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.