Well folks, it’s time for another aimClear book review! In this month’s installment, reputation management expert Andy Beal shows us it doesn’t take a lot of time to give your online reputation a work out and see some serious results. Cutting to the chase, we recommend you check out Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation. This book is a practical guide for anyone with an online presence, including: individuals, professionals, small businesses, non-profits & large corporations. As Brian Solis states in the forward,
“Now’s the time to consider the value of online reputation management and come to terms with what you want to invest into and take out of your digital life and the digital lives of others.”
The 30-Day Challenge
In this book, Andy lays out a step-by-step, easy to follow 30-day action plan that will boost your online visibility and shred your competition. Like all training programs, you must start with day one and build from there. Andy describes reputation management as “a deliberate effort to increase the number of positive Internet discussions about you, while limiting the damage of any negative ones.”
To start, he helps us define our online reputation goals. When setting goals, it’s best to segment them into short-term, mid-term & long-term goals. Or as Andy likes to use – the 3×30 approach. The 3×30 approach separates your goals into action items that can be completed in 30 days, 30 weeks & 30 months. Make sure you take a beginning benchmark reading of where your online reputation is now, so can see how far you’ve come (think – before vs. after picture).
Most people think about monitoring their business, brand & personal reputations online. But as Andy points out, here are 6 reputations that you must keep a close eye on and maintain. These are:
- Your personal name
- Company name
- Your product/service names
- Your CEO & other executives
- Your marketing messages
In order to discover what people are seeing when they search for you or your brand on the Internet – you must pay a visit to Google search rankings. Here, you’ll get an idea of where you stack up against the competition. A good tip: open up an incognito window – that way the results won’t be skewed by your prior searches and preferences. Next, check out your site’s Google Analytics to find out where your traffic is coming from. Once you know who’s searching for you and what types of information they’re being served, you can actively listen to these sites and become aware of the content your customers are absorbing.
Finding Your “Centers of Influence”
Your “centers of influence” are where your stakeholders hang out. Stakeholders are the people who have the ability to affect your reputation. These could be customers, employees, business partners, journalists, bloggers or industry influencers. It’s unrealistic to think that you can monitor every corner of the Internet where someone might be mentioning your brand. However, be proactive about managing your reputation in a few key places (your centers of influence) and be responsive to discussions that happen elsewhere.
Andy goes on to explain some practical and super handy tips on how to set up and manage your social profiles & how to increase your visibility in search (I would recommend checking them out). The next step is deciding how you would like to be portrayed online. It’s vital to your brand, whether it be your personal or your company brand, to have a standard “tone of voice” across every channel. This has little to do with the actual tone of your voice, and everything to do with having consistency in the messages you promote. Don’t forget to inform and train your employees on the tone you set, and how you would like them to represent the company.
Once you’ve decided how you’d like to represent yourself online, it’s time to put together what Andy calls your “Twittervator” pitch. This is when you take a traditional elevator pitch and adapt it so that it is so simple and clear that it can be widespread across all social media channels in 140 characters or less (i.e. Twitter).
The Nitty Gritty of Online Reputation Management
So you’ve set up your social profiles, are monitoring your “centers of influence”, have established your tone of voice, and hopefully have some clue as to your current online reputation. Now it’s time to manage that online reputation. Andy stresses how important it is to interact with your audience, and thank them for their feedback. Thank them for using your product, coming to your establishment, or for saying something nice about your brand.
Providing quality customer service online is just as important as providing quality service at your place of business. If someone is tweeting at your brand about a question or concern, and all they receive back is radio silence – you are unable to properly service that customer’s needs. Here’s a tip: If you’re friendly, helpful and provide great service – people will notice, and praise you for it. You will see this praise online in the form of comments, likes, tweets, reviews & more.
Feedback & Reviews
Let’s talk online reviews for a moment. As much as 85% of customers say that they read online reviews about local businesses and 73% of them say that positive customer reviews make them trust a business more (source: BrightLocal). That’s a lot. First of all, make sure your brand or business is worthy of a 5 star review. If you know that someone has had a negative experience with you, your employee, or your brand, do everything in your power to improve that experience before they can get in front of a computer. It’s important to know how to handle negative feedback and reviews. Good thing we have help from Andy.
