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Fighting a Bad Online Reputation & Keeping a Good One

Expert Tips and Tools To Maintain A Positive Reputation

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In this age of fast-moving information and technologies, it is extremely important for businesses to protect online reputations. Currently, that means getting involved with social media and real-time search.

Jeremy Pepper of Pop! PR Jots Real-time search is what it sounds like – searching for what people are saying now. People are talking at places like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. "For corporations (or agencies that work with large clients), such real-time search is growing in importance," Jeremy Pepper who writes for the blog Pop! PR Jots tells WebProNews.

"It gives companies the opportunity to see trends, and potential issues, in a way that is faster than ever before," he explains. "One of the key things, though, is how to judge the "noise" on such venues like Twitter. While everyone is equal on social networks, the amount of followers and following has a great impact on whether one person’s complaints will bubble up and become an issue, or if it just someone bitching." (Agree or Disagree?)

It’s not just about listening for what others are saying though. If your business doesn’t have some kind of presence of its own, it’s going to be hard to counter any negative attention it may be receiving. If your business is not actively involved in the conversation, your reputation will be left up to what others say about it.

David Meerman Scott "Quite literally, ‘You ARE what you publish,’" says David M. Scott, author of the books World Wide Rave and the best-selling The New Rules of Marketing and PR. "What I mean by that is whatever your company publishes online (and what others publish about you) IS your reputation. So if you are not in the social media sites, you don’t exist. But others are talking about you."

"Real time search is essential for businesses to understand. People are talking about you, your products, and your people right now and you need to know what they are saying," says Scott. "When something is being discussed about your company on Twitter, or blogs, or forums and a big customer calls you or the Wall Street Journal calls the CEO, ‘Huh?’ is not a savvy answer."

Real-time search is only lately starting to get a massive amount of attention as people realize that the web has turned much more into a web of conversation. What is being said right now is important because more and more people are engaging in these conversations when they sign up for social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

Google and other search engines are certainly still important factors as well.
Google will crawl some sites and blogs as often as every 30 minutes, give or take. These are generally the sites that are updated frequently. That’s not exactly real-time, but close enough to not ignore. Just because you Googled your business last month and everything looked fine does not mean the same could be said today.

Another thing to take into consideration is that any blogger or journalist that has a negative opinion about your product or your business in general can easily end up ranking high in search engines (particularly news search) based on the authority that the search engines have deemed them worthy of holding. Even if their information is inaccurate, they can have large readerships and lots of links, and your reputation can quickly spiral out of control.

So what are some ways to deal with this?

- Luckily blog posts/articles often have comments sections where you can attempt to clear your name

- Good old-fashioned SEO tactics – you can try to optimize your own positive stuff for what your negative attention is ranking for. The good news about this is that unless someone has a personal vendetta against you, they will probably not dwell on your business like you would, so in time negative results can possibly be overcome.

- Depending on the case, you can try contacting webmasters or bloggers about removing things if you think you can give them good reason to do so. Don’t bother asking Google. They will not remove content.

It’s best to nip these things in the bud though, before they get too out of control. This is a very good reason why real-time search will come in handy.

Twitter has recently brought its search feature to the home page, making it more accessible not only for you to monitor what people are saying, but for other people (like potential customers) to see what others are saying about you. It’s best to catch things before they do (obviously).

Twitter search box and trends on the front page 

Andy Beal

"Twitter is one of the most important channels for any business to monitor," says Andy Beal, creator of the Trackur online reputation management tool and co-author of the book Radically Transparent. "With Twitter Search businesses can listen for almost real-time discussions of their brand and take swift action. As Motrin discovered, Twitter is the place where angst (and complaints) rears its ugly head, develops into a movement, and quickly migrates to blogs and other social media."

Tools

There are plenty of tools around that can be used by companies to help manage their online reputations. There is Beal’s own Trackur, which keeps track of blogs, news sites, images, and videos. There is a nice list of tools in this article from John Jantsch.

Search is going to be your best friend though. For users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser, there is a great extension that lets you add any search engine you like to your search box in the top right-hand corner of your browser. You can add Twitter, Facebook, WhosTalkin.com, etc. and have a nice list of search engines to monitor at any given time. WhosTalkin.com by the way is another useful real-time search tool worth taking a look at.

The Wrap-Up

Online reputation management is often focused on from the perspective of the individual. There is good reason for that too, as plenty of jobs have been lost (or never gotten in the first place) based on what managers have found online about individuals. Mahalo certainly could’ve been spared a big PR disaster had it known the online reputation of one of its employees. Fortunately for that employee (unfortunately for Mahalo), they didn’t search for his name on Google.

