The Reputation Management Strategy to Bulletproof your Brand
Online reputation — that intangible asset outside the physical property — is hard to assess, let alone fix. But it's important to understand where it resides and how to manage it. There are several ways to approach reputation management, including social media monitoring, PR, and even legal action against negative comments.
But the truth is most companies need to learn exactly how to go about repairing their online presence. So we've put together this guide to show you what an online reputation is and how to build one.
The building materials of an online reputation management strategy
Reputation management is both known and unknown. You might think it's just about managing what people say about you on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but it goes far beyond that. It includes everything from reviews to photos to videos to forum posts. And it extends even further into the world of blogs, news articles, and Wikipedia entries.
There is a theory, and there are actual objective results. We can measure how much traffic we receive from different sources and track our rankings over time. But there are no easy formulas for determining whether one source of information is better than another.
Like a house, you must begin with the basics. You need to know where you stand to know how to improve. So let's look at the three basic building blocks of an online reputation — earned, paid, or owned content.
A lot of people think that reputation management starts with earning positive feedback. They believe they deserve a good reputation if someone writes something nice about them.
But earned content is just part of the picture. Earned content only makes you look good and sometimes really bad. For example, posting a photo of yourself wearing a hoodie while standing next to a homeless man could earn some points for being charitable. However, if you post a video of yourself bullying a child, you could lose those same points.
Earned content is sometimes negative too. A few well-placed mentions on LinkedIn or a mention on a blog can help establish credibility. These types of earned content are only sometimes free, though. You usually pay for them somehow.
Explained - How To Get Free Content For Your Business
There are many different ways to generate earned content for your business. Some examples include:
- Guest blogging
- Participating in industry events
- Interviewing influencers
- Responding to customer questions
- Sharing photos/videos of your work
- Writing articles
- Giving away samples
- Offering discounts
- Hosting webinars
- Promoting your products via social media
- And much more.
You don't have to do anything special to earn content. Just show up and participate.
Owned content is the material that you create yourself. These could include blogs, videos, images, podcasts, etc. You own it completely. Reputation management is what happens when someone else creates something about you. For example, if I write a review of your product and post it to Yelp, that's my reputation being managed. If I mention you in a tweet, I manage your reputation.
While these are incredibly important when managing your online presence, they only comprise a small slice of your overall search engine results. They are the standard fare of reputation management companies. But beyond that, each industry's industry-specific forms of owned media are unique.
For example, if I am a lawyer, I don't want my clients to write reviews of my firm. So I might ask them to sign a contract promising never to do that. Instead, I might encourage them to give testimonials, where they talk about how wonderful our team is. Or I might pay them to write some positive comments on LinkedIn. In either case, I manage their reputation, but they still own their content.
Beyond that, specific categories of owned media are relevant to each industry. For example, I'd tell them to focus on creating video testimonials if we're talking about lawyers. And if we're talking about real estate agents, I suggest they start a podcast.
The same goes for almost every industry. We can't list everything here, but we'll try to cover the basics.
The final category paid content, comes in the form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, display ads (banner ads), paid social media promotion, paid influencer marketing, content syndication, and all the other ways that require you to hand out your credit card number. While this type of content isn't considered "free," it does provide value, and it's important to dedicate a reasonable amount of time and resources to creating high-quality content. However, there are some things worth noting about paid content.
First, while it's true that paid content doesn't come without costs, it's still very much worth investing in. You're paying money for every view, click, like, comment, and interaction, and you want those numbers to be as large as possible. Second, even though it requires you to spend money upfront, the return on investment is enormous once you've done so. A single piece of content can generate hundreds, thousands, or even millions of views, comments, likes, shares, etc., depending on how many people see it. And because of this, it's a good idea to invest in paid content early on in your campaign. Third, it's important to note that while most marketers think of paid content as something they must use exclusively in conjunction with organic traffic, it works fine in isolation.
One study found that the average conversion rates for paid versus organic posts were almost identical. This makes sense because both paid and organic posts offer similar levels of value. So, why do we need to use paid and organic together? Because paid content is great for generating awareness around your brand, products, or services, organic content is better for driving conversions.
Finally, remember that while paid content can help build your audience and drive traffic, it should take up only a little of your time. If you're spending hours upon hours producing content, you might be doing yourself a disservice. Instead, focus on building relationships with potential customers rather than trying to convert them. Once you get a few leads, you'll find that paid content becomes much easier to produce.
The development of an online reputation strategy
With those three building materials, a company's online reputation is formed. And while there are many different ways to build it, what matters most is understanding the way people use the internet today. People don't just type into a search box and land on a single webpage; instead, they use multiple sources to find information. They look up companies and products on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and even Wikipedia.
This means a company needs to understand how people use the web to develop an effective online reputation strategy. To do that, you need to know about the systems that shape how people see companies online. These include online searches, social media algorithms, and the reverse engineering of Wikipedia articles.
Online search is the biggest influencer on a company's reputation. When someone types "XYZ Company," the algorithm behind Google determines which webpage appears in the search results. This includes the company's home page, reviews, images, videos, and maps. In addition to determining where a company ranks, the algorithm also decides whether a company gets listed.
Social media plays a huge role in shaping a company's reputation. On Facebook alone, over 2 billion posts per day are shared. It could spread like wildfire if someone shares something negative about a company. Social media algorithms determine which posts go viral and sink without a trace.
Reverse engineering Wikipedia articles are another powerful tool to help shape a company's reputation. By analyzing the text of Wikipedia entries, marketers can learn about a company's history, product lines, customer base, competitors, and much more.
When you type a question into Google, you probably search for information, but there is another reason you might use the search engine. You want to find out how to solve problems or learn something new. If you are trying to figure out how to make money, you might start Googling "how to earn money." Or, if you are trying to understand the world around you, you might go to Google and ask questions such as "How did humans evolve?" or "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?"
