being your own worst enemy. For more information, visit: http://www.reputationmanagementllc.com/ or call (866) 530 7703.

A Reputation Management Checklist

Reputation Management is essentially SEO done on a massive scale. The difference between the two is that the objective of an SEO campaign is to push links up in the search rankings toward page one while the goal for reputation management is to push targeted links down past page three. Unlike the laws of gravity, in the case of reputation management it’s much more difficult to push things down rather than up.

What follows is a checklist of reputation management activities designed to push damaging content away from where searchers’ eyes can see it.

  1. Evaluate keywords that will return the negative content when used for search. These are the terms that will be optimized so that negative content will be pushed down in the rankings.
  2. Create quality onsite content. If you don’t have the time or skill to write quality copy that is search engine optimized, outsource the work to your reputation management firm, if you’ve hired one.
  3. Create a series of press releases covering positive events in your business or industry. Be sure these are search engine optimized with targeted search terms as well.
  4. Start a blog. Publish informational posts that target the keywords you need to rank for. This should be very professional in quality and presentation so don’t hesitate to outsource the work if need be.
  5. Get social. Social media profiles tend to rank well and quickly. Incorporate your keywords for SEO purposes.
  6. Start building pages at Squidoo, HubSpot, and other directories. A little article marketing can build inbound links to your site and blog and even get ranked themselves.
  7. Build links between the properties you’ve set up.
  8. Expand your media options. Creating a podcast or video interview and posting it your website, YouTube and other sites can get shared, build some buzz, drive traffic back to your site.

There are many other strategies to employ in a reputation management campaign but these will provide a solid foundation to build from and get results. Depending on the nature of the negative content, it could make sense to bring in professional assistance to get things in order. For more information, visit: http://www.reputationmanagementllc.com/ or call (866) 530 7703.