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Keep Your Rep On The Net

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Anyone who follows the buzz on the Internet knows bloggers can get real nasty real quick. They quickly attack groups, businesses, etc. with blinding speed and sometime with blinding inaccuracy. At the first day of the SES, Jason Lee Miller sat in on one session covering reputation monitoring and management.

This session, moderated by Danny Sullivan, covered a lot of ground on how to help cultivate one’s image on the net and how to conduct damage control when bloggers go ape. Rob Key, top dog at Converseon had some important points to make. He said reputation management is tricky, especially since the advent of the Weblog. A negative website can be set up in no time and bloggers like to dogpile in what Key called the “Blog Swarm.”

One example he mentioned was McSpotlight.org, an anti-McDonalds blog. He suggested the blog is asking to get sued for publicity purposes.

Reputation monitoring and management is also difficult because most search don’t go beyond the first SERP, which means if the page is negatively balanced, that’s the impression the search gets of a company.

“A brand is an experience that creates and impression.” They key to reputation management is “mapping the conversation.” This is done with RSS feeds, news alerts, RSS readers, etc.

Rob Garner of Agency.com also had a word or two to say. “A marketer can’t control all Internet brand content, but should be proactive at addressing issues that are within control.”

He discussed third party manipulation in the SERPs including content theft, site scraping, typojacking and page cranking. In many cases, this can be taken care of by notifying the appropriate search engine or with a legal conflict.

One example cited was a client who won a major judgment in court awarding monetary damages and all domains the crooks had registered related to the company. He also mentioned ICANN had a device set up to resolve such issues. Their Uniform Resolution Dispute Policy can help solve some problems.

The best defense is to research all variations on brand terms and compare them against domains in the whois. Acquire those if and when possible.

Nan Dawkins of RedBoots Consulting emphasized monitoring blogs. She said “Identity is negotiated in the online space, not managed.”

She went on to say blogs were an important “microclimate” in consumer generated media. Monitor blogs through services like Blogpulse(Intelliseek) and Clusty and track conversations.

She said better methods must be developed because “who has time to study a forest tree by tree?” She mentioned the recent FedEx faux pas in handling a blogger who said Fed Ex boxes make great furniture. They sent him a cease and desist notice.

Andy Beal discusses a number of things including rumors, metrics of keyword usage and ways of approaching the negative stuff. He mentioned companies should task someone to join industry forms and chat with people. He suggested something like Forumfind.com to find some good forums and Boardtracker to track forum conversations.

He suggested building alliances with vocal forum members. He emphasize early action is crucial for negative press. He said find out everything you can about someone posting negative items. See if you can gauge if an email would change his mind or if you have to get tough, try to get him to remove the negative article. This works better than commenting because not everyone reads the comments.

If the facts are wrong, take action, first, through an email and then later by comments, etc. Try to be polite and try to convey the company is working on it. 94% of bloggers will remove or add corrected content. “Don’t say, the blogger’s been a right royal pain in the ass’.”

He also said utilizing allies to create content will work although you shouldn’t fake allies. And simply adding content to your own site to counter it could be helpful.

All in all, there are a lot of great tips to help companies keep an eye on their reputation. To do this, companies must know what’s being said about them and it can be monitored and network a bit online. Check out the forums and blogs and talk to them. They’ll be much more affable to your point of view if they know you. The thing to remember is be straight with them. If you’re not, it’ll cause more problems that it’s worth.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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