But PR disaster is much more likely to strike when the business itself does not monitor its reputation. Tools are there for you to use. Don’t ignore them. Otherwise, it might be your company somebody tweets about having a poor product, leading to all of their followers seeing the negativity and possibly blogging about it which can then be linked to, and so on and so forth. I don’t think you want to go down that road. Just watch yourself.

>>> Got more tips for keeping your online reputation positive?

Share them with the rest of us.

… Attention WebProNews Readers:

- Tell us about your bad experiences.
- Has your reputation been tarnished unfairly?

Comment here…

 

Fighting a Bad Online Reputation & Keeping a Good One
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  • http://kikolani.com Kikolani

    I think businesses should Google themselves often, or sign up for Google alerts. That way they will know as soon as possible if something negative surfaces so they can counteract it, as you said, with positive things. One company I worked for did this by creating freebie blogs on WordPress and Blogger with the company name as the url/username. Within an hour, those new blogs trumped the negative articles. Other sites that will come up in Google if maintained with the company name as the username/url are Myspace and Twitter.

    ~ Kristi

    • Chris Crum

      Alerts are definitely a good idea.

  • http://www.mlsalater.com Michelle Salater

    I think there is always going to be someone out there trying to bring your company down, and it is extremely important to make an effort to be present on several social media sites. Although you’ll never catch all the bad things people say, I think it’s important to keep your company in a positive light and build a strong network of loyal followers. This will act as a counter to the bad things some people might be saying about your company. A strong and large network can silence these negative comments and keep your reputation intact.

    My suggestion: Build a strong social media network . . . Your company will thank you for it.

  • http://StepRep.MyFrontSteps.com Jeff Tomlin

    This topic is becoming more and more important. We just released StepRep for individuals and small businesses to manage their online reputation. It’s a free tool that digs into places like Twitter and Flickr that G alerts doesn’t yet.

    We are telling our users that you need to be aware of things that are said about you. Whether you heavily marketing online or not, you have a reputation because others probably are talking about you. Rating sites have been around or a long time for many different industries. You just have to look at RateMDs, Angieslist, ServiceMagic, Yelp, Zagat – the list is very long and it goes beyond these sites. Most of the new content online is conversational and interactive. People talk on twitter, facebook and blogs.

    Whether the comments are positive or negative, response is important. A lot of times, that means that you HAVE to join relevant online communities (such as Angieslist) because you will not know about discussion unless you are a member. Even more important is to actively start building trusted networks. 3rd party endorsements are 10 times more valuable in building a reputation than self published content. The goal is have more and more people connected to people that have positive things to say about you.

  • http://www.attorneyservicesetc.com PosterGal

    Visiting forums or blogs you are registered to or joined in constantly is an advantage in building good reputation. Be the one who have the last say on things. Don’t let others put you in a bad light. Having someone to monitor your activities in the web 24/7 is the key.

  • Guest

    I tried “Trackur” today and have been using Google Alerts (which is free) to send me weekly alerts. The problem is that there are so many pages loaded with out company name and web address targeting searchers to confuse them or have them click a link on their page that it is really useless. I have gone through 50 pages and not found 1 that was a real blog regarding our company.

  • http://earn-money-work-at-home-on-internet.blogspot.com Earning money from internet

    This is a great article , dear it is worth reading 10 times.
    Its very helfull in maintaining PR of my website and online reputation .

  • http://dmsmerchandise.com Doug

    You think this is bad.

    AOL is worse. They chose advertising over users, giving free online accounts in hopes that the revenues from advertising would more than cover the costs.

    Ever since Steve Case was forced out, AOL has went downhill and outsourced virtually all of their services. The latest experiment they did involved replacing AOL online profiles with Bebo.com profiles which are so gawd awfully organized and cluttered you will not find an AOL member in any of their chatrooms that likes Bebo one iota.

    AOL has farmed out their technical support to Inda and probably everything else. Cutting costs is turning into a virtual experiment at the costs of the online members for some.

    If MySpace follows suit with AOL, they will begin to fail just like AOL is now failing.

    Steve Case made a statement once that AOL should be separated from Time Warner and allowed to sell itself out. Maybe AOL should google themselves too?

  • http://Xerces.com/ Ryan C. Meader (@dalaixerces)

    Real-time search, G-Alerts, Twitter, and other form of reputation management are certainly crucial for a site or business these days; particularly if you want to be both big AND respected.

    Generally, being just one or the other is a road to nowhere…

    Xerces is extremely active on Twitter, Facebook & other socialnets; driving traffic is an important part of that — but so is brand building and monitoring/active mgmt of our rep…

    Lots of business think of themselves as local/”offline” and fail to realize just how important these things are to their future success!

