Rethinking Reputation Management
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.
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.
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.