How many searches do you think Google sees in a month? 88 billion. How many adults in the US are online? 75%! What do they do there? They shop, search and share. Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll start to understand why Online Reputation Management (or ORM as it's known in the industry) is more important than ever.
Running In That Online Rumor Mill
You have to be extremely careful that your reputation stays unspotted.
For example, if a client doesn't pay, how do you go about getting paid without hurting your reputation? If someone takes it upon themselves to bash you online, what do you do? After all, today it's as simple as getting a bunch of bullies to say something bad about you.
The Internet is a continually churning rumor mill. It's like the high school locker room or a gossip's telephone line. Someone says something nasty about you and BAM! It's all over the stratosphere and your company pays the price until you do something about it.
- Which is why you want to do something about it now, before any of this happens.
Online Reputation Management Is 24/7/365
Wouldn't it be nice to click a button and, presto pesto, have your reputation drop back to neutral? Or, at the very least, no longer in the dumps? Some of our clients wish that button existed, and some of them don't even have a company behind them. They simply have a bad mark they need removed for whatever reason and they come to us for it.
Normally, it's a long uphill battle to clean up a spoiling reputation. However, if you keep in mind that ORM is like managing your credit " i.e. you have to stay on top of it all the time " you may never need to clean up anything. Before you go online, get it in your mind that your online reputation will follow you for the rest of your life.
Online 24 Hours a Day
You have to sleep some time. While you're sleeping, that unhappy customer is stewing about how you mismanaged their shipment, refused to refund or otherwise told them to kiss off. You didn't really do that (of course not!), but this is how the customer perceives the course of events.
Eventually, they stew enough that they have to share. Online. Usually on Twitter or Facebook. Most likely with their friends " but often with the world. While you're sleeping, the shiny gold on your reputation has begun to flake off. Unfortunately, you don't know it because you haven't thought about ORM. It's for companies with a public relations problem, not for you.
Reputation 7 Days a Week
If you had a system set in place to flag these types of instances, you'd be better prepared to deal with them as they happen. There is no better course of action than an immediate course of action.
You see, reputation management isn't a tool you pull out in a crisis. It's a tool you use every day of the week by:
Building realistic expectations on purpose " When customers communicate with you via social, content or sales, they begin to feel like they know you. Whether false or not, they build a picture of how you'll act in a given situation, which becomes part of your reputation. Wouldn't it be better to purposely build realistic expectations through active ORM, rather than have customers build expectations your company can't uphold?
Actively creating opportunities for trust " Unfulfilled expectations destroy trust. Creating realistic expectations and fulfilling them builds trust. It's your job to actively create opportunities for your customers to trust you. As a simple example, the masseur that promises a free cup of Earl Gray tea with every massage: some people may not like tea, but the offer will always be there.
Maintaining open channels of communication " Giving your customers the ability to contact you is extremely important in this age of communication. Anymore, it's not enough to just have an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org, anyone?). Multiple lines of communication are expected, realistic, and create stronger feelings of trust. Win-win win!
Management 365 Days a Year
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," as the idiom goes. Your company's reputation relies heavily on what's being said about you. Those business reviews on Yelp, Google Places and HotFrog mean a lot to potential customers, even before they visit your site.
Unfortunately, gaining those reviews isn't easy. One person complained that they couldn't get reviews even if they offered a free year's subscription to their service. It can be done, but it often takes a bit to build strong reviews.
Make it as easy as possible. If you have Yelp, HotFrog or other review sites, provide links to your top business listings.
Make it as visible as possible. There's a difference between asking for reviews and making it obvious that you have/would like reviews. Yelp created a set of business badges for site owners so you can promote your review-needy listing.
Your chance to shine. If you have reviews already, this is your chance to brag about it. No, no " not verbally! I hate to push Yelp as such a shining example, but they've taken great steps to make the reviewing process rewarding. You can share your Yelp reviews through a handy badge created by refmobworks.
Management also has everything to do with responding in a timely and positive manner when things go desperately wrong. As much as you may want to, it is not good ORM to attack a complainant with crass language, negativity and irritability. Worse yet, an obvious lack of care, as when you don't respond at all.
Reputation Management " Online, All The Time
You know what the real problem with ORM is? Your satisfied customers are least likely to leave a review. Unless you go completely above and beyond, they're even less likely to talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. In fact, the most talkative of all your customers are the ones who feel like you failed.
Monitor. Manage. Keep control of how you're perceived online. When it comes to your company's reputation, pro-active is always better than reactive. Be prepared!