Rethinking Reputation Management

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The impact of social media on today’s Web is unmatched; dare I say, even by search. When it comes to “going social” with our websites and business there are as many benefits as there are drawbacks, however. Along with the multitude of brand advocates you will acquire, you are sure to encounter more than a few, very vocal detractors along the way — such is business on the Web. What’s more, the social Web moves fast — much faster than any one person can keep up with. Enter reputation management, a practice that has not gone unnoticed by businesses both large and small.

A business and personal reputation is measured by your consumers’ perception of the brand’s products and services. However, so much focus is spent looking inward that we often miss all the activity going on elsewhere — the origin of many, if not most opportunities and threats. As such, using reputation management solutions and services that accurately and affordably help manage brand equity and awareness is a wise investment.

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Working Together

Why the busy intersection at the corner of social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO)? Learning how to work together pays dividends. The results of a balanced approach to social media participation and SEO in a ‘fresher is better’ content landscape is that more information will be exposed, increasing the likelihood of awareness. “Social media remains one of the fastest growing vehicles for online branding and engaging in consumer conversations,” says Eric Papczun, vice president of SEO and feeds at Performics.

Papczun went on to address how online reputation management is not only about proactively highlighting social commentary but balancing negative and positive opinions. “A solid and well-optimized presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can help a brand own more of the search engine results page (SERP) real estate. Accordingly, this keeps positive brand content on higher ranking positions and pages, reducing the reach and potential damage that disgruntled consumers, unfavorable media sites and other negative content can impose on a brand.”
  


 

Online reputation management software is the new must-have solution, and businesses are buying in. The Marchex Reputation Management platform was named a finalist in the American Business Awards’ New Product or Service of the Year category, for one. SuperMedia’s SuperPages will make available the Yext reputation management tool to its advertisers over the next few months. These are just two examples of noteworthy happenings in the reputation management space, among dozens of other perfectly suitable vendors clamoring for your attention.

But what of those without an existing reputation? Most small businesses have not nearly enough brand equity to consider investing in a solution that monitors what their few customers and prospects have to say about their business.

Reputation Management in Reverse
It’s time to rethink reputation management solutions as they have been offered in the past. Ask yourself: How closely am I looking at my competition’s reputation? The likelihood that it’s only in a cursory fashion is quite good.

Identifying the companies you are actively competing against should be the first step, but there are several others. Here are a few to help you rethink reputation management. Keep in mind that while you can set up an ad-hoc solution on your own, commercial reputation management and monitoring solutions provide the deepest insight.

Track: To locate competitors, head straight to the search engines; enter search terms representative of your business and make notes of those vendors found most often, and their corresponding websites and social media properties. Spend time noting not just the website URL, but the company name and the names of their products and employees, too (take a detour to LinkedIn to find them). Once the list is complete, make those search terms and phrases the ones to track.

Follow: Should the competition already have an established audience on social media, most of the legwork is already done. For example, follow some of the competition’s followers on Twitter, taking note of those accounts. Then, after a week or so, check to see if any of those individuals have followed you back. If so, send a direct message announcing who you are, why you chose to follow them, and your intentions. It is not an uncommon practice for heavy social media users of Twitter to set up an autoresponder to greet and reply to a new follower — another opportunity to communicate with a new prospect.

Active Social Marketing in Practice: Let’s say your restaurant and a neighborhood competitor share Twitter followers. If you notice on Twitter that a group of fans was meeting for lunch at the competitor’s place, consider sending that group a note (perhaps with a coupon included) inviting them to your restaurant. You will need to constantly monitor the real-time universe for reaction but good opportunities are present.

Engage: Posting user-generated content online today is easier than ever. Within seconds, customers can post reviews, kudos, comments and complaints directly from their mobile devices and applications to any number of sites. Since most content is consumed right away, it makes sense to constantly interact with your existing audience and look to expand your social network when opportunities present themselves. Myriad social tools online offer the ability to interact with followers and competitors. Using them means gaining valuable insights about the competing business and provides a chance to make informed choices when it comes to developing strategies to increase market share. Engaging consumers in context, based on their current feelings or interactions with your brand is the only way to build mind share and loyal customers, so watch intently and tread carefully.

Monitor: Once you identify the competition, follow their core audience and engage them them, it’s time to monitor the reaction. Most reputation management services provide sentiment analysis to provide insights into the mood and tone of comments and conversations you have successfully stirred up.

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New Kid on the Reputation Management Block

MyRepMan from Moon Valley Software uses an interesting two-sided approach to monitoring and managing a merchant’s online reputation. A detailed report of the merchant’s current standing online includes listings across more than 50 local search sites, IYPs, category-specific sites, mentions through blogs, news sites and tweets, and captures reviews from sources that provide them (e.g. Yelp, Yahoo! Local, etc.) and paid-placement advertising, which the merchant can instruct MyRepMan to track. "There are many other existing services but they are more focused on what others are saying on social networks,” says Damian Rollison, Director of Research and Development at Moon Valley Software. “What we are showing users are places they can control and extend the brand.” Once the merchant has a good overview of its online presence, the service goes to work by amplifying that presence — submitting business profiles to sites based on their predetermined priority and providing monthly progress reports to keep the merchant informed along the way. Users of the platform can also run a comparative report that identifies competitors and measures your reputation against theirs.
 
 


The final step?
Repeat the process. Track new competitors and their followers, engaging that audience frequently and building your social network with one competitor’s downfall after the next.

Whether you have brand equity and brand awareness or not, it has been proven time and again that knowing what customers and prospects are saying and feeling about your business is of importance — the same holds true for what is being said about the competition. Consider today the first day of Reputation Management 2.0.

 

 

 

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5 comments

BruceK 07-02-2010 3:11 PM

So far, I think social media has been a disaster for small businesses. It seams that many of these sites are full of people who think they everything about a product (in my case, the automotive aftermarket, where everybody is an expert) and have nothing else to do but flame somebody else because the have a different opinion.  Most of my clients have been in business 20-30 years and an have excellent reputation with they're customers and competitors. They have depended on print media, trade shows and word of mouth for sales. Now we spend a lot of time trying to tailor our message and chasing after things that said that aren't even true. It's had a very negative impact as far as I'm concerned. The problem with the web is that anybody can say anything and you have no defense.

SteveN 07-02-2010 6:55 PM

This will lead to more fragmentation of the "Online Presence", having to keep up with what is being said about you in every nook and cranny of the internet, before Google decides that the comment is valid and aggregates it into your search results!

JimA 07-13-2010 10:47 AM

Let's face it.  If you sell products or services, on the internet or otherwise,  prospective consumers are more and more likely to google you to help them make the purchase/no purchase decision.  Ignore that reality at your own peril. Smart consumers will be able to read between the lines in information they read by public, anonymous, posters.  The problem lies when critical public posts are intelligently written. There often may be valid points made that you need to address and correct in your product or service.  It's a conversation that should not be ignored.

Harri Jussila 12-25-2011 9:53 PM

Online Reputation management has only come in the spotlight in recent years due to the explosion of the popularity of social media websites. In fact, reputation management has been around for almost as long as businesses have been around. Though real world methods might not translate well into the internet, there are still parallels to be drawn. It is all about the branding and image.

Usability Testing 03-05-2012 2:47 AM

Everyone in business knows how important branding is. While most businesses are focusing on their marketing effort, not as many are actively paying attention to the reputation of their competitors. I think this is where the reputation management software come in. I like what you have said about reverse reputation management. It is a great way to track your competitors and make the proper adjustments to your own branding or marketing efforts.

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