My July, 2010 Missoulian InBusinessMonthly column
Last month, (Managing Online Reputation Increasingly Important) I covered what makes up online reputation management for individuals and some different ways to manage your personal reputation that appears online via Web searches.
Mostly, ORM consists of being careful of what you put out there to begin with. That includes social networking, personal websites and what you might write in forums and on blogs under a searchable name.
Pretty much anything can be found with a search engine, so keep that in mind. It’s difficult to control what others say, but much of that problem can take care of itself if you’re prudent in the first place.
If you’re a business, ORM is equally important as it is for an individual. So if you’re concerned about the reputation of your business, it’s time to consider management of your online business personality.
Your online business reputation – like that of an individual – is the total of what can be found by anyone with a search engine. That includes your business website and your associated social networking profiles. But it also includes forum posts about you and your products, what people write on their sites about you, news articles, and on and on.
The expanse of what can be found with a Web search will only increase, and the speed of what gets indexed will only increase, too. Search engines are moving closer to real-time search, and if there’s a good (or not so good) news release or event, it is getting indexed faster and faster these days and discovered more quickly by people with Web search.
Most ORM isn’t rocket science, and you can do some of it yourself. It’s easy to sign up for news feeds and alerts from popular search engines and cruise forums and social networks related to your business for unhappy customers.
Or, if you’re over the hill and want to leave it to someone younger who understands all that online stuff better, you can get an employee to handle it for you. (But look over their shoulder from time to time to be sure they are trained and have the best interests of your business in mind).
It’s de rigueur to have employees monitoring the business’ own help forums and blogs relating to their products. But it’s also common for businesses to monitor public forums and websites that offer product reviews relating to that business and jump in to help customers with problems or complaints. (Sometimes the “helpers” make it known they are working for that business, sometimes not.)
But all that takes time and the skills to know where to look and what to spend time (or employees’ time) dealing with, and you may find that you need to take the next step: hiring a business that specializes in reputation monitoring.
All it takes is a Google search to come up with many companies in the business of “reputation management,” often with hyperbole and buzzwords and claims. Some will manage your reputation for as little as a dollar a day, no doubt outsourced overseas.
You can even hire out (or do it yourself) an increasingly common practice called Astroturfing. That’s salting forums and reviews with positive information about goods and services, made to appear genuine and unsolicited. Which is a good reason to discount any overly positive and overly negative reviews one finds online.
And sometimes it’s time to call in the professionals. I wonder what condition British Petroleum’s online reputation is in right now? I’m sure they’ve got expensive and hardworking “brand recovery managers” on retainer.