Reputation Management – Business Survival 101
Reputation management is designed to shape public perception of you and your company. What image are you projecting and are you doing it on purpose?
Hint: If you are not doing in on purpose – YOU SHOULD.
The other day I was on Facebook when I stumbled into a racial, homophobic rant, peppered with all sorts of cursing and slanderous statements. My natural instinct was to unfriend the person because I don’t want any association with such closed minded people.
And then it occurred to me that the person who posted it was one of my clients. One of my best clients.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free speech – but I don’t want this type of stuff on my Facebook timeline. It is not cohesive with my brand. I don’t support it and I don’t like it. It was a tough decision, but I chose not to unfriend the person. I did however hide their comments from my timeline.
I also lost respect for the person. In what universe are these type of comments okay?
Answer: No universe, anywhere.
Social Media to Promote Your Business – not your personal agenda
Social media is an amazing tool to promote your business. You can use it to connect with friends and family, and show a more personal side of yourself than traditional advertising. But just because you can rant about whatever you want on social media free of charge – doesn’t mean that you should, or that doesn’t come at a cost.
Let’s suppose you are the owner of a house cleaning company – your business is closely associated with your reputation. When you are the business, your personal and professional reputation become one. And if someone needs your service and they look you up on Facebook and see you’ve posted malicious and defamatory comments – they are going to choose to work with somebody else. You just lost the business.
And with the same freedom you just posted your libelous comments, a prospect can re-post it to their network – people you’ve never met yet, and maybe some you have, and suggest they not to business with you either.
Personally, I’m a big fan of helping other people, passing along referrals and connecting people through my network. The client I’m telling you about, I just blacklisted. I won’t refer her to anyone – ever. I’m scared that her lack of restraint will make me look bad, or that I endorse her beliefs. I don’t.
Reputation Management to clean up your trail of goop
So what do you do, when you find yourself in a situation where your reputation destroys business?
The answer is reputation management. Just like hiring a flood restoration crew to come clean out your flooded basement – you’ve got to hire a reputation management firm to clean up the trail of internet goop you’ve left behind.
As a house cleaner – your best marketing ever will come from word of mouth – also known as referrals from satisfied customers. But realize this, referrals will only get you so far. You have to live up to the referral.
Reputation Management because they will look you up
Suppose I’m a prospective customer. I need house cleaning service and you’ve been referred to me by my neighbor Becky. I’m about to spend $3,000 per year on your service. Before I invite a perfect stranger into my most valuable asset – my home, to work around me, my family and my pets, I promise I’m going to look you up. Becky likes you but what are other people saying about you online?
What do the rating and review sites say about you? Are you reliable and do you follow through on your promises? Are you easy to work with? Do you honor your guarantee?
What do Public Records say about you?
- Are you a registered sex offender?
- Do you have a DUI?
- Does your face pop up on Mugshots.com?
- Have you filed for bankruptcy?
- Does Facebook have you blabbing insults at the world?
- Is your Twitter feed full of vulgar tweets and re-tweets?
- You may know how to clean a house – but I may not want you in mine.
Have you Googled yourself today?
What pops up when I type in your name? Here’s where reputation management becomes so crucial.
The internet is lightning fast – think of it like a subway. Something about you is posted online and poof, the train is gone. Taking reviews and comments about you to places you’ll never personally go. Oh wait! Nope, it’s too late. The train is gone. You race to the next train station trying to undo the damage, but you can’t. Somebody reposts and retweets the information and it goes viral in all directions. It’s like tossing breadcrumbs in the wind – you’ll never be able to collect all the pieces. Once somebody has read a nasty rant you posted – even if you delete it, they can’t forget it. They just lost respect for you, and blacklisted you – never to recommend you again. Now you’re sober, and you wish you didn’t say those things, but it’s too late. Your biggest allies just became your biggest enemies.
What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management was originally a public relations term that has expanded into the online space and now is known as ORM (Online Reputation Management).
- They can help remove or hide negative reviews about your business.
- They use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques to post positive things about you, like articles and blogs, that will bump the negative posts about you to page two or three of the search engines – but remember how we said once the train is gone it’s gone? The stuff that is posted about you is still traveling at lightning speeds in all sorts of directions.
- They take over your social media profiles with the aim of reinventing your character.
- They submit online press releases to authoritative websites hoping to improve your public image.
- They contact websites that have posted negative reviews and file legal “take down” requests.
- They attend Twitter Chats and jump into online forums and say nice things about you hoping it will be indexed by search bots that will add brownie points to your new reputation.
All of this comes with a cost. These clean up services are not free.
According to a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab Market Research, a whopping 70% of companies have rejected candidates based on the candidate’s online reputation. That was 2010 – it’s standard practice now. With websites like Careerbuilder.com and Linkedin.com all your profiles are linked and finding your social media profiles are just a click away.
DIY Reputation Management
The website Brand Yourself has a free tool. I found it really interesting. I created a free account and then entered my full name to see what pulled up on the internet. It showed me all of my social media accounts – people in other countries who have linked to me. Public records showed up. It pulled up my IMDB account. Autographs I’ve signed. What was most interesting is that it pulled from sources dating back ten, twenty years and showed photos of me I have forgotten about.
With each link there is a button where you can confirm; Yes, that’s me, no – that is not me, and negative. You choose which is the best representation of what you see. Of course, if there is negative data about you, you can pay to have it removed. The nice thing is they do offer a free consultation to help you figure out how to regain control of your reputation. Try it, you’ll be amazed.
WARNING: This is a rabbit hole – you will get sucked into a time vortex for an hour.
