Make Online Reputation Management Part of Your Business Marketing Plan
Whether you’re a small business or a major corporation, you live or die by your reputation. In the digital age that means that you survive or perish by your Google or Bing search results.
Thanks to the Web, customers can leave detailed accounts of what your company did right (or wrong) on high-ranking consumer review websites like Google+. They can set up a blog with the domain name YourCompanySucks.com. They can start a campaign on Twitter talking about your products, your customer service or your ugly new logo (just ask Gap). In short, your customers can help make your company look great — or gauche — online.
There are a few things that you can do to prevent the latter: deliver quality products, treat customers with respect, and be a good corporate citizen.
Of course, even the best and most respected companies still face online problems from time to time. That’s why you should be incorporating proactive online reputation management (ORM) practices into your overall marketing and communications strategy.
Here are some tips to help you get started on how to make business reputation management part of your online marketing plan.
1. Focus on social engagement and outreach.
Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools have made it possible for customers to interact directly with brands and vice versa. If people are talking about your company online, you should be there talking back.
Companies are increasingly hiring individuals to manage social media communications on behalf of their brand. These positions typically have titles like social media manager, social media coordinator or community manager. Whatever you call it, it’s important that someone pays attention to your company’s reputation on the Web and engages with the community appropriately.
Before choosing someone to represent your brand in the social media sphere, however, you must make sure they fully understand your company’s messaging and internal processes for dealing with negative feedback, which leads to the next tip.
2. Develop a social media policy.
Many brands get into trouble online because an employee speaks on the company’s behalf without proper authorization or gets caught doing something that reflects poorly on the brand. That’s why it’s important that companies spend time developing a comprehensive social media policy explaining what employees can and can’t do online.
For more information, check out this article on developing a social media policy, which is essential as you make online reputation management part of your business marketing plan.
3. Coordinate social media management with other marketing efforts.
Whether it’s your website, corporate blog or Facebook fan page, the information about your company on the Web should reflect your overall branding and marketing strategies. Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean that it should exist in a silo.
To maintain a strong brand, your online communications should mirror your other brand communications, from your advertising to your customer service policies. Consistency across multiple marketing channels improves customer retention and gains new business.
Consider crafting a messaging statement that your employees can use when talking about your brand on the Web. It should include key words to use and avoid as well as protocols for sharing information on the Web in conjunction with general media releases. If you have a product announcement planned, for example, you don’t want someone blowing your release plans by tweeting too soon.
4. Be prepared for crisis communications.
Like it or not accidents happen — which is why you should have a crisis communications plan in place.
Major corporations and small businesses should be prepared to deal with any crisis, whether it’s a product recall or just one really, really, really angry customer causing lots of problems online. Using social media tools can help communicate your company’s stance on the issue, address press concerns and explain your next steps.
Proactive ORM includes having the tools in place to deal with crises before they occur. Make online reputation management part of your business marketing plan. Make sure you own multiple variations of your company’s URL so that nobody can squat on your brand to make you look bad. Also make sure that your community or social media manager is ready to deal with comments from the press, upset customers and investors.