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  • Writer's pictureDenis Sinelnikov

FORBES Feature: How To Build And Manage Your Online Reputation

Your reputation is important. If you've ever asked yourself, "I wonder what happened to ..." then you know what I mean. From Sears to Theranos, we've seen giants fall due to mistakes that destroyed their reputations. However, even if you do everything right, that doesn't mean your reputation will show it. You have to advocate for yourself. Let's look at some ways you can build and manage your online reputation.

What Is Online Reputation Management?

If online reputation management (ORM) is a new term to you, you're not alone. While digital marketers know the term well, many entrepreneurs aren't familiar with what it entails, even though most of them do some aspect of it every day. Essentially, ORM combines public relations, search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing to create the positive image a brand wants to express to the public. When it comes to ORM, you're looking to do three things:

• Create a brand image that matches your company's vision and mission.

• Address valid negative criticism to rebuild trust.

• Counter any misinformation about your brand.

Together, these three items are about taking control of the messaging around your brand. While you can't control what others say about your brand, you can control how and when you respond.

Now that we have the what of ORM down, let's look at how you can manage your online reputation.

Know Your Tools

Digital marketers typically use four channels to help manage a brand's online reputation, including:

• Paid media, such as Google Ads or sponsored social media posts.

• Earned media in the form of customer testimonials or recommendations.

• Shared media in the form of engagement through social media platforms.

• Owned media, including your website, blog and social media pages.

Remember that your platforms help you establish and reinforce your brand.

Know Where You Stand

Suppose you have a friend who has recently gone through a breakup with their partner. One evening, out of the blue, they say something like, "Hey, don't listen to the things my ex is saying about me." You haven't heard anything, so you wonder to yourself, "Why would their ex-partner be talking about them?"

Don't make this mistake as a company. While it is important to be out there in front of a misstep and show that you're course-correcting, you don't want to address mistakes that no one is talking about.

Before you begin any kind of reputation management, do your research. See what people are saying about your brand. What do people think of you? What concerns do they have? What reviews or feedback have customers provided to you?

Encourage Honest Reviews And Respond To Them

Ask your customers to leave a review of your product or service. You want good reviews, so ask for them from happy customers. These will help you build a positive image. However, don't shy away from negative reviews—and don't challenge them either. Instead, show empathy and a willingness to address problems. Each negative review is an opportunity to demonstrate your customer service skills, so make sure any negative review is answered with a request to reach out to make things right.

Be Active On Social Media

Today's consumers are quick to take to social media to talk about a brand. Whether they're offering praise or making a complaint, they go there because they know two things:

• They'll find a sympathetic listener.

• Smart brands monitor social media platforms.

If your name comes up on social media, pay attention to what people are saying and engage. When the discussion is positive, show appreciation, even if it's just a like. When the comments are negative, remember what we discussed with the reviews. Use empathy and demonstrate your customer service acumen. Ask them to reach out to you so you can make their situation right.

The most important thing to remember with social media is to never answer criticism with negativity or snark. In an age when most people engage with some form of social media, these platforms are where your reputation can thrive or die.

Seek Out Advocates For Your Brand

Use your network to your advantage. While you may already depend on your network for referrals, they can do more for you. Ask your peers, affiliates and employees to talk about you. If you treat them well, they'll have good things to say.

Your network should consist of people you have worked cooperatively with, offering your advice. Your affiliates should be people who know they can depend on your business. Your employees should be people you value and treat well. Encourage them to share these experiences.

Step Up Your SEO

Make sure your web presence is optimized for SEO. That means ensuring you have good, clear and usable navigation on your site. It means enticing visitors with a call to action. It also means ensuring that you balance strong keywords with relevant and meaningful content. Some additional ways to improve your SEO include:

• Blogging regularly on your website.

• Offering your expertise to industry affiliates (that include links back to your site).

• Including up-to-date contact information on your social media pages, including actionable links to your site.

These are only a handful of strategies for building and managing your online reputation, but they are—to my mind—the most important ones. Each of these focuses on some aspect of your presence, whether that be on social media, among your network, or on your own platform. Remember, you can't control what others say about you. You can, however, control how you respond and what message you put out there. So, go forth, armed with these tools to help you build your reputation.


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