social media how toAre you a Sketchy Sam or a Likeable Laura? When it comes down to doing business with someone, there’s no doubt that reputation is a major factor in making a decision.

After all, would YOU do business (knowingly) with a sketchy person?

But with the rise of social media comes new challenges for businesses of all shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to reputation: Who knows you and what do they know you for?

Are you helpful? Are you a great person to do business with? Are you a trusted resource or a product pusher?

More importantly, in the transparent business world we now live in, are you AWARE of your reputation… and are you doing something about it?

Which One Are You?

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is if you ARE Sketchy Sam and don’t want to change, there’s nowhere to hide and social media might end up being a big nightmare. The good news is you have the power to control your reputation through taking action, and this is how you do it.

Imagine that you’re interested in buying an exotic car but know very little about the industry. You decide to go online, Google around, kick out questions about exotic cars on social media sites and two names pop up:

Sketchy Sam

Sam says he’s the best in the world at what he does on his website—which is basically a brochure trying to get you to buy or go away. Sam is always selling and doesn’t see the point in delivering value. There are no interesting articles, advice or videos on his site—unless you pay him first! He’s always wearing a neat suit and acting “nice” in public.

But when you Google him, the only thing that comes up is “Sam’s blog” which was last updated on January 9, 2007 with the title “Buy A Car!!! Now!” and recent information on a lawsuit where he sued his mom for the family cat.

When you search social networking sites, you see that all he’s doing is shouting at people about how awesome and amazing his products are. Anytime someone mentions Sam or his products (positively or negatively), Sam is nowhere to be found. He isn’t a part of the conversation. Plus, when asking around, you quickly find out that not only is he a jerk but he doesn’t follow through on promises.


Likable Laura

Laura doesn’t need to brag about how amazing she is. Others are doing it for her. When you Google her, you find a smattering of interesting information. Links to her web show where she offers tips, interviews she has done with major media sources on- and offline on the car industry, guest articles she has written for other blogs about exotic cars and other great stuff.

On her site, you find all kinds of free amazing content, including the “exotic car race off” with videos of cars racing and “pimp my car” articles on customizing exotic cars. On social networking sites you find her to be helpful, sharing interesting links and content, interacting and (ahem) being a human. Anytime she’s mentioned online (either herself or her products), she jumps into the conversation. If you ask around about Laura, you’ll hear about how she’s “great to work with,” “very authentic” and “recommended.”

Dan Schawbel always jumps into the conversation.

Who Would You Rather Do Business With?

The better question is, of course, how do YOU become Likeable Laura? How do you manage your reputation in the transparent business world?

After all, reputation is everything (well, almost everything). When it comes to marketing, your reputation can either be your champion or your worst enemy. Why? Because it matters. It used to be someone with a big mouth could tell…

…10 people about you?
…100 people about you?

Now an individual can tell thousands of people by using social media, blogs and more simply with a click.

Reputation isn’t just ONE static thing, but a sum of many things, including:

  • Being likeable, friendly and kind
  • Being known for delivering great service and taking care of clients
  • Being a trusted content source; i.e., offering relevant and valuable content
  • Being active and engaged—joining in the conversation vs. one-way communication

Plus, when it comes to reputation, search engines have big transparent mouths.

Think about someone telling all of your dirty online secrets (hopefully you don’t have any) to ANYONE who asks. Now that’s something to think about, especially because search engines spill the beans on pretty much everything you’ve been doing online.

When you hear someone’s name for the first time, what’s your natural instinct? In many cases, we rush to our computers or phones and type that person’s name into a search engine.

Is there something you can do about your online reputation? You betcha. Here are five tips for managing your online reputation:

#1: Get Busy Creating Relevant and Valuable Content

Everywhere—on your website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Every piece of content including photos (and even videos now) is crawled by search engines.

When you create educational or inspiring content (and mention your name or your company’s name somewhere within), you’re essentially controlling your own destiny when people search for you.

Here’s the secret (come a little closer). The content can’t be ABOUT you. Helpful content wins. Think about the interests/passions/needs of your target community as opposed to your own.

Who does this extremely well? HubSpot. To put it nicely, HubSpot isn’t in the sexiest of industries. They create lead generation software, but they’re a content machine. Their Internet marketing blog is extremely popular with millions of page views per month. They even have their own online web show where they go over marketing news and opinions each week.

Go ahead and search for HubSpot. Not only will you find a link to their website, but you’ll find delicious content, links to social media sites, upcoming webinars, YouTube videos and more.


