With the prevalence of social media and online review platforms, what people say about you online can make or break your personal brand or small business.
This article covers best practices for managing your online reputation so you can set your brand up for success both online and in the real world.
Why does my online reputation matter?
Online reputation consists of the overall perception of a brand based on the information available to your audience.
A positive online reputation can help attract business partners and customers, build trust, and improve the overall public perception of your brand.
Your online reputation consists of brand-related information, including:
- Social media content.
- Anything else that appears in the search engine results when someone searches for your brand.
Your reputation can make or break your brand, and managing it appropriately is imperative.
Set SMART goals
Before anything else, establish what you’re working toward.
What are your goals for your online presence? How can they help contribute to your brand’s success?
Set SMART goals, ensuring they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. The clearer and more well-defined, the better.
Setting one or two overall brand goals in addition to more granular goals for specific campaigns allows you to focus on long and short-term goals simultaneously.
Brand goals should not be altered often unless your business model changes.
Campaign goals, however, can rotate more frequently depending on your brand’s needs.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Where do you excel? Where are you weakest?
There’s a reason interviewers ask these questions.
Knowing your weaknesses helps you work to strengthen them and keeps you from being blindsided by an attack.
Strong leaders understand that weaknesses can be exploited or used for growth and turned into strengths.
Highlight your superpowers
Where do you have an edge over the competition? What can you do better than anyone else?
Let’s say you provide excellent customer service in an industry known for being unreliable.
Use that to show your potential customers how much better their experience can be if they choose you.
Address your roadblocks
Do you have a small budget? Fear of negative reviews? Lack of buy-in from leadership? Is a disgruntled former employee or customer trying to take you down?
Identifying your setbacks is the first step in conquering them. Typically, small businesses report time and budget as their biggest roadblocks.
Know your audience
A deep understanding of your customers, peers, and competition is key to reputation success.
You need to have your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your industry. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how will you know how to speak to them?
Successful brands understand precisely what feelings and perceptions their logos and communication evoke with their audience and what their customers expect of them.
Remember, not everyone is your target audience. If you try to reach everyone, you will not connect with anyone.
Find your voice on social media and create content that connects
Social media is a great place to develop your brand voice. This is not the place to start pushing hard selling.
Earn the trust of your audience by getting to know them without asking anything in return.
Transparency is critical, with consumers regularly reporting that honesty, friendliness, and helpfulness are top behaviors consumers want to see from brands on social media.
Do you know what never makes the list? Sales pushes.
Be careful not to turn your audience against you by misusing your platforms.
Earning your audience’s trust must come before overly promotional posts, especially if you want them to become strong brand advocates.
Pro tip: Be particularly careful about edgy humor and snarkiness on social. Brands often miss the mark or end up offending users.
Once you’ve determined your goals, you can map your content strategy. Don’t skip this step, you won’t get far without a plan.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a site plan.
For existing content, keep a sheet with current pages and posts on your site and the targeted keywords for each page.
Create another sheet with a prioritized list of content that you need to create.
This will keep you on track and ensure you’re setting yourself up to rank for keywords and topics relevant to your brand’s success.
Not sure where to start? Take a look at your competition.
You want to show up everywhere they are and anywhere they’re not.
Providing valuable information on your site helps with optimization efforts. It also builds trust with your audience as they learn you provide helpful, valuable, and reliable information.
Own your name
Prevention is worth an ounce of cure. Claim your username across all channels.
You’ll be much more able to weather an attack if you’ve built a strong foundation to stand on.
One bad review in a list of hundreds is far less believable than one bad review out of two or three.
When creating content, utilize third-person and descriptive language to assist in SEO efforts.
Use consistent, descriptive handles and names on social sites, blog posts, and earned media.
See what ranks for your name, and make sure you have a positive presence there.
Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.
Leverage owned content to control the information about your brand online.
One of the most effective and reliable ways to do this is via search engine optimization (SEO).
Optimizing your website and other online profiles to rank higher in search engine results lets your customers find information about your brand online and insulate you against a reputation attack.
If you can own all of the results on the first page of the SERP for your brand name, it is much harder for someone to get negative information to rank for your name in an attempt at a reputation attack.
Keep up with SEO best practices to ensure your site ranks well for your key brand terms.
Your online reputation is closely tied to your personal or professional brand.
Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, it’s essential to establish a consistent brand image across all online platforms.
Congruence across familiarity in tone, voice, look, and feel of what you share across different channels is essential.
Of course, you’ll need to customize based on limitations and audiences of individual channels, but give the same customer experience at all touchpoints.
If you look at a major brand’s social profiles, you’ll notice that they typically have consistency from site to site, both with visuals and written content.
You want your customers to feel comfortable if they jump from your website to your Facebook page and then to Twitter.
If they have to stop and think about if they’re still with the same brand as they move from channel to channel, you have a larger chance of losing them in the journey.
Set clear expectations
The perceived success or failure of a project or experience depends greatly on that project’s expectations.
You expect a different level of service when you enter a five-star resort than you do from a roadside motel. What do you want your customers to expect from you?
Decide, and then deliver. Be authentic, and be helpful wherever you can.
Being helpful and meeting expectations will increase customer satisfaction, resulting in more positive reviews and social media engagement, which will improve your overall reputation and revenue.
Use reviews to build your brand
Let reviews help you get better. Positive reviews are great to have, but the bad ones are what assist you in improving.
Respond to every review you get. Saying “thank you” when someone leaves a positive comment or review is an easy win. Every brand should do this, but many don’t.
More importantly, own your mistakes. If someone leaves a negative review, address the problem.
Monitor what is being said about you online
Monitoring your reputation will allow you to know your audience’s perception of your brand and alert you to potential problems before they get out of hand.
Track news and earned media mentions, social media platforms, online reviews, forums, and any other platforms where your brand’s audience may be active.
This way, you can uncover potential opportunities for building your brand.
Managing your online reputation is a continual process that requires time, strategy, and consistent attention.
A good reputation indicates trustworthiness and reliability to potential customers and business partners.
Knowing your audience – and ensuring they know you – will help you build a positive reputation and guarantee your customers and colleagues are loyal advocates of your brand.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.