In the past, online reputation management services were devoted to burying or removing negative content from search results. Times have changed, and so has ORM.
The web is now teeming with reputation management tools, but social media platforms top the list for ROI. When businesses take the time to optimize, promote and regularly update their social profiles, they’re rewarded with a virtual suit of armor against negative press.
ORM firms employ numerous complex strategies to get results, including search engine optimization, press release distribution, article writing and establishing a social media presence. While most of these tactics are labor-intensive and costly, businesses can leverage social media platforms for significant gains with minimal capital investment.
Not only will your search results be populated with content you control, studies have shown that consumers who engage with a brand on social media have a more favorable view of the company’s reputation.
While having a social media presence is an excellent first step toward managing your reputation, it isn’t a magic bullet. You can’t simply create a few accounts and expect them to automatically rank on the first page of Google. To maximize the reputation-boosting benefits of your social media accounts, you’ll need to dedicate a little time to set them up.
Every business should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t stop there. Lesser-known social networks within your industry could also rank favorably in Google, and your customers are probably already there.
Identify the best platforms
You’d be surprised by how many different social networks exist online and how easy they are to discover. In fact, here’s a list of more than 100. To find other platforms, try a simple Google query like ‘social networking websites.’ If you want to be even more specific, add keywords such as “food,” “pet,” or “business” to further narrow your results.
Keep a spreadsheet listing every social network you’re interested in and create profiles on any site that makes sense. Since each profile offers an opportunity to control your search landscape, don’t be too picky about which ones you sign up for. However, make sure they’re trusted and have some degree of relevance to your brand. For example, a bakery probably wouldn’t want an account on a video game network.
Choose your name wisely
It is incredibly important to brand yourself consistently across as many of your social properties as possible. Doing this will help you establish and maintain trust while building your online reputation. While there are many things to consider, nomenclature is perhaps the most critical aspect to get right. Using the same handles across your profiles will help your customers – and Google – identify your social media accounts. Conversely, having different handles on each account may confuse your followers, plant seeds of mistrust, or send the message that social media is an afterthought.
Unfortunately, character limitations and username availability can often stand in your way. Make sure to weigh all of your options before settling on your official handle, and make sure you can use the same one on the most important social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. If someone else already owns the handle you want, purchasing it could be worth the investment. Not only will this ensure consistency, but it could also prevent any confusion if someone else attempts to pose as your brand in the future.
Create your profiles
Your social profile is more than just a banner image and a username. Take full advantage of all the available fields, including your company’s description, location, and contact information. Leveraging these features emphasises the legitimacy of your account and makes it easier for users to contact you rather than posting directly to your wall if they have a complaint.
Detailed descriptions also give Google more information to crawl, and this can help boost your profile’s visibility in search results. Don’t forget to include your brand’s name. Many business owners make the mistake of using “we” or “our” instead of their company’s name in bios and descriptions, which can hinder search engine rankings.
Verify your accounts
With millions of bot profiles and thousands of parody accounts, how can your customers identify which ones are your official social profiles? The answer is verification. Verified pages come with a blue checkmark, and they inform potential followers that an account is authentic. These badges also limit confusion over abusive or negative content posted by owners of parody accounts. Unfortunately, verified accounts are not available on all social platforms, and some limit the status to certain situations.
According to Facebook, “Select people, sports, media, entertainment, and government Pages may be eligible for verification if they can prove their authenticity and meet Facebook’s requirements for having a Verified Badge.”
Instagram claims: “Only accounts representing public figures, celebrities, and brands are verified because they have a high likelihood of being impersonated. We want to make sure that people in the Instagram community can easily find the authentic people and brands they want to follow.”
Twitter states, “We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.” However, Twitter seems to have suspended its verification process according to this image on the verification page:
Monitor & Control Negative Activity
It’s difficult to miss angry complaints posted to your company’s social feed, but will you notice if customers privately rant about your brand? These are called “dark complaints,” and they occur when someone posts about a bad experience on social media without tagging your company’s handle. You may be missing out on critical information about your brand’s online reputation if you aren’t actively listening for these mentions.
Depending on the size of your brand’s presence, social listening may require a few hours a day, a dedicated employee or an entire team. Luckily, there are endless managed service options for corporations with big budgets, while small businesses with limited funds can benefit from these free social listening hacks.
Consumers prefer using social media for customer service, so you’ll probably find complaints in your social feeds at some point. While your gut reaction may be to defend your company, being overly aggressive is a huge mistake that could have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation.
Deleting negative comments is also a terrible idea because it could force users to share their experience with news outlets. Additional media exposure will increase the visibility of the initial complaint and paint your brand as dishonest. Ignoring complaints is another poor choice that can lead to consumer backlash when their concerns go unanswered. Therefore, giving your team the tools to handle complaints professionally and swiftly is always the best solution.
Unfortunately, brands often overlook this opportunity and limit social media training to only improving engagements and follower counts. However, businesses that provide ongoing customer service training are better equipped to protect their brand’s reputation through social media. These best practices are a great place to start:
- Acknowledge the problem to show your followers that you take complaints seriously.
- Express empathy to let people know you understand how they were affected.
- Display a willingness to resolve the situation and prevent further negative comments in your social feed by offering to discuss solutions over the phone.
When responding to criticism, the best approach is to show your followers that you’re listening and you care. Most people who complain aren’t looking for compensation. Instead, they simply want to inform others about their bad experience. By training your team to respond in a professional manner, you’ll avoid making situations worse.
Build a Positive Reputation
Company websites are usually optimized for sales and traffic, but social networks are ideal for building a positive brand reputation.
You don’t need to constantly publish fresh content on every social network, but you should try to post regularly to Facebook and Twitter, as well as either Pinterest or Instagram. It’s important to include at least one image-based social channel to boost your company’s visibility in Google image searches.
Constantly posting unique content is exhausting when you’re running a business, so don’t feel pressured to publish every single day. Weekly posts should be enough to safeguard your reputation, but be sure to monitor your pages each day for brand mentions. If you don’t have the resources or aren’t sure what to post, you can set up automations that share your blog content across your primary social channels.
Tell your brand’s story
Rather than using social media to sell your products and services, consider talking about the good things your company does. Consumers love brands that care, so they’ll gladly like and share content you post about your social responsibility efforts. The most common things you may want to include are:
- Hiring veterans or refugees
- Providing college reimbursement for employees
- Selling fair trade products
- Using 100% renewable energy
- Sustainably sourced products
- Charitable donations
Using social media to monitor brand sentiment, engage with your followers, and promote your company’s social good takes time and resources. However, your investment will result in a powerful reputation with the potential to boost sales and protect your brand from negative press.
For more details on how to protect your online reputation, check out this great infographic from Hongkiat.