Have you searched on your company's name or product on Google, Yahoo! or MSN lately? If not, it's time to do so. In today's business world your online reputation is just as crucial to your success as any other marketing strategy that you deploy.
What are we talking about? Online Reputation Management or ORM, is the ongoing act of monitoring a brand or name online, proactively protecting the name via online channels, and skillfully counteracting negative online content from parties unrelated to your company. These words can come from several sources, namely blog postings, consumer alert sites, community web postings, even unique websites that were created for the sole purpose of defaming a name or company.
Business owners and their companies, no matter how large or small, have two brand images to maintain: one is online, and the other is offline. If the online message doesn't mesh with its offline counterpart, the company's overall branding will have a negative effect with the buyer. It doesn't take long to find negative online remarks about nationwide big box retailers, oil companies, or pharmaceutical manufacturers who are seemingly resilient to consumer complaints.
Think about a time, though, when you searched online for a car repair shop, or a new restaurant in town and you saw a pseudo-anonymous posting from a customer who felt cheated or had a bad experience with the business. Chances are, you'll think twice before becoming a customer of one of those companies. Now, consider if even one negative remark was on the web for your potential clients to see, and you now have a deep understanding of the importance of effective online reputation management.
Where do these postings come from? Several sources, really. A disgruntled former employee with a vengeance, a competitor hoping to swipe your share of the pool of customers; or, truthfully, a client who had a bad experience with your company or product.
What can you do?
- Optimize your website to ensure high rankings for your ideal search terms.Â This will aid in your site's positives showing up higher than another's negatives.
- Set up regular, consistent monitoring of online content for your company, brand(s), product(s), and key executives. In its simplest form, monitoring can be set up through Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, and subscription feeds such as Technorati and BlogPulse.
- If you are the unfortunate recipient of negative online feedback, establish an online dialogue right away to address the situation. Do your research to see if the complaint is legitimate. If it's not, provide your facts and ask for a retraction or correction of the submitter. Either way, be prepared to respond openly and honestly with your own blog. If necessary, hire a firm that is highly skilled in Internet marketing to craft your brand name into one of integrity, quality, and service.
A company that has invested significant dollars and time (for some, several years) can experience a dramatic impact on their brand(s) and the bottom line by negative commentary that is left unchecked. It pays to protect those brands at every road where customers intersect.
Ken Partain is an Authorized Duct Tape Marketing Coach who specializes in search engine optimization and search engine marketing.