You could be forgiven for thinking that they were just another excuse for an internet driven acronym or two, but Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) are far more widespread than that. You may have heard the acronym SEO – which stands for Search Engine Optimisation? ORM and SMM are the new generation of optimisation. In the past, everything was done on your site in order to bump up your search engine rankings – you may have heard of keywords and keyphrases, meta information and ‘content being king’. In the world of Web 2.0, on-site SEO is only one small part of your success. Now, you need to concentrate as much on off-site exposure if you want to succeed in business.
The world of the internet changes with dizzying speed. In only a few short years, the internet has become a buzz of collaboration. This is what Web 2.0 is all about – YouTube, MySpace, social networking and consumer generated media. No longer are your prospects and customers passive observers of information which you have placed on your website. They are now your advocates and copywriters, your marketers and your mastermind groups.
However, along with this more viral form of communication comes the death of the foundation of traditional marketing. In this world, you no longer have full control over either your message or your reputation. All you can do is put it out there. The rest is up to those people watching you. It can be pretty scary knowing how uncontrollable this can all be, which is where ORM and SMM comes in.
ORM is the process of managing what people are saying about you or your brand on the internet. This doesn’t mean you are deleting bad comments and only keeping the good. The internet by its very nature doesn’t allow this. What it means is you are putting the right messages out there, through excellent business practice, good, targeted social media marketing, and continuous delivery of value both online and off. And then you are continuously watching what is happening to that message.
SMM is the new generation of online marketing. It goes far beyond SEO or Pay Per Click Advertising and allows you to establish yourself as an expert in the most targeted and relevant places on the internet. It allows you to continue the dialogue with your prospects and customers. And it places you in a position to encourage more and more people to visit your website, try out your services and buy your products.
Why is it important?
No matter what, it is no longer possible to ignore the internet. It has rapidly become a fundamental part of your marketing strategy and any business who fails to integrate it is at risk of disappearing altogether. Bearing this fact in mind, the internet can be likened to a storm at sea. If you don’t have eyes in every direction, a wave can easily hit you without you even seeing it. It requires a strong hull and good observation to not just survive but take it on and use it to drive you forward faster than you could have imagined.
Because of the pervasiveness of the internet, your potential audience has grown to international proportions. In order to succeed, you need to be targeted and focused and then provide value and authenticity to the people who are most important to you.
You may be thinking ‘but there are millions of blogs out there, and millions of people who are running similar companies to ours. How can we even begin to stand out from the crowd?’ This is why it is so important to work on your expert status, market in a targeted way, establish the dialogue and begin to generate a buzz about you. With a strong, consistent SMM strategy, that buzz will ultimately turn into a roar and for your target market, the rest of the crowd will disappear.
However, as everybody knows from being a member of society, no matter what you do not everyone will like you or be happy with you. There will always be a percentage of customers or prospects out there who will be unhappy. In the past, these people had some outlets to vent their frustration or issues, but none as public and as permanent as the internet. The larger you get, the more likely this is to happen, although it can affect anyone. The important thing is to manage this. Like a tax audit, it isn’t worrying about whether it will happen which is important – it’s what you will do when it does. And like a tax audit, as long as you have put everything in place to counterbalance the issue, it will be far easier and less damaging to your business to get through. Which is why ORM is so vital.
Why would I need it? Perhaps you are thinking ‘I am too small to worry about it’ or ‘everyone is happy with
A one woman business centered on marketing believed everything was running smoothly in her business. She had been pretty overwhelmed by the amount of work she was doing to keep everything going, and she was aware that she wasn’t very good with money and had forgotten on occasion to pay her affiliates. Her business relied on the internet for the majority of her leads and she was making use of SMM as far as she was able.
One morning, however, she received an email from a customer, directing her to do a Google search on her name. The results made her blood run cold. The first two results were her blog and her website as before, but the third result was a Squidoo Lens, written about her from her disgruntled affiliates basically warning everyone to never deal with her because she was dishonest and didn’t pay when she should.
In that one web page which ranked so highly, she could see her reputation going down the drain. Because the site was clearly being added to, it was gaining popularity and her blog subscriber numbers were starting to go down. This naturally began to affect her income as her affiliates and associates started asking questions and her stress levels skyrocketed proportionately to her dropping profits.
Everyone likes me?
A law firm prided itself on its customer service. It was a well established firm who tried to make sure that it retained a good personal relationship with all of its clients. Part of its growth strategy was to try and recruit new clients and the firm began a marketing campaign using predominantly traditional marketing techniques.
Responses were slow. Although people initially responded to the campaign, very few were actually engaging the firm. One day, one of the juniors in the office decided to take a look on the internet to see what was being said about the firm. Rather than the company website coming up as the first result, the link led to a blog written by a previous client, complaining about the firm and outlining why they were so unhappy. They had thought that this past client and they had parted on good terms, and had never realised that the client’s perception had been otherwise.
Because the firm hadn’t paid particular attention to using the internet for its marketing, there was very little other information to counterbalance that. When prospects were going to the internet to find out a little more about the company, the blog post is what they found.
What is involved?
There are two sides to ORM and SMM – proactive and reactive.
A proactive campaign is important to ensure not only that you are using the internet in the best possible way to increase traffic, leads and ultimately your company profit, but also to ensure that you have laid the groundwork for an excellent online reputation which you are proud for people to find.
It requires four steps:
This determines where you are at the moment in relation to your use of social media, your search engine positioning and what people are currently saying about you. It is also important to look at core elements of your website and what online activities you are currently involved in already which are affecting your reputation.
On the basis of this analysis, a strategy for enhancing and increasing your online reputation needs to be developed. This will take into consideration your target market, your competitors and your industry as well as your specific goals and vision.
Implementation doesn’t just require the set up of the necessary tools for your social media marketing and reputation management campaign. It also involves putting in place a schedule for maintaining the campaign on a regular basis which is vital if the buzz is going to continue to grow around you.
Once the campaign is started, a system of monitoring needs to be put in place. This will allow for regular analysis and adjustments to the strategy and methods of influence where required. It will also allow for any reactive measures to be put in place in a timely fashion, ensuring that you are constantly in touch with what is going on.
Although no-one wants to think of it, if you are the recipient of bad online press or any damaging or negative campaigns against you, then it may be necessary to act reactively. Naturally, it is better to have put the proactive process in place initially, which means that any reaction will only need to be measured and minor, as your reputation will have a solid foundation.
There are three steps:
A rapid analysis will need to be done to assess how widespread the negative press has gone. This analysis will also determine whether there is truth in the statements or whether they are simply opinion. If the statements are libelous, and legal action is sought, irrespective of the outcome of that action, it is still important to balance the negative press. Even if the comments are eventually retracted, while they are out there they are causing damage to you and your business.
A response strategy will be determined. It is often instinctive to simply react and defend, however in many situations this can make matters even worse. Ultimately, reputation is based on perception rather than fact, so it is the perception which needs to be worked upon. Once the response strategy is determined, it needs to be implemented carefully and authentically.
It is important that careful monitoring is undertaken to ensure that the response is being met favourably and is returning the desired result. Because anything which is posted on the internet is generally regarded as a permanent record, a negative campaign won’t necessarily be erased altogether. However, with a good response, its impact can be lessened down to nothing, and indeed, your reputation can be enhanced by the way you handled it.
Download a PDF version of this article here