shutterstock_115385575Earlier this week, I wrote about online reputation and how important it is that you manage yours. Because the conversations will go on whether you’re there or not, and if you don’t respond appropriately, you could be in for a world of pain and a long recovery.

The hard truth is, if you’re in any kind of business today, then you’re going to have to pay attention to what’s being said online. Period. Moreover, you’re going to have to find ways to participate in the conversation, so that you can ensure that the record is set straight when it needs to be, and that people who are saying good things about you can be commended (so they will continue to say good things!).

While it would be impossible to talk about ALL of the things you need to do to manage your reputation online in one short blog post, here are three ways you can get started.

The Preemptive Strike

We all know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, right? Well the same holds true when your online reputation is at stake. In my last post I talked about setting up listening posts like Google Alerts and Twitter Searches, so you’ll know the instant someone is talking about you (good or bad). But there’s a way you can go deeper with this technique. Don’t stop at searching for mentions of your business specifically – set up keyword searches around your whole industry, and monitor those too. You’ll quickly discover trends and conversations that are affecting the industry as a whole, and you’ll be able to identify a broader set of concerns or kudos.

If you see an industry-related trend starting to form on various channels, consider how you might go about solving the problem. Don’t just reply with a link to your web site – that’s spammy and will do you more harm than good. Rather, consider writing a thoughtful blog post about the subject and offer some concrete solutions. This positions you as having some expertise in the subject, and your transparency around acknowledging there are issues helps to build trust. So listen, and make that pre-emptive strike. Be solution oriented if there’s a problem, and grateful if good things are being said.

Make Sure There’s Somebody Home

The worst thing an organization can do is set up social media channels and then leave. If you’re going to take the plunge into blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the like, then you need to set up a plan to ensure that there’s somebody home. I’m not saying you need to be ready to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you do need to make sure you’re monitoring and responding to comments in a timely fashion. Nothing is more frustrating to an already frustrated customer than reaching out online only to get no response. That makes them more likely to get even more frustrated – and the last thing you need on your Facebook page is an irate customer.

Keep tabs on your feeds by setting up notifications on your smart device or email notifications. Then you’ll know the minute someone comments, you can gauge your response and reply accordingly. I also recommend posting Terms of Engagement on your web site and linking to them on your social networks. Set the expectation with people as to when they can anticipate a reply from you, and also outline what is deemed acceptable conduct. That way you always have recourse (i.e. removing a post) if someone breaks your rules.

Sometimes, a detractor will come along. In fact, it will most likely happen to you at some point. If you want some great tips on how to deal with this, I defer to my friend Jason Falls, and his great post on Dealing With Detractors.

The truth is, it’s only a matter of time before someone disagrees with you online. That’s the nature of the beast – we are all able to express our opinions now, wherever and however we want. The best way to ensure that you don’t become the next United Breaks Guitars is to be aware. Understand and accept that the conversations are going to go on whether you’re there or not. If you choose to listen, and participate where appropriate, then you’ll be able to improve your reputation over time. But sticking your head in the sand is a sure fire way to do more damage.

Which path will you choose?

***Shameless self promotion warning***

I’m really fired up to be pitching a session at South By Southwest Interactive next year, with my esteemed colleagues and wonderful friends, Martin Waxman, CEO of Martin Waxman Communications, and Mary Pretotto, Director of Social Media Community & Intelligence at Rogers Communications.

Our session is titled, “You Suck! How Reputation Can Make or Break a Brand”, and in it we’ll be discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of reputation management, and providing some real life examples of how you can apply skills you already have to maintaining and building your reputation online. It’s going to be a pile of fun, and we’d be honoured if you’d pop by the SXSWi Panel Picker and gave us a vote!  Thanks for your support!


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