With the exponential rise of social media sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and other review sites, not to mention the many online forums where people freely discuss perceived poor treatment from businesses, executives and business owners are suddenly finding themselves acutely vulnerable to negative comments online. This is a problem which is only going to get a lot bigger in years ahead.
Recently I’ve been reading an amazing book by two authors right at the top of the Google empire. It’s called The New Digital Age and it’s written by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas.
(By the way, I thoroughly recommend this book, as have much more impressive people like Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger and Michael Bloomberg to name just a few!)
The book predicts the likely profound influences of online technology in the future for “People, Nations and Business”.
In one of many predictions, the book forecasts the explosion of a new industry – identity management:
“…identity managers will become as common as stockbrokers and financial planners. Active management of one’s online presence – say, by receiving quarterly reports from your identity manager tracking the changing shape of your online identity – will become the new normal for the prominent and those who aspire to become prominent.”
Managing your online reputation is becoming much harder
I have worked with a number of clients who recognise the need to build the online presence of their business. It’s not enough that people can find your website, what else are they finding out about you in their Google searches?
A healthy online presence becomes particularly challenging when you find yourself having to manage negative comments or reviews which feature prominently when people look for you.
Some are bewildered that the very customers they try to nurture and cherish can be so vindictive and nasty. Then it begins to dawn that nasty comments about their business could be around for a very long time.
What exacerbates the problem significantly is that the social media sites and forums where these comments can pop up so unexpectedly tend to rank very highly in search results, so anybody searching for your business name can immediately be confronted with negative comments adjacent to your website listing.
So how do you build a healthy online reputation?
Whether the objective is to reduce the risk of your reputation being severely tarnished by negative reviews or to manage the sudden crises caused by search engine results which are highly negative, the approach is much the same. It’s all about building a healthy online presence.
This requires an holistic approach that results in highly visible multiple results displaying on the first page of the search engines when the business name is searched. Of course this is easier described than accomplished, but the increased web exposure the business will gain as a result will likely be well worth the investment.
Importantly, an additional resulting benefit will mean higher rankings for the business’s website which will also translate to improved visibility when searchers are using other keywords to find the services or products delivered by the business.
Building your presence
The solution isn’t rocket science, but it can take a lot of work.
The secret is to build positive profiles of your business on other websites which rank very highly. An obvious example of this can be demonstrated by Googling your own name. What comes up?
Assuming you’re not battling celebrities with the same name, one of the first results is likely to be LinkedIn. (If you don’t have a profile there, then you can’t really be serious about either your business or your career!).
This same principle can be applied by building your business’s presence on a variety of other websites that allow you to do this. The exact list will depend very much on the nature of your business, but as a starting point you’d be considering other social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, You Tube or Pinterest.
Of course it’s not enough just to set up profiles and forget about them. To gain sufficient traction you’ll need to “work the room” to build connections, fans and followers. Just how you do this will require clear strategies to make sure the process doesn’t become a monumental time waster.