Online reputation management

Why a strategy for your online presence and reputation is critical

 

Blogs and Social media

No matter what industry you are in, you can bet that lots of people are writing it.  Most estimates suggest that as of early 2008, there are  well over 100 million blogs worldwide.  Social Media such as Twitter, MySpace, Face Book and YouTube have become household names, and marketing professionals are increasingly trying to figure out how to use these media to advertise to customers while others ignore these developments and wait for the social media fad to pass.

But ignoring the trend toward social, conversational online experiences or focusing just on the potential for advertising risks some serious negative consequences.  Companies must realize that blogs and social media are being used ubiquitously to review businesses and the service they provide.  People, including your customers, use social media to inform others about their lives, and your organization is a part of that.  You can be confident that cutomers' experiences, good and bad, will be shared through social media.  In addition to informal sharing of experiences, a whole class of site --- domain portals like TripAdvisor.com --- exist explicitly to allow their users to share experiences with brands, products and services. 

A needle in a haystack?

But, if there are 100 million blogs and your brand is not a worldwide household name, what are the odds that something negative a customer writes about you will ever be found?  Increasingly, the odds are quite good --- largely due to technical changes in how Internet search engines work.  

We all know that search engines are a part of daily life --- Google and Yahoo’s US sites each had more than  140 million unique visitors in April 2008, and between them, Google and Yahoo had over 62 billion page views during that month (comScore Inc.).  But what many people do not know is that recent developments in search engine technology (like Google Universal Search) are giving more weight to social media, reputation services and domain portals. You can see this yourself when you search Google or Yahoo and now find video, image and news results mixed with the standard Web page results.  In fact, Google and Yahoo have recently engaged in some public sparring about whose engine is better at integrating social and other types of media in search results. 

Risks of not managing your reputation

The increasing availability of information online can have a direct impact on your business. Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine said “Your brand is what Google says your brand is, not what you say your brand is.” This means that it is critical that you manage your presence online, and companies who don’t do this can suffer. 

A search of “Pfizer executives” on Google yields, in the top 10 results: corruption scandals, child pornography scandals and links to graphic pictures of dead puppies (no, really).

online reputation management example

A search on Google for the name of Microsoft’s CEO (“Steve Ballmer”) yields videos of the infamous so-called “monkey dance” (in which a sweaty Ballmer jumps around a stage screaming) and some less than prescient comments about the iPhone.
Google results for Steve Ballmer

What you can do

Fortunately, there are things you can do to impact your standing in the online ecosystem. First, of course, providing excellent courteous and honest customer service is critical. If you do get criticism, responding to criticism in a professional, helpful way can turn a negative customer experience into a positive selling story (just ask Frank Eliason at Comcast, whose efforts to explain and help high-bandwidth customers have become a huge, positive new media story for the cable provider.

There are also technical steps that you can take to help favorable content be found in Internet searches. Finally, other communications media (advertising, email) can reinforce your online efforts.

iData’s online reputation management services

We understand the ecosystem of the online world, and we can help you take action to manage how you fit in.  We’ll help you understand the big picture and the culture. (Failing to understand the culture could cause your efforts to backfire). We’ll work with you to plan an online strategy to focus on appropriate, high ROI efforts. Finally, we’ll help you take concrete steps, for example:

• Optimizing your Website so that when searched it comes up ahead of potentially unfavorable content
• Starting a blog on your site so that potential and existing customers can get answers to questions, here you can post new information as well. Search engines index blogs quickly and rank them highly.
• Using social media to your advantage. Do you want to have a slide show on your site? A Google-friendly way to do that is to join Flickr.com, upload some photos of your logo and products with your company name and you will increase your position on searches.

Contact iData to learn more about our online reputation management services .