Entrepreneurs have a host of key decisions to consider in the run-up to unleashing their vision on the world.
Establishing a plan for online reputation management should be among those cornerstone, no-brainer planning stages. Today, it’s much too easy for anonymous complainers and feisty competitors to tarnish your brand and ultimately hijack your vision through online forums, comment fields, and competing websites.
The birth of your business marks the start of a daily battle to boost credibility and consumer awareness online. That’s where online reputation management (ORM) comes into play. ORM is, in essence, monitoring your brand and image online to help you mitigate potential problems.
Done right, ORM is simple, cheap, and effective. It’s also become a daily, and sometimes hourly, part of running a business in an era of social media and instantaneous feedback. Here are four ways entrepreneurs and start-ups can begin to tackle ORM.
Managing your reputation often means taking preventative measures. Purchase a suite of domains related to your company name — not just the .net, .org and .biz extensions, but also some potentially hazardous derivatives. Think “yourcompanyreviews.com” or “yourcompanycomplaints.com” and even “yourcompanyscam.com.” As you build your business, use the “reviews” site as a hub for additional customer testimonials and positive praise about your startup.
Create Google Alerts for your company, yourself, and any other pertinent connectors. Tap into Backtype and other engines that allow you to search blog comments and other user-generated content. Respond to complaints and criticisms rapidly. If a blogger rips your brand, politely ask for a rebuttal opportunity. Address public criticisms and complaints as publicly as possible — just don’t be badgered into giving away the store to quell an incessant complainer.
Spread the Word
Negative content happens. That’s why it’s important to flood the internet with relevant, positive information about your company and your brand. Submit guest posts to industry sites, then showcase those “gets” in an “As Seen In” media clips section on your company website. Sign up for Help a Reporter Out and become a source for journalists nationwide — then, of course, slap those news outlet logos in your “As Seen In” section. Garner customer testimonials and words of praise and create a unique page on your site to showcase them. Then filter any others over to that aforementioned separate company reviews page. You can’t delete negative blog posts and reviews. But you can tamp them down with good news.
Meet and Greet Online
Use social networking sites and tools to interact with prospects and existing customers. Respond to questions and address problems through Facebook and Twitter. Use these forums to pump out positive information about your company and your services as often as possible
For any startup company, ORM plays an essential role in developing an online brand. If you want to keep your company from attacks — especially the unjust ones — ORM needs to be a priority. With some practice and planning, monitoring your reputation online will take little energy but pays big dividends.