You don’t need sophisticated or expensive packages to monitor and manage your online reputation

It’s not rocket science – you just need the tools that your prospects have got (i.e. Google); the ability to think like them, a dose of humility and a crash course in not being reactive.

Oh, and you need to know there’s a difference between monitoring and managing your reputation.

Online reputation monitoring

The simplest advice for monitoring your online reputation is to start with the FASTEST (and therefore potentially most damaging) channels out there:

1) Set up Google alerts for your name, your company name and products and brands.  Sit back and let Google bring the good – and bad – news to you whenever it hears you being mentioned online.

2) While you’re waiting for Google Alerts to bring you news, go to Twitter and search for your name, your company name and your brands.  It’s the most ‘real-time’ network / source of content there is.  If people are going to rant at the point of dissatisfaction, they’re going to do it via their mobile, and they’re probably going to do it on Twitter.

3) If that’s all clear, next do a search in Google.  Do a broad web search first.  See what comes up in the first couple of pages of Google.  Hopefully, a lot of it will be your web site pages and things you’ve done to market and promote yourself and your products.  If not, sack your web designer :-)

Remember: people use blog posts and forum posts to vent their anger or dissatisfaction. Learn to recognise how these posts and comments appear in the regular web results.

4) To focus entirely on blog content, do a dedicated Google blog search

5) Most of all, learn to think like a customer – an angry one and a prospective one.  When an unhappy customer wants to nail you for not listening,  they’re going to nail you by telling their trusted network how bad you are and follow up by publishing posts and comments online with words like rip-off’ ‘scam’ and ‘fraud’ to the end.  They want their experience of you to be found by others researching your company – and now they have the tools to do it within minutes.  Be warned; this stuff can kill your business in a matter of days.

When a prospective customer wants to find out the truth about your company, ‘XYZ consultants’, they’re going to start by searching for ‘XYZ consultants’.  Then they’re going to add the words ‘scam’, ‘feedback’, ‘rip-off’, ‘review’ at the end to see what comes up.

To manage your online reputation online successfully, you need to see these words as a code that customers and prospects use to bypass your own (naturally positive) propaganda.  So learn the code – and make sure YOU search the web regularly for these coded references to you and your company.

You wouldn’t believe how many companies’ reputations are in tatters online and yet they don’t even know about it.  It could explain that gradual drop-off in sales they’ve been seeing…

Online reputation management

Managing your online reputation priorities are as follows (listed in order of the amount of your energy you should expend on them):

1) Create the best products and services you can.  This is bleedin’ obvious, but the best way to create and protect a great on- and offline reputation is to do the basics really, really well.

2) When things go wrong, do everything you can to make your customer happy.  That means invite feedback, listen without being defensive, go out of your way to satisfy them

3) When you don’t do 1) and 2) properly, people will punish you online by Tweeting, blogging, forum posting and commenting anywhere and everywhere they can.  Count on it. When you finally find something angry / hostile / nasty (true or untrue) with your online monitoring (see the list above), the first thing you need to do is NOTHING.

4) While you’re doing NOTHING (i.e. not reacting, not getting into a fight to try to defend yourself), you should be getting really honest with yourself about what it is you might have done to create the situation.

5) Then you should be thinking about what you can do to put it right.  What you can do, and what you are willing to do.

6) Then consider approaching the disgruntled punter publicly (in whatever forum or blog his/her comment appears) and a) apologise for not having met their expectations b) apologise if you didn’t listen or respond to their original feedback or complaint.  Listen, I promise you, no matter how bad this makes you feel, you almost certainly didn’t listen the first time round.  If you can do this from a genuine place – i.e. that you really do care about helping this person to feel better about your company, you’ll be amazed what you can achieve.

7) If you’ve reacted dived in with both feet and made things worse, then call us to take the heat out of the situation on 01822 610841.

8 ) Start to create positive online content about you, your company and your brands to balance, and ultimately outweight the negative.  Beware: this only works when that content is genuine and credible.

Paying offshore SEO or Reputation Management Companies to flood Google with superficial stuff about you is a false economy (an expensive one at that!) – it will be transparent to any half-wit looking to find out what a company is really like.

If you want to do it properly, call us on 01822 610841.

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