Years ago, before the internet, businesses had little to worry about when it came to reputation. If a complaint was made, then a customer could be given a refund, or offered an apology, and pacified relatively easily. They may go away and complain to their friends and the business in question may have lost out on a few customers, but all-in-all, this wasn’t widespread.
Enter the internet and things still weren’t too bad, until social media came along and put the power firmly in the hands of the consumer. What’s more, it also gave them a huge audience to share their grievances with.
What a business has said in the past can be something that has drastic ramifications in the present so prevention is the best tactic. Changing the public’s perception of a business can take time, money and effort. So, to help you avoid these negative influences on your business let’s have a look at some tools and practices you can utilise.
Don’t do it all yourself
There are lots of professional companies and individuals that can help you monitor what’s being said about your business. Even if you feel confident about your business and what it puts out on the internet it’s always worth monitoring carefully what’s said. This means that you can nip any problems in the bud before they escalate any further.
There are plenty of options for a business and there are many digital ORM (online reputation management) agencies that know how to check how a business is coming across to the public at large. These agencies will also help that business to rank more highly in search results and for relevant and positive content and reasons. These agencies are skilled at sorting through all of the dross and data that exists online.
Most businesses won’t have the time or know how to do this job itself. Digital PR agencies can make a huge difference and effectively find any harmful content quickly.
However, as with any business practice, research is very important. For every great agency out there, there are even more that do a terrible job. Reputation management isn’t something that should be done half-heartedly. Forbes recently wrote an article detailing the extortion practices surrounding some agencies so it pays to check out the reputation of who’s going to be managing yours.
Prevention is best
Once something is said it can be very hard to take it back. The best way to avoid a negative reputation is to not say anything offensive or questionable in the first place. But there are of course exceptions and things that are completely outside of you and your business’ control. There are examples of business’ social media accounts being hijacked and malicious content being shared.
In this instance there’s a clear need for a professional opinion and skilled individuals to purge the online world of that content. This is likely something that your business cannot do in-house. There are also cases of what is effectively cyber-bullying where an individual consistently posts harmful comments on everything that a business shares.
Effectively then protecting your online reputation is very important and a business would do well to build a strong and professional brand that’s as close to impervious to negative exposure as possible. The easiest way to do this is to build a social presence that’s consistent and difficult to attack. It’s also advisable that a business buys any domain names that are linked to its business brand to avoid any harmful copycats or those seeking to damage the business’ reputation.
The best way to avoid harmful exposure is to maintain as much control as possible. Your reputation (in many ways) is all that you have, so you should strive to pre-empt any future attacks.
The most common attacks are:
- Stolen usernames and domain names
- An individual posting on your behalf and without your consent
- Harmful or spiteful comments about you or your business
- Fake user profiles
- Competitor attacks (this can also take the form of SEO based attacks)
Reputation Management: The first step
Take control of your brand and any and all exposure it receives. Make sure that your register your name on every possible (and relevant) social media site. This will negate any users aspiring to pretend to be you and it will stop (right at the beginning) those users that seek to harm your brand name and identity.
There are also a number of tools that a business could use to monitor what is being said and who is saying it in regards to its brand identity.
Social Mention (and other monitoring tools)
The past few years have seen a proliferation of social media monitoring tools but it’s worth remembering that not all of those tools are created equally. Some could present more harm than good and some are just costly tools with no real benefit to your business.
Firstly identify your budget and define what it is that you want from these services. Ask a lot of questions and make sure that what you’re getting fulfils the intention of your business. Some monitoring tools are very good so let’s look at a few briefly.
- ViralHeat – this is a relatively cheap tool and it’s pretty sophisticated in its application.
- Spredfast – this is a tool designed specifically for the enterprise. It’s not as well rounded as some of the other tools mentioned in this list but it is very good at organising large amounts of content.
- Sysomos – another helpful tool and one that’s powerful enough for larger companies. This tool however doesn’t come with a hefty enterprise price tag.
- Social Mention – This is a social media based search engine and one that searches user-generated content in the form of blogs, comments, videos, news, and pretty much every conceivable category.
The online world is one to be careful in. A business should always present itself as professional and carefully monitor what’s said about it. Any negative attacks should be dealt with immediately and by using social media monitoring tools a business can stay ahead of what could be a very negative curve.