The problem is algorithms sometimes work differently. Sometimes, the most relevant answer differs from the one at the top. Sometimes the most popular answer needs to be corrected. This is where Google's algorithm gets tricky.
Google's algorithm is designed to provide the best possible answer based on the keywords used in the search. But, because of how people think, Google's algorithm is biased toward certain types of answers. For example, if someone asks, "How long is a piece of string," Google's algorithm will likely suggest that the length of a piece depends upon the material it is being measured against. If someone asks, "Why does a dog bark?" Google's algorithm will often suggest that dogs bark because they are hungry.
This bias towards certain types of answers makes sense, but it also creates some interesting challenges. Because Google's algorithm favors certain types of answers over others, it can lead to inaccurate conclusions. So, while Google's algorithm is great for finding the answer to specific questions, it only sometimes gives us accurate information about the whole picture.
Social Media Algorithms
The algorithms behind our favorite platforms are constantly changing. Many factors determine what appears on our screens, from how we see each other's posts to how often we see them to what we engage with. Here's a look at some of the most important ones.
Facebook's News Feed algorithm is one of the most popular topics among marketers. So much so that we often need to remember that there's no such thing as a single algorithm. Instead, several different ones determine how stories show up in your feed.
There are four main ones: EdgeRank, Engagement Index, Time Decay, and Trending Topics.
EdgeRank is a measure of popularity based on the number of likes, comments, shares, etc., a story receives. This is a pretty straightforward metric, though it does change over time.
The Engagement Index measures how engaged people are on a post. It scores higher if you comment on a post, like a photo, or share something.
Time Decay looks at how long ago a post was published. Older posts score lower because they're less likely to generate interest.
Trending Topics are determined by a combination of factors, including whether a topic is trending on Twitter and how many people are talking about it.
The News Feed algorithm isn't just used for Facebook; it's also for Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, and even Twitter. In some cases, the same algorithm is used across multiple platforms.
How to create a reputation strategy
Reputation management isn't just about monitoring what people say about you online. It would be best if you also thought about how others perceive you. This includes everything from your customer's experiences with your products and services to your employees' interactions.
The best way to protect your brand is to ensure it's well known. To do that, you'll want to build relationships with stakeholders across your industry. These include influencers, journalists, bloggers, experts, and even competitors. They each play different roles in building awareness of your brand.
You might already know some of these players. Others require research. Here's a guide to help you to protect your reputation and to craft a reputation strategy.
Your first task is to research your brand. This includes searching for your company name and product names. You want to find out what people are saying about you online. If there are negative reviews, you need to do some work to fix those issues.
You will use tools like Google Search Console and MozBar to see how many times your brand appears in searches. You will also use Google Trends to see if there is a spike in interest around your keywords. These tools provide data that helps you understand where people want information about your products and services.
Gauging corporate sentiment
In this process stage, taking stock of what's been written about your brand online is important. This includes both positive and negative mentions. Then, look at how similar companies are being covered and see whether competitors are getting favorable treatment. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to find out where people are talking about your brand. Once you've gathered all this information, start building a list of questions you want answering.
Private search is a term used to describe how some people conduct online research without being tracked by third parties. This includes searching within a private browsing session or in incognito mode.
In this step, you should use a private search window to avoid storing your search queries in your browser's cache or history. It would be best if you did this because it makes it easier to find what you are looking for later. For example, say you are researching a product and see something interesting on Amazon. You need to save the link to remember where it came from. But if you open a private competition?
search window, you can easily come back to that site later.
You can even set up your browser to automatically open a private search window whenever you enter certain keywords into the address bar. Whenever you type a keyword, such as "best," the browser will direct you to a new private search window.
Another reason you might want to keep your searches private is that it prevents tracking software from recording your activity—tracking software like cookies and pixel tags record information about your behavior across different sites. When you use a private search window, no one else can access your data while conducting research.
Check your email regularly to ensure you are logged out of your account correctly. Also, you can always log out of your account by clicking the button at the bottom of your screen.
TIPS: use a privacy-first browser like Brave.
Research social media sentiment
Social research could take you down an endless rabbit hole of troll-hunter and comment-sniffer, but the goal here isn't just to find negative coverage. Rather, it's to identify positive coverage and see how others perceive your brand. There are three different types of social research:
1. Identify positive coverage
2. Find negative coverage
3. Find out what people think about your competitors
To do social research, follow these steps:
1. Go to your company's social accounts.
2. Wherever you have an active account, take a look around. See what people are posting, commenting, liking, and sharing.
Your Brand Sentiment into Corporate Strategy
The assimilation stage aims to make sense of what you know about your brand and how it compares to others. When we talk about "brand sentiment," we refer to how people feel about your organization. This includes both positive and negative feelings.
This article will walk you through the steps to assimilate your brand sentiment into a strategic plan. We'll start with some basic questions you might want to answer, including:
- What is my overall brand sentiment?
- How does my brand sentiment compare to my competitors?
The reputation management strategy plan
Reputation Strategy: How To Build A Reputation Management Plan
- Define Your Goals
- Analyze the Situation
- Develop Strategies
- Execute the Plan
- Monitor & Evaluate
- Review & Adjust
- Celebrate Successes
- Prepare For Future Challenges
Online Reputation Strategies Are Never A Cut And Dried Template
An online reputation strategy is never cut and dried. Many reputation management companies use this template. However, it only works for some.
So many nuances and details must be understood, assimilated, and allowed to develop into a solid reputation strategy.
No matter what happened, how bad its products are, or how nefarious its leadership has been, any brand can recover its online reputation.
The process may require time and money, but improvement is always possible.