Check out HubsSpot's Internet Marketing Blog.

#2: Alert Yourself and Then Join the Conversation

Set up a Google Alert for your business, your name, other key people’s names, your competitors and any key phrases. I add my Google Alerts to Google Reader so I can check them out at my leisure as opposed to getting an email anytime my Alerts are mentioned.

Setting up an alert is one thing; RESPONDING is the key. If you see something, good or bad, jump in and comment on the blog or source. Become a part of the conversation.

Responding to good comments doesn’t have to be rocket science. At the very least, a simple thank you goes a long way if someone mentions you on their blog or website. Negative comments of course can be a little trickier and emotional, but don’t shy away from them. Participate. Take the higher road. Address the concerns. Don’t ignore.

Plus, every little comment you leave is a chance to do good and build your brand. It is also a chance to be a jerk and hurt your reputation.

#3: Watch and Listen From Every Angle

That’s another way of saying that Google isn’t the only answer when it comes to managing your online presence. In fact, there are many other places worth checking out, including:

Google Blogsearch: Blogs move quicker than Google (Google is trying to catch up with Real-Time Search), but to check what is going on with you, your business, competitors, etc., check out Google Blogsearch. The hub of the real-time web. Nothing gets closer than up-to-the-literal-second updates. You can also take an RSS feed for keywords, your business, your name, people you want to stalk, etc., and put them into Google Reader (similar to the Google Alerts example), making even more info available to you on ONE screen.

Advanced Twitter Search: That little button on Allows for better geotargeting and a host of options you’d expect with the word “advanced.”

Ice Rocket: Well-designed search site to help track blogs, the web in general, Twitter, news, etc.

Backtype: Lets you track comments left on blogs and forums as well as on social sites. This is often overlooked, yet extremely important.

Video search: Videos are important and YouTube is the second-largest search engine to Google. Search there for videos about you and the competition. Other video search engines include Google’s Video Search, Yahoo’s Video Search, Blinkx and my new favorite: Truveo (very slick).

#4: Be nice: Taking the High Road vs. Negabots

I know this seems a little ridiculous, but it is so true. Negative people online are annoying—I get it. And most negative people fall into two categories:

  • People with legitimate concerns/opposing views (we can all respect that, right?)
  • Negabots. You know the type of person. It is 85° and sunny out and he’s complaining it isn’t 86°. Give him $100 and he’ll complain it isn’t $101.

Kill with kindness. Confrontational and overly sensitive are two qualities that often lose online. If you’re nice to people, people will be nice to you. Sure, it’s common, and yet it can be difficult to do.

The master of this is Gary Vaynerchuk, the outspoken creator of Wine Library TV and author of Crush It! Gary has lots of fans and friends, but of course some of those people wake up and drink a cold glass of hatred. Does Gary ignore them? Nope. On any given day, you can find him responding kindly to negative criticism on his blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts and even his Amazon book page where the occasional negative review pops up. Gary responds once nicely and then it’s done. He told me an in interview, “taking the high road is undefeated.” Very true.

gary vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk takes the high road when it comes to dealing with negative people.

#5: Build Relationships With the Likeable Lauras of the World

We become like the company we keep, right? Are there other people in your niche who:

  • Have influential blogs (or up-and-coming blogs) that allow for guest posting?
  • Have an interview series you can be a guest on?

Remember these delicious pieces of content will do all kinds of good for you, including:

  • More traffic to your site (and really… who wants less traffic?). Even if it is just a few people, it’s a win.
  • More content created that search engines can index with your name (especially if it’s an interview).
  • Association/relationship with other trusted people online.
  • A great marketing/promotional opportunity to share this content with your networks.

But here’s an interesting challenge: What can you do to offer them value? This isn’t just about taking. This is about giving value first. This is about building LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS.

Start digging around. Search, Google Blogsearch and Twitter. Ask around and start identifying media sources in your niche. Start small with perhaps a few passionate up-and-comers who are more easily accessible than the really big guys and gals.

Start helping them by tweeting about them and sharing their content on Facebook. Leave thoughtful non-promotional comments on their posts that resonate with them. Be helpful as opposed to pushy.

A perfect example is Elena Verlee, a PR specialist, entrepreneur and creator of PR In Your Pajamas. I met Elena because she relentlessly helped me without asking for anything. She offered me an interview on her blog. She consistently tweets my shows and content. She has personally introduced me to lots of great people who were guests on my show.

And guess what happened? I invited her to be a guest and we had a great interview that was seen by thousands of people. She got on my radar screen by being helpful.

