Friday, July 15, 2011

Online Reputation Management: Keeping Your Business Brand In Line

With the rise in popularity of blogs, online social networks, podcasts, and video sharing, anyone and everyone have a voice these days. That voice, however insignificant it may have been a decade ago, now has the power to reach millions with just a few taps at the keyboard and clicks on a mouse.

Opinions about brands, products, services, even entire organizations, can spread like wildfire, causing a wave of negativity, or on the contrary, a flourish of positivity about a brand. Allowing online mentions of your brand to go unmanaged poses many threats to its livelihood. We live in a time when it is easy (and smart) to hop online to research a product or service before purchasing it, and likewise, it is just as easy for an opinion about your brand to be voiced.

If there are negative mentions of your brand in the search results, it means little to the common searcher just how true the statements are; the reader is unlikely to try to prove their legitimacy. Negative mentions that appear as search results on search engines can detract from brand perception and sales, eventually leading to an all around loss of consumer loyalty.

Ultimately, it is your job to stay abreast of every claim surrounding your brand. Online reputation management ensures that your audience receives a true and balanced perception of your business. Below are main 3 steps to any online reputation management system:

Step 1: Plan and Identify

Before embarking on an online reputation management mission, a business must decide who its main influencers are. What websites/blogs/forums mention your brand the most, negatively and positively? These are the most important online audiences to monitor.

Keep in mind audiences that are more engaged have the most influence over your reputation. For example, social media sites that invite reader commentary; or online shopping sites that offer customer reviews. Sites with audiences that are engaged very little in creation of site content, or sites that have very low readerships, are less likely to pose much of a threat to your brand.

Step 2: Monitor Brand Buzz

Monitoring is not just about Googling your brand and scanning the results. There are a handful of online tools that scan the web for mentions of your brand across a spectrum of sites and can also provide measurements of the type of mention (positive, negative, neutral).

No matter what tools you use, your online brand mention monitoring relies most on humans. After all, the audience (influencers) you care about is made up by human activities, voices, compliments and complaints.

Step 3: Connect and Engage

Successful monitoring will help you determine which negative mentions require a response, and likewise, which positive mentions deserve a boost. A report should be compiled of all mentions, the findings analyzed, and proper responses implemented.

Positive responses to negative commentary should be generated in a timely manner to avoid an all-out snowball effect. If you can catch negative mentions sooner rather than later, you run the chance of turning the negative commentary on its back and reversing its harmful impact on your brand.