The rapid growth and popularity of the internet and social media has made the world a far smaller place. Gone are the days when organisations were able to hide behind their PR teams – nowadays everything is instant and therefore also international. So what challenges does that imply for us?
Reputation used to be closely linked to word-of-mouth – the most powerful form of marketing even in the digital age. Just think of the last time you wanted to try out a new restaurant – you might have asked friends whether they’ve already had the pleasure to dine there in order to help you with your decision making process. Another very common approach (surprise, surprise) is to simply ‘google’ the product or service of your desire to help you make up your mind. This is exactly where my curiosity comes into the game – do you agree with me if I say reputation is a key factor for consumers looking to make a purchasing decision?
The internet displays a vast amounts of information on brands and individuals that reputation simply doesn’t stem from word-of-mouth solely anymore. Further factors to take into account are: the ease of the online purchase journey, online communication provided and its speed as well as online advertising taking online reputation to a new level.
Online Reputation a Defence Mechanism
Those digital channels/outlets therefore need to be created and managed accordingly. The reason being that once you have established a positive online reputation it will eventually work well as a defence mechanism. Let’s be frank no business can constantly satisfy its customers to the highest level – we all make mistakes. A solid online reputation though will help you to recover quickly from the mistakes made. It further reassures upset customers that ‘it’s just them’ because the rest of the SERPs praise your organisation to the highest notes.
However, once you have upset a customer you have to bridge the mistrust gap quickly through engagement (online & offline). A common used and well perceived technique is to let them vent and give them ‘something’ extra to what they have originally asked for along with an apology. Simply put yourself in your customer’s position “what are they expecting you to do as a result of the error?” Keep in mind that customer service is an essential part of your reputation management efforts. Isn’t the beauty of social media that it allows brands to have a human voice?
Understanding the Internet and its Landscape
It’s pretty amazing what you can find out about individuals and brands online – sometimes to that extend that it actually is scary. As a result though I personally don’t have any sympathy for individuals who don’t look after their online reputation – wake up, we are living in the digital age!
Do you still remember that story where some rather naughty Oxford students were suspended for pretending to be ill on the examination day? They might have put their best acting skills on but that didn’t help the fact that their Facebook profiles actually showed photos of them lying drunk in the gutter – the result? They were suspended.
The same applies to employees – just imagine you have an un-happy employee who decides to share his/her frustration online. The rant could show up for a long time in the SERPs. That’s not all though – recruiters and HR professionals usually look individuals up online. I bet it would make a great impression if they see on any of your social networking sites that you’ve been bad-mouthing your former employer! When building your personal online brand or your business’ brand you have to look after it.
Managing your online reputation
- I for instance include close friends, family and a few chosen professionals within my social media outlets dominantly G+ and Facebook. I myself am very cautious of what I am posting on these as I don’t want to reflect badly on my personal online brand. The information we share with our ‘online’ friends has great potential to be seen by far more people. Further it can be pretty tricky to separate professional and personal efforts. As a result I only share personal interest and opinions with my dear friends carefully – evaluating those conversations in order not to poorly reflect on my professional online brand reputation.
- If your business has a social media presence – I am afraid there’s a big likelihood that eventually you’ll have to address complaints – in this case publicly. We’ve all seen various cases where brands dealt outrageously badly with complaints? Remember the Nestle case – the brand took its frustration out on Facebook which was heard by 90,000 fans, the result? The whole issue went viral and even made it into the main stream news and TV – very damaging for the brand! They should have served their customers publicly (instead of deleting insulting comments) apologizing in order to be perceived as a brand that cares for its customers. Brands on social media need to have a genuine dialogue with their customers – that’s the purpose of it! Additionally, fighting on social media will show up in search for a long time.
- It still amazes me how uncareful some public figures such as politicians or celebrities manage their Twitter accounts – ranting about each other and so on. Have you ever heard the phrase what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? I am afraid the same does not apply to the internet. Every comment, tweet, status update is captured and will be stored somewhere so that Google can link to it – and they will! Whatever you put online will stay there, so think twice before you post.
So how can we effectively manage our online presence?
- Most importantly – check your privacy settings. If you are not feeling comfortable with your online friends sharing your comments or photos you have to ensure that your privacy settings reflect this. Some of my friends requested other friends to un-tag certain photos of them simply because they were cautious about their online reputation.
- The oldest trick of the book – simply google yourself. Are you seeing what you thought you’d see?
- Recent Linkedin enhancements enable you to endorse other professionals and vice versa. Make sure you are recommending others in your network and let them return the favour – this keeps the traffic moving!
- If you are a content creator and involved in blogging ensure you are being quoted in popular industry journals, blogs, etc. Additionally, you should share other people’s content via Twitter and your blog to enhance your online footprint. It will work wonders!