When you receive your first negative review or comment, your heart will sink and you may panic just a little. Have no fear. Take a deep breath. If that negative feedback requires a response (sometimes the best response is no response), follow these steps:
- Thank them – This shows gratitude on your part, and your appreciation for the opportunity to make the situation right.
- Accentuate the positives – Highlight any positive remarks they’ve left about you. This reminds the customer that the experience wasn’t a total bust.
- Apologize for the negatives – This is not a time to make excuses (however, this is where you can explain your side of the story if there were extenuating circumstances). By apologizing, you’re letting that customer and anyone reading your reviews know that is is not a typical experience with your brand.
- And lastly, Take the conversation offline – Suggest a helpline, phone number or direct them to a contact email address where they can voice further concerns and be heard. This shows that you are wanting to help and would like to ensure that he or she is happy.
Andy digs deeper into search engine reputation management (SERM) by explaining how to get your mind-blowing content (assuming you have mind-blowing content) shown with the 80/10/10 rule. Using this rule minimizes the risk of depending too heavily on online assets that you don’t own and having your content disappearing into thin air. The 80/10/10 rule is as follows:
- Spend 80% of your effort on web content you own – meaning online sites & blogs that are hosted on your server are fully under your control and cannot be edited by anyone other then you.
- Spend 10% of your effort on web content that you control – this would be any social media profile (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and so on) or blogs not hosted by you (i.e. wordpress.com or blogspot.com).
- Spend 10% of your effort on web content that you influence – examples of this would be interacting with a profile of you published by a business partner, a business listing or a chamber directory.
“We’re Under Attack!”
I know you’ve all been wondering…”what do I do when major negative feedback bombs are raining down on my brand?” It happens, it’s ugly, and hopefully it won’t go viral. It’s important to have an emergency back up plan for handling such attacks.
Step 1. Don’t panic. (I know, easier said than done.) Take a moment to calm yourself, and step away from the computer if necessary.
Step 2. Identify your detractor. Find out whether the negative feedback comes from a disgruntled customer, a blogger/journalist or industry professional. This will help you identify the best way to respond.
Step 3. Check the facts. Make note of any key complaints. Keep track of important facts and the timeline of events. You may be tempted to reply immediately and put out the fire, though Andy suggests that you take a moment to compare the complaints against the reality of the situation.
Step 4. Check their demands. Sometimes, nothing more then an apology is warranted. Other times, customers will want compensation or reimbursement for goods or services. If there are no demands for compensation, it may be hard to come to a resolution.
Step 5. Check their influence. What is the reach of their online network? How influential are they? How many Facebook friends do they have? Followers on Twitter?
Step 6. Check the conversation spread. How many people will be subjected to this negative feedback about your brand? If you’re seeing a lot of re-tweets, likes/comments/shares, or journalists picking up the story, you may need to take immediate action.
Step 7. Seek trusted council. Don’t feel like you need to handle an attack on your own. It’s wise to seek input of those you trust. This trusted advisor should already have an understanding of the reputation you are trying to uphold, already know your character, tone of voice, and weaknesses.
Step 8. To respond or not respond. If you chose not to respond, keep a close eye on the situation to make sure it doesn’t draw any more unwanted attention. If you decide to respond, Andy has a few different approaches to consider: The non-legal action approach, delete delete delete, taking legal action, kick ’em where it hurts and share your side of the story approach. These are some must know tactics if you want to smooth over a tough situation. I’m going to make you read the book to find out the details…
Andy tells us what to keep in mind when cleaning up an online reputation mess and how to keep your chin up and move on. There are so many more tasty tid-bits of information buried within the pages of this book that I didn’t have time to touch on. This guy really knows his stuff. As Andy says, “Just as following a 30-day exercise plan won’t immediately give you the body of Jillian Michaels, so to reading Repped won’t immediately give you the reputation of Nordstrom or Coca-Cola.” But it’s a solid place to start building and flexing your newfound online muscle. Good Luck!
Andy Beal is an online reputation management consultant, award-winning blogger, professional speaker, and author. When he’s not concerned with online reputation management, you’ll find Andy behind a camera, strumming his ukulele, hitting a tennis ball, or volunteering in his hometown of Raleigh, NC.
Andy’s first book (Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online), outlines online reputation monitoring and management tactics for business and individuals. Radically Transparent explores why reputations are being defined by consumers using blogs, social media, and other web content. Check it out!
Header Image, © Gajus – Fotolia