With the prevalence of social media and online review platforms, what people are saying about you online can make or break your personal brand or small business.
This article outlines best practices for managing your online reputation so you can set up your brand for success both online and in the real world.
Why is my online reputation important?
Online reputation is the overall perception of a brand based on the information available to your audience.
A positive online reputation can help attract business partners and customers, build trust, and improve the public’s overall perception of your brand.
Your online reputation consists of brand-related information, including:
- Social media content.
- Anything else that appears in search engine results when someone searches for your brand.
Your reputation can make or break your brand, and managing it appropriately is crucial.
Set SMART goals
Before anything else, establish what you’re working on.
What are your goals for your online presence? How can they contribute to the success of your brand?
Set SMART goals, making sure they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. The clearer and more well-defined it is, the better.
Setting one or two general brand goals plus more granular goals for specific campaigns lets you focus on both long-term and short-term goals simultaneously.
Brand goals shouldn’t be changed often unless your business model changes.
Campaign goals, however, can rotate more frequently depending on your brand’s needs.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Where do you excel? Where are you weakest?
There’s a reason interviewers ask these questions.
Knowing your weaknesses helps you work on strengthening them and prevents you from being blindsided by an attack.
Strong leaders understand that weaknesses can be exploited or used for growth and turned into strengths.
Highlight your superpowers
Where do you have an edge over the competition? What can you do better than anyone else?
Let’s say you provide excellent customer service in an industry known to be unreliable.
Use it to show your prospects how much better their experience can be if they choose you.
Tackle your roadblocks
Have a small budget? Afraid of negative reviews? Lack of consent from the leadership? Is a disgruntled former employee or customer trying to bring you down?
Identifying your setbacks is the first step to overcoming them. Typically, small businesses report time and budget as their biggest hurdles.
Know your audience
A deep understanding of customers, colleagues and competitors is the key to reputational success.
You need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how will you know how to talk to them?
Successful brands understand exactly what feelings and perceptions their logos and communication evoke with their audience and what their customers expect from them.
Remember, not everyone is your target audience. If you try to reach everyone, you won’t connect with anyone.
Find your voice on social media and create content that connects
Social media is a great place to develop your brand voice. This is not the place to start pushing hard sells.
Earn the trust of your audience by getting to know them without asking for anything in return.
Transparency is key, with consumers regularly reporting that honesty, friendliness and helpfulness are the top behaviors consumers want to see from brands on social media.
You know what the list never does? Sales push.
Be careful not to turn your audience against you by abusing your platforms.
Earning the trust of your audience has to come before overly promotional posts, especially if you want them to become strong brand advocates.
Professional tip: Pay special attention to edgy humor and rudeness on social media. Brands often miss the mark or end up offending users.
Once you’ve determined your goals, you can map out your content strategy. Don’t skip this step, you won’t get far without a plan.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a site plan.
For existing content, keep a sheet with the current pages and posts on your site and the targeted keywords for each page.
Create another sheet with a prioritized list of content you need to create.
This will keep you on track and ensure you rank for keywords and topics that are relevant to your brand’s success.
Not sure where to start? Check out your competition.
You want to show up wherever they are and wherever they are not.
Providing valuable information about your site helps with optimization efforts. It also builds trust with your audience as they learn that you provide useful, valuable and reliable information.
You own your name
Prevention is worth an ounce of cure. Request your username on all channels.
You’ll be much better able to withstand an attack if you’ve built a solid foundation to stand on.
One negative review in a list of hundreds is much less credible than one negative review in two or three.
When creating content, use descriptive and third-person language to assist in SEO efforts.
Use consistent and descriptive handles and names on social sites, blog posts, and earned media.
See what ranks for your name and make sure you have a positive presence there.
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Leverage proprietary content to control information about your brand online.
One of the most effective and reliable ways to do this is through search engine optimization (SEO).
Optimizing your website and other online profiles to rank higher in search engine results allows your customers to find information about your brand online and protects you from a reputation attack.
If you can own all the results on the first page of the SERP for your brand, it’s much harder for someone to get negative information to rank your name in an attempt at a reputation attack.
Keep up with SEO best practices to make sure your site ranks well for your key brand terms.
Your online reputation is closely tied to your personal or professional brand.
Whether you are a freelancer, entrepreneur or small business owner, establishing a consistent brand image across all online platforms is essential.
Consistency through familiarity in the tone, voice, look and feel of what you share across different channels is essential.
Of course, you’ll want to tailor to individual channel audiences and limitations, but deliver the same customer experience across all touchpoints.
If you look at a major brand’s social profiles, you’ll notice that they typically have site-to-site consistency, with both visuals and written content.
You want your customers to feel comfortable if they go from your website to your Facebook page and then to Twitter.
If they have to stop and think about whether they’re still on the same brand as they move from channel to channel, you have a better chance of losing them in the journey.
Set clear expectations
The perceived success or failure of a project or experience largely depends on the expectations of that project.
You expect a different level of service when you enter a five star resort versus a roadside motel. What do you want your customers to expect from you?
Decide and then deliver. Be authentic and be useful wherever you can.
Being helpful and meeting expectations will increase customer satisfaction, resulting in more positive reviews and social media engagement, which will improve your overall reputation and revenue.
Use reviews to build your brand
Let the reviews help you improve. Positive reviews are great, but negative reviews are what help you improve.
Respond to every review you receive. Saying « thank you » when someone leaves a positive comment or review is an easy win. Every brand should do this, but many don’t.
Most importantly, acknowledge your mistakes. If someone leaves a bad review, fix it.
Monitor what is being said about you online
Monitoring your reputation will let you know your audience’s perception of your brand and alert you to potential problems before they get out of hand.
Track news and earned mentions from media outlets, social media platforms, online reviews, forums, and any other platforms where your brand audience may be active.
This way, you can uncover potential opportunities to build your brand.
Managing your online reputation is an ongoing process that requires time, strategy and constant attention.
A good reputation indicates seriousness and reliability towards potential customers and business partners.
Knowing your audience and making sure they know you will help you build a positive reputation and ensure your customers and colleagues are loyal advocates for your brand.
The views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff writers are listed here.