In today’s world, your online reputation is just as important as your offline reputation. With the popularity of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, what others are saying about your brand is readily available for anyone to read.
For many companies, the social web is scary place. After all, corporations have always relied on being in total control of their brands. However, if companies want to remain reinvent into the modern age of social and digital media, they will need to follow the lead of companies like Southwest, Target, and Victoria Secret, who have learned to adapt and have utilize the social nature of today’s Internet.
You too can harness the social web to increase sales and win life-long patrons.
If you are going to be successful online, there are two things you must remember:
- You must control the message when possible
- You must let fans, competitors, and detractors speak freely
While these two points may seem counterintuitive, they are both essential in drafting a strong SERM strategy.
Take the ABC company for example:
Mr. Smith, the company president, was browsing online when he came across a site that reviewed some of his company’s products. Users on the site gave his product one out of five stars, not because the product was bad, but rather because the customer support for his product was terrible.
Mr. Smith was shocked by this revelation and searched the query, “abc company + customer support” .
Soon Mr. Smith was browsing dozens of sites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts that complained about the terrible customer support at the ABC company. All of these customer complaints were now being sent to hundreds of online communities who would soon read those unfavorable blurbs and instantly harbor a negative opinion of the ABC company.
Mr. Smith knew that he had to do something to end and reverse the trend of negative press that his company was receiving.
The company soon hired an SERM professional who began working with the company to change the course of discussion that was taking place online.
The ABC company implemented the SERM’s recommendations and with the right knowledge and a little bit of time, the negative postings were out of the top results and new, favorable postings were showing.
So what was the advice the SERM gave the ABC company?
The same advice that any SERM professional would give their client:
“Control your message and allow people to speak freely”
There are literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of opportunities online to control your message online. You can start taking advantage of these opportunities by picking the low-hanging fruit that will have the most direct impact in managing your online reputation.
This includes (at the very minimum) creating a Facebook , MySpace, and Twitter account for your company.
Soon, those profiles will become indexed within the search engines and will begin taking up valuable real-estate on searches for your companies brand. This will help displace search results which contain negative press as well as your competitors websites.
Next, create groups, fan pages, forums,(or whatever else you want to call them) surrounding search terms that are causing your company problems.
For instance, Mr. Smith may want to create a Facebook group called, “ABC Customer Support”, or a twitter handle with the same title.
By creating opportunities for customers to ask questions or speak their piece, Mr. Smith and his employees can respond to customers questions, concerns, and disappointments openly, and hence, begin to develop a sense of trust.
After all, customers (just like everyone else) want to know that you are listening to their concerns and that you care.
Soon those fan pages and twitter handles will be picked up by the search engines and with any luck, you will be able to displace unflattering postings.
Search Engine Reputation Management is critical to any business with an online presence. Even if the company does not do business online, their customers ARE online and they ARE discussing the places they spend their money.