  • http://inspiringfitness.co.uk/ Mik Cowans

    For many, stories like this, albeit more negative ones, leave them feeling scared. The amount of times I have suggested or created ‘social media’ accounts and or pages, only to be told of how much they think it is a bad idea. Perhaps they don’t understand that leading the charge will do them many favours should the unfavourable arise. For companies not in the IT field, lack of dedication and understanding is ever-present. How would you hit the ‘sell’ of such services and suggest an approach for such instances?

    Mik Cowans

  • http://www.vendorland.ca Canadian Web Directory

    Do we need answer to any cooments or only to positive? Some people will try just show their negative filling to your article, movie or business. What to do if this person just posting negative comments on any articles, movies on specific topic? Would you post a comment to this?

    • Chris Crum

      If someone is leaving negative comments about your product or business, it is probably a good idea to respond in your own defense. However, you should keep the tone professional and not put yourself into a “flame war.” Doing so could hurt your reputation even further. I would say that appropriate responses vary with the comments themselves.

      The exposure and severity of such negative comments might play a role in your decision to act upon them too. If it’s just some random blogger that doesn’t look like they get a whole lot of readers (you can check unique visitors with Compete and judge by the amount of comments they get, etc.) you may decide it is or isn’t/ worth the effort. To me, a lot of this stuff comes down to judgment.

  • http://alertrank.com Adam Green

    A lot of this article and the comments seem to be focused on tools and technology. There are plenty of good tools available, whether it is Google Alerts, or a proprietary solution like Andy’s Trackur or our AlertRank. The most important part of managing your reputation online is having someone spend the time getting to know who is active in your space. You can monitor blogs and Twitter, but you have to know and be known by the people you are monitoring. That takes a lot of time, regardless of the tool you use.

    This allocation of time is something that everyone needs to understand. Reputation management can be made more efficient with the right tool, but it can’t become “automated.” This is the hard thing to make clients realize. Your best defense in the social media world will be the people you know on blogs and Twitter, so a proactive reputation campaign will include the time spent cultivating those relationships.

  • http://www.ethicalbrand.com eb

    No discussion of reputation management can be complete without recognising that efforts to mitigate a poor reputation are quite futile if the root causes are not dealt with. In other words, the surest way to establish and maintain a good reputation is to practice ‘doing the right thing’.

    • Chris Crum

      There is certainly a lot of truth to this. The best way to prevent a poor reputation is to offer something good to begin with. Furthermore, negative comments can also be taken as constructive criticism (even if not intended that way by the commenter) where applicable.

  • http://fashionmash.com Margaret Howe

    This is a great post. Bad PR happens and you can’t necessarily control that. You can control your response to it. After all, bad pr is still pr… what you do when the attention is focused on you makes all the difference. When we were trying out a little startup, we got reviewed in an early stage & got nailed by mashable. Here’s what we did: http://www.prcouture.com/2007/10/10/responding-to-negative-pr-when-the-review-isnt-awesome/

    Monitoring tools are a great idea- not just to respond to bad reputation, but to thank people who do write good things too- maybe they will write more in the future!

  • http://reputationdr.wordpress.com ReputationDR

    Thanks for the great article. In today’s world, monitoring where the customers, prospects, competition, and adversaries are talking is critical to managing one’s online reputation. With all the places to leave comments and engage in a conversation, there is a potential for “fractured” conversations.

    For example, someone could potentially respond to your company’s news releases or other blogs in a variety of places, and other people pick up on that “conversation” and take it to another place, spreading the comments about the company. What makes it fractured is that is can be disassociated from the original comment, leaving the context in a position to be misunderstood. It’s a company’s responsibility to follow the conversations where and no matter how many places they go.

  • http://www.whostalkin.com Joe Hall

    Hey Chris great article! Thanks for mentioning WhosTalkin.com There are a lot of really great tools out there to help handle your online reputation. Its great to learn about each and develop a strategy that encompasses all levels of monitoring to get a the full picture. Thanks again, and looking forward to your next post!

  • http://www.preferredseat.com/ PrefSeat

    Not only is it Google good for keeping track of your own reputation, but your competition as well.

  • http://www.shawproductionslasvegas.com Joan at Shaw Productions

    I am not sure exactly how I did it but I have our business name, Shaw Productions Las Vegas set up in a google search where I get alerts if our name is used anywhere, even blogs! I think it is important to get an alert in your email so that you can address a problem right away.
    Joan
    Shaw Productions Inc.

  • http://www.jumbowalkin.com Sankar

    It really is an excellen article with lot of info for ppl who really care about their online reputation!

  • http://www.lexolutionit.com Maneet Puri

    Social media optimization is a very efficient technique to enhance your online reputation. You can start by establishing your presence on social websites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc.

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm Ejvind

    it’s getting to be just like in the old days, where people would gossip, and everybody knew everything about everyone. Just in a much larger context.