Preventative Measures for Reputation Management
Identify upfront what you want to be known for. What do you stand for and how do you want people to see you? Once you’ve identified what you want your public image to be, it will be easy to tailor all your social media around that. Don’t figure it out as you go – or you’ll have some stupid and irrelevant stuff to clean up. It may not be harmful – it will just dilute your brand.
It’s easy to fire off posts, tweets, pins, chats, blabs, and scopes. It’s easy to overshare on social media when you’re drunk, angry, tired or bored – but before you do remind yourself that you are the KING of your reputation.
KING is an acronym that will serve you well in all of your postings.
Ask yourself, is this post:
K – KIND
I – INTERESTING
N – NECESSARY
G – GOOD (as in good for your reputation)
If you’re not sure if a post is appropriate – you probably shouldn’t post it.
If this is a post that could be misunderstood, and you may have to pay a reputation management expert to fix it, you probably shouldn’t post it.
Decide what Topics are Off Limits
Social media bombards us every day with issues on religion, politics, economics, racial diversity, health, disease, and illness, and hot topics like gun control and abortions. Pick the topics that are not cohesive with your personal and professional brand and choose to never comment on them. Then you’re not winging it when you stumble into a heated debate about something you are passionate about – you simply don’t comment on that topic. (This is the N and the G in KING. It is not necessary for you to comment, and it’s not good for your brand.)
As a business owner you probably registered a domain name for your website. That domain name is the hub for your brand. You registered the .com version, because we all know there’s only one .com, but did you also register the .net, .org and .info versions of the same domain name?
The last thing you want is for a competitor to register the .net and .info versions of your company name and compete with you in search engine results with slander about you. Be proactive and pay the extra few dollars a year to register the other extensions of your domain name. You can simply redirect the .net, .info and .org domains to point at your main hosted domain name. This will eliminate a problem before it happens.
Post profile pictures on the various social platforms that are in alignment with your brand. Refrain from posting pictures in your timeline that are insensitive, mean or could cost your business.
Remember how Facebook surprises you with memories from ten years ago? Yes, your photos and posts are archived somewhere online.
Personal posts and fun things about your life are fine, but keep them in moderation. Think of your favorite movie. It’s got fully developed characters, but the screenwriter was savvy enough not to blab it all in the first 90 seconds of the film. Otherwise you wouldn’t keep watching. As the film progresses and different scenarios unfold, you sit on the edge of your seat wondering how this character is going to react. The choices they make reveal deeper layers of their personality and pain. This is where the I for interesting in KING comes in. Slowly over the next twenty years, drip interesting things about yourself to your audience and they will come along for the saga.
Monitor your Online Reputation
Regularly check your profiles, public records, and credit report. Check your Twitter feeds, your Facebook timelines, review sites about your company and products. Delete or hide from your timelines posts from your friends and followers that don’t represent your brand. On Twitter you can mute regular offenders, and I recommend you do.
An easy way to monitor your reputation is to set up a Google Alert for yourself. It’s free. Go to http://Goole.com/Alerts and type in your name, your company name, your blog name, etc. Every time somebody posts something about you – it emails you an alert. Now you are armed with the information spread about you and the link where it’s showing up. This is valuable information because it makes it easy to contact the blog or site owner if you need corrections made. If the information shared is positive, you can strike up a conversation with the sharer – if they like you now – they may love you later and keep sharing – which will help your positive SEO.
Use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Tools
You can boost your own positive image in the search engines by creating an industry related blog or tweeting positive things about your business. Be systematic in your approach. Search Engine results are dynamic, meaning they vary based on new information added daily.
Address Negative Feedback – with real time responses
Create some quick and polite responses to common questions. When somebody posts something negative about you – and it will happen, have measures in place to deal with those issues. If you can fix the problem, let them know you’re working on it. Don’t be defensive, be helpful. Be kind. Be appreciative. Offer solutions and alternatives. The world is watching how you handle yourself. Remember you are the KING of your reputation. Don’t let someone else invade or destroy your kingdom.
Question client satisfaction. It’s a great idea to survey or poll your clients on a regular basis. You can use software like Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo. Find out if you are meeting their needs and expectations. You can do this below the radar to find out what you need to work on before it blows up into negative online reviews. Fix problems early. Clients want to be heard. They want to feel like they are important and that you care. Silent clients are not your ally. Get them to talk. A customer who is delighted with your service, can boost your ratings with positive online referrals.
Build your Offline Reputation
As a house cleaner, your offline reputation will soon find its way online. Your clients will talk about you.
It’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Are you amazing at cleaning? Are you reliable? Are you consistent? Do you look professional when you show up? Are you easy to communicate with? Are you compassionate to pets and personal property? If you break something, are you honest about it? Do you offer to replace or repair the broken thing? All these things contribute to your offline reputation. And all your customers are online. They all belong to neighborhood Facebook pages or apps like NextDoor and MyNeighborhood. They will talk about you – if what they say is good, it could skyrocket your business.
Your offline reputation needs to be in sync with your online reputation.
Train Your Employees
As your business grows, there will be stressful situations and growing pains as you add employees. Your employees and their reputations are extensions of your company and your brand. Clients will assume that your employees reflect your opinions and practices. Screen your employees. Treat your employees with respect. Help them clean up their online reputations. Train them to be professional and to respect your brand. A respected employee can be one of your biggest assets in reputation management.
Go the Distance
Reputation management is not a sprint. It is an ultra-marathon. This is something you will be doing for the next two, three, four decades.
Create a budget for damage control. Schedule time to monitor your accounts and update your social media profiles. Schedule time to create blog posts to boost your positive SEO.
Learn new tactics and familiarize yourself with ways to keep your character intact.
Be the KING of your social media and online presence.
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