As more and more of a company’s advertising focus is moving from traditional sources of advertising to digital media, it has become increasingly important to protect your company’s online image and reputation. Cyberattacks and security breaches threaten the financial security of your business, but attacks made via your social media accounts and elsewhere on the web threaten your credibility and reputation, which is much more difficult to recover. Here are at least 7 steps you can take to manage your company’s online reputation.
It should go without saying that the best way to manage your online reputation is by knowing what people are saying about you. The simplest way to gain this understanding is by performing a web search of your business and its related properties (i.e. brands). This search should provide you with a quick survey of the information that is available about your company and allow you to see what favorable and unfavorable information is around.
Manage the Reputation of Those Most Identifiable with the Company
Your employees maintain lives beyond your business’s four walls. Unfortunately the public, and particularly your customers, may not always see the difference between public and private—the actions of individuals associated with the business reflect on the business, both positive and negative. Because of the blurred lines that exist between our public and private personas, created in large part by the growth of social media platforms, it is important to actively manage these worlds. For certain employees of you organization who are most identifiable with the company, policies and procedures have to be in place that place certain restrictions on activities that may cause harm to the reputation of the company.
Continually Monitor Your Company’s Online Image
Your IT team should be equipped with the tools necessary to effectively monitor your company’s image in the online world on a continuous basis. This constant monitoring will allow you to be proactive and respond quickly when negative or false information is being placed online.
Own and Actively Engage in Social Media
If you are active on social media, you have a pretty good sense of what is being posted, tweeted or written about you in the form of a customer review. If you are not active, you have no idea what is being said or shared about your business. Simply put, you need to take complete and total ownership of your business’s social media and actively interact with your connections. Keep your social media pages up-to-date and engaging with news and information that is relevant to the interests of your audience.
Respond (When Appropriate) to Online Attacks
When you are under attack by critics of your company or disgruntled customers, there are several approaches that you can take. You can do nothing, a common approach, or engage in heavy-handed tactics such as threatening legal action. While these approaches may be effective in the long run, they’re also very visible. It may be best to meet your critics head-on and engage them in dialogue to uncover the source of their concerns or bad experience with your company. This type of approach may help you understand areas of improvement for your business and empower individuals who may potentially become your biggest advocates.
Employ a Multi-Tiered Digital Media Strategy
A multi-tiered digital strategy includes paying for advertising online (paid media), establishing a website and email marketing campaigns that target your customer’s interests (owned media) and the advertising you obtain through word-of-mouth (earned media). All of these media elements should be a part of your overall digital strategy, which will allow you to control your messaging online and create advocates of you customers to write positive things about you and tell their friends in order to extend your brand’s influence.
Consider Hiring an Online Reputation Management Firm
As your business grows and you see the need for an even greater presence online, it may be time to consider hiring an online reputation management firm. The complexity of the low-dollar, high-result digital media world may be more than your internal staff can handle on their own in addition to the other important work they do for the company. Turning this task over to professionals in the field may help you maintain the online reputation you want.