    We don’t live in tiny villages anymore, but we might as well, because the information can be found, whether you are living close by, or halfway around the globe.

    So good news for the good guys, and bad news for the bad guys.
    I hope we will continue to see that this kind of information sharing will be positive. But I do fear the day when major corporations start using this as a way of crushing their opponents.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Adam

    From a personal viewpoint, you want to make sure that your reputation is protected so don’t do things like using your real name or likeness on the site.

    From a business standpoint, you don’t need to let negative PR ruin your online reputation. Just having a reputation in the first place is a success in itself. You can always recover – yesterday’s news is old news.

    • Guest

      I agree with your comment 100%. As hard as it is to gain a good reputation with any business, all it takes is one bad apple to drag your personal name in the bad over something that was a misunderstanding.

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com Diamonds

    Good to know these tips. You never know when some nutcase tries to ruin you for his own fault or some competitor is trying to stain your name. We use Google Alerts to keep us updated on stuff written about our company, so far, its all been good.

  • http://www.optimized-me.com Optimize Yourself

    Finally an article that explains what we’re attempting to do! At Optimized-Me, we create detailed pages with people’s current information – with SEO techniques applied. We even have links back to their accurate social networking sites, and integrate Google friend finder apps for wall and reference posts. All information is approved by the individual.

    The goal is to get their optimized-me pages ranked above other online content that may not be accurate, up-to-date, nor wanted.

    I’d love to hear feedback on our fledgling enterprise.

    Adam

  • http://www.socialtrending.com Online Reputation

    Responding to negative comments is a tricky one. We did a whole article on it at http://www.socialtrending.com/blog/8-tips-for-responding-to-negative-comments-online.html

    As a rule of thumb, responding to negative comments is most valuable when you can effect the change the commenter desires. Responding to someone with a simple “we are sorry you feel that way” type answer will more likely have a negative impact that positive – Comments on blogs draw more traffic / change to the blog which will increase that comments SEO value potentially moving it up the search engine rankings which could lead exponentially more users finding that negative sentiment and associating it with your site.

    P.S. Listen to D.M. Scott the guy is a genius

    • http://www.pushchairsonline.com/quinny-speedi.html Quinny Speedi

      I am absolutely in agreement with you. However I find that sites with only positive feedback is un respresentative of normally distributed feedback. I lpersonally like to see a bit of negaitve, with a resolution. For me its about the resoution than the mistake, in the same way its not how you get knokced down but how you pick yourself up again.

  • http://www.babypushchairsonline.co.uk baby pushchairs

    I quite disagree with the viewpoint that yesterday’s news is old news. ..at least not in today

  • http://www.michaelmoodie.com.au Michael Moodie

    Great post… with some very timely information. Unfortunately there are often negative stories out on the web – and especially in the case of mainstream media such as news websites.. they are not always accurate. In fact they are often highly biased and inaccurate. Having an arsenal of information such as the above should be essential for anyone in business.

  • cadbury_queen

    I think people have to worry about their online reputation just as much as businesses do. I often search for my name using http://www.yasni.com because it is good to know what others would find if they searched for you and yasni is a great way of managing your online reputation.

  • http://www.hypemuscle.com Guest

    Totally agree with you on this, its so important to monitor your rep online. G alerts are extremely helpful.

  • http://www.elixirinteractive.com Fionnd

    Chris,
    Great article thank you. One of the questions I get asked all the time is will Google be upset if I proactively manage my reputation. By the time they get to me that usually means trying to push something negative out of the top 10. Google does not have a problem with it http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/managing-your-reputation-through-search.html. It makes complete sense that they would not. A real photograph of me showing up in the results is much more relevant than a fake one posted by somebody else. Unless of course they gave me Elle MacPearsons body but I digress. My facebook profile, my linked in are far more relevant to somebody looking for me than somebody posting that I am an idiot. (Although there might be a few people out there of that opinion). Of couse if I was an idiot like the Mahalo guy then its a good thing that it would show up.

    I bring this up becuase of false FUD spread by companies like the Rip Off Report. The text of their consumer advocacy program (the name of their extortion scam) reads:

    “Businesses who hire SEO companies to try and hide complaints, it does not work most of the time, and you have to keep paying them forever, and if it works consumers will still find the report even if it is on page 2, 3 or page 10. Search engines don

  • Chris

    Searching Social Network tools such as WhosTalkin.com, reminds me of www.searchulike.com that helps search social Bookmarks… any both both do give good search

  • Riese

    Excellent post on a very important topic. As a social media consultant for SMBs I am constantly warning people about their online reputation. There are several examples of the repercussions of “putting yourself out there.” Ask Tiger Woods…

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