In 2011, Urban Outfitters was hit with a social media storm when a Tumblr user who is also a seller on Etsy found out that a creation of her has been ripped off by Urban Outfitters. Albeit not being Urban Outfitter’s first case of gross disregard for intellectual property, this turned out to be one of the biggest. Within a few hours, thousands of Tumblr users went on to use their social media accounts to call for a boycott. The average daily mention of Urban Outfitters sits at around 1,470 but it topped at 15,000 within 24 hours. The sad part was that most of the mentions included the word hate, stealing, or boycott. Within the next few months, you can still see trails of the controversy whenever you do a Google search of Urban Outfitters.
Now you might be wondering what the story of a hipster apparel shop and an Etsy designer has got to do with you, right? Well. Imagine if it happened to you and your company. How long will the negative results last on your SERPs? Can you possibly stop the onslaught of negative rep? Can you clean up your internet reputation after such event?
Online Reputation Management should be a Process and not just a reaction
There’s an existing belief that really troubles me. It’s that most businesses see online reputation management as some sort of band-aid cure to their online reputation problems. They believe that you only need reputation management only when you already have a crisis on your midst. Well, unless you have a million-dollar budget like BP then don’t count on it solving your problem right away.
Online reputation management should be seen as a process. You don’t take your vitamins only when you get sick, right? It is true that online reputation can help you weather a crisis but it should not just be used for that purpose alone. It’s as if people know what ORM is but they barely understand the importance of online reputation management for their business.
So if you want to prepare yourself and your business before the big wave hits, let’s try to take you into a short crash course on how to do online reputation management.
Listen and pay attention to mentions
It’s always good to be a bit proactive in the world of online reputation management. You need to make sure that you are constantly monitoring what is being said about you, your brand, or your employees all over the Internet. To do this, you have to create a platform for social listening. There are a lot of tools out there you can utilize for this purpose. Google Alerts is a good start but there are also a good number of paid and free tools you can use. Some of these tools can just be basic monitoring tools while there are those that give you the capability to respond on a target channel. Some of these tools include the following:
- Google Alerts
- Sprout Social
How Should You Monitor and Respond?
Now that you have a whole list of tools you can use to monitor, the next question should be “How do I monitor the mentions and how should I respond to each and every one?” This is the part where you will create a “process” for monitoring and responding to both negative and positive mentions. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to focus on the positive as all kinds of mention affect your online reputation. Here’s a small checklist you can follow in molding your process.
- Who are your customers talking to? – Really, who are they talking to? In the past, this was the job of a customer service personnel but now this responsibility is oftentimes given to a social media manager. The “owner of the dialogue” should be comfortable with answering concerns and responding to mentions across various platforms. Make sure to keep everything as personal as possible. Not only should the in-charge be knowledgeable about the business but should also be level-headed and sensitive to your customer’s needs.
- What are you monitoring? – What exactly are you listening to? Of course you are waiting for brand mentions but you should get more specific. Are they talking about a specific post you made? A certain employee? Maybe a branch you just opened? You can even go as specific as figuring out the URL they are referring to in their mentions (if about your website or such). Think of all the possible ways your customers, followers, or fans will connect with your brand and expect them to be telling people about it online.
- Focus on your channels and connect them to your service – There are a lot of communication channels you can use for your monitoring like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+. You can also tap into category specific channels for your niche. This includes nich-specific boards and forums, Reddit for random information (although their subreddits can be really specific at times, or Houzz for home furnishings. This is important because you want to be in the same place where your customers may be talking about your brand.
- Be “real” with your responses – How many times have you been disappointed with a business or brand because they talk to you as if they are robots? Like when you draft a 3-paragraph email detailing your concern only to be replied with a canned response. That really stings, right? So make sure you stay “human” with your replies. Giving canned responses can work at a certain level but when a customer gets it one after another, expect that customer to walk out of the door. Another thing to note is that you should keep some sort of process when dealing with mentions. Should it be handled by the social media staff? How about escalating it to the higher ups? Make sure you follow this process to keep a semblance of uniformity within your organization.
Proactiveness is the name of the game when it comes to online reputation management. Don’t make the mistake of relying on ORM as a reactionary campaign when you can use it as a preventative strategy.