Fighting a Bad Online Reputation & Keeping a Good One
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.
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.
"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 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."
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.
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.
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