Business is difficult enough without the added trouble of trying to keep on top of what people are saying about you on the internet. However, there is no escaping it and managing your online reputation is fast becoming an essential part of your marketing activity. It may be easy for something negative about you or your company to spread across the search engines, but it is just as easy to take control of it yourself. It is not about erasing the negative results. It about managing the reputation you want people to know.
Here are the top 10 ways to do that:
- Own your name: when someone searches for your name, you should feel confident that what comes up is information you have either produced or you know about and are comfortable with. Of course, if you have a name like John Smith, this may be harder to do, but otherwise, be sure to use your name on all of your articles, blog posts, blog comments, social media profiles, discussion forum contributions and business networks. If you can, make sure you register the domain name also.
- Be aware of the conversation: it is important to monitor what is being said about you. The simplest way to do this is to set up a Google Alert on your name or your brand name, which will arrive in your inbox each day. If you want something more sophisticated, look into some of the reputation monitoring tools which are now on the market, or construct your own using an RSS reader such as Google Reader.
- Keep on top of the discussion: it is one thing to know what is being said. It is another to actually become a part of it. If discussion is occurring about you or your brand, you have every right to join the conversation, right any wrongs or give your side of the story. More often than not, the people who are discussing you will appreciate your input.
- Avoid arguments: getting involved, however, doesn’t mean getting caught up in an argument. Remember, everything you say online will usually remain there for a very long time. If someone is flaming you, do you want future searchers to see that you were dragged into the argument? It is important to understand the consequences of doing so and in many cases it is better to just walk away. There is more chance of the comment being buried if you don’t keep it going.
- Get involved: don’t just get involved in conversations which are already going on about you. Actively get involved in communities, forums or groups which are centred around your area of expertise. Get yourself known. If other community members learn to respect you and the value you are offering, it will do wonders for your reputation.
- Watch your p’s and q’s: just as people judge others on how they dress, how they speak or how they behave in a public environment, you too will be judged on how you communicate on the internet. Avoid swearing unless it is something you are happy for people to see. Try not to be rude, prejudice or unpleasant unless that is the reputation you really want to cultivate.
- Enlist your friends: your friends, business colleagues and network aren’t just there to support you. It is also important that they don’t do anything to undermine you, even unwittingly. If you drank too much at the last office party and the photographs are less than complimentary, you might like to ask your friends to leave them off of their Facebook profile. If you are tagged in them, then they become a part of your online reputation whether they are on your profile or not.
- Provide excellent content and value: what people want from you is answers to their questions, informative and relevant content and excellent value. Your reputation is going to benefit if people know that you are constantly updating your blog, you answer their comments immediately, and you take the time to provide the content that they need.
- Provide your own place for complaints: a problem that many people have come across is that they have discovered a community of unhappy customers who have built a blog or website solely for the purpose of complaining about you or your company. Bring that conversation back to your own space. If you have a blog or a discussion board in which you encourage people to provide their feedback, complaints or suggestions, then there is no need for them to start up another website elsewhere. If they are getting the satisfaction they are looking for from your interaction with them, it won’t take long for you to turn them from detractors into advocates.
- Be aware of offline: the growth of online media may appear to be overshadowing your offline persona, but in reality, the way you cultivate your reputation offline is going to be just as important to your online reputation as your internet activity. If you behave impeccably online, but are rude to customers, give dreadful service and behave obnoxiously in real life, it won’t take long for your online reputation to suffer along with it.
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