Freedom of speech in the blogosphere is a double edged sword for companies. On the one hand, if customers have a good experience with a product, they will write about it in their blog. One the other hand, if they have a lousy interaction with your service, they will write about it too. Not much to you can do about it – right?
The key to insuring your company’s reputation is to adopt an online marketing optimization (OMO) strategy. Here’s how.
1. Begin with a robust SEO strategy. The goal is to dominate the search rankings for those keywords which your customers and prospects are most likely to find you or your competition on the Internet. By domination we mean first few pages. According to Commscore the top 30 ranked sites listed in a search engine receive up to 80% of all the traffic or clicks and 68% of searchers never go past the first page. This takes time, but in the end that works in your favor.
If you dominate the top pages in search with positive content, it will make it that much harder for the negative comments about your company to make their way to those first search pages people actually look.
2. Blog frequently and with a sincere and transparent voice. This advice comes directly from Andy Beal and Judy Strauss’ book Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online. A blog is where you can have conversations with your public in a way that is more personal and transparent than a press release. It is also where you can address any negative comments to an audience that has been listening to you.
Beal and Strauss also recommend a team approach to blogging where there’s less focus placed on a single individual and more attention on who your customers really want to hear from; your employees.
3. Establish a social media presence. Your blog should be the hub of your social media efforts, but once you’ve been writing it, you need to promote it through as many social media channels and social bookmarking sites as possible.
But that’s just for starters. You also need to monitor what’s being said about you and your industry, and participate actively in the conversation. Once you’ve created a presence with a following on social media, you will have established a level of trust between your company and the online community. If someone decides to spread nasty rumors about your company, you are in an excellent position to either address the issue directly (and hopefully nip it in the bud) or you can present your position with your online community.
4. Did we mention monitoring? At first it seems impossible to monitor what everyone says online about your company. It’s not. In fact there are numerous tools out there to help you monitor and better manage to your online reputation.
The important thing is to commit to a level of monitoring that’s realistic and effective. You may miss a few things, but if you’re consistent you will certainly pick up any negative comments that seem to be gathering traction.
5. Transparency, honesty and trust. All of the above are online marketing optimization tactics that can only work for your reputation if you adhere to these 3 principles of online communication – Transparency, Honesty and Trust. In Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer, these are the most important factors in a company’s reputation.
Graph source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2010
Here is what these terms mean when applied online.
- Transparency is about sharing with your customers the good and the not so good. It’s about showing who you are without spin or “public relations.”
- Honesty is about demonstrating your sincerity in a truthful manner.
- Trust is built by consistently communicating and interacting with your customers and prospects transparently and honestly. It’s a two-way conversation.
Have you every experienced negative comments about your company on the Internet, and if so, what did you do about it? What systems do you have in place for your online reputation management?
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