Whose radar screen would you like to be on?

At the end of the day, managing your online reputation is really just being you—your best you. You can’t fake being nice to people. There are no “tricks” to make sure you’re seen as the best person/company in the history of mankind. But by working on your likeability, making an effort to engage and offering valuable content, you can certainly stack the odds in your favor.

Take a moment and Google your company. Do you like what you see? What strategies have worked for you? What have we missed? Give us your comments and feedback in the box below.

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  • Awesome post.. I agree with everything you said.

    There is a reason that word of mouth has been around for ever and continues to be the best way to sell.

    Nothing beats the “real” recommendation from a friend telling you how great this or that is.

    Your reputation is everything. Take this even further and your customer service is everything.

    How you deal with issues with your customers is just as important as you deal with them in the front end.

    ex.. A friend asked me about a product I bought recently.. and I told him it was great but had some issues.. and I called cust serv and their were friendly, polite and VERY helpful. I was sharing more about the help I got then the actual product I bought.

    Control a strong reputation in the front and backend.

  • John Paul – Thanks for the comment. And spot on. Reputation definitely can’t be faked and it is what fuels business.

  • David, I tend to call myself an Likeable Laura, even though no matter how hard we try, some people just not going to like you. I stay true and to the point about my business and help those who need a helping hand, and just hope that’s is enough.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • In this social media age the best way to “sell yourself” on the web is to act exactly how you’d act in real life.
    People trying to sell sell and sell receive a “no thanks” on the phone and in person, why should it work online? And, in the real world, you tend to stick with people you find valuable and interesting, engaging and fun, why wouldn’t you want to do the same online? If you stick by the “act online as you would offline” you’ll very rarely screw things up (well unless you’re a sociopath).

  • Absolutely. Being likeable to the right people…not everyone 🙂 But, I do believe being a jackass rarely gets people far which I’m sure you aren’t. Thanks for the comment.

  • VERY good point Gabriele. That disconnect kills people.

  • Murray

    This is tremendously valuable information. A mixture of theoretical overview with block and tackle how-to’s. I have a question which will illustrate my overall lack of experience with this; How to I set up Google Alerts in my Google Reader?

  • Murray,

    Your best bet is to do a search at and then grab the RSS feed and get it into your reader. You can do the same for – Mike

  • Spot on David thanks for this. Add to this the story of Laura was good. I will be sharing this. Indeed search engines are spies without whom we cannot be visible though. We do need to understand that what we do today shall remain as footprints on the internet. Loud people in real life are not really liked as much.

  • Murray

    Thanks Mike!

  • Murray – Glad Mike hopped in (before I could!) VERY easy to setup. And so glad you enjoyed the article. Good luck!

  • We can all be likeable laura’s. Glad you enjoyed it Pervara!

  • I love that you included the tip about Killing People with kindness, if your going to grow in business and online your going to need to be able to handle adversity with soft gloves.

  • Great Article David, you crushed it!


  • Elena Verlee

    David – I’m a huge fan of your work which is why I have had no qualms being “Eager Elena” when it comes to promoting you unabashedly LOL.

    Thanks for being a trusted resource for me and sharing your “secret sauce” with the hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs passionately building their business.

  • David, your approachable writing style and great links made this a very useful article. Thanks!

  • I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. I hope that’s ok. 😉

    I could see where someone with a traditional business, and relatively new to social media, forms entirely different impressions about these two well-thought-out examples. This person has a business and now realizes they need a social media and online presence. They might see Likeable Laura more as Over-extended Laura, someone who spends her time building relationships, content, and useful information for others that ultimately benefits her status rather than spending her time building something that she’s getting paid to do. Likewise, Sketchy Sam might be see as Doing-the-job Sam since he’s doing marketing for himself, as he has the time – most of it is spent working for paying clients. If that’s the impressions that get formed, I can tell you gets hired to do the site, social media presence, etc.

    It seems like there could a fine line between promoting yourself as Likeable Laura and being seen as something else.

    I think the impressions about these two types of people and the steps given above are formed by those of us who know the world of social media. We are tired of the Sketchy Sam’s who bombard our facebook pages with self promotion while the Likeable Laura’s are seen as helpful and courteous.

    And, yes, ulimately, I’m giving this input because I’m trying to be helpful, i.e., Likeable Doug 😉

  • troygroberg

    I agree with you on everything you said David. Well written. I especially like the parts about setting up alerts and watching and listening. I recently wrote a post on developing your personal brand.…/ It’s a slightly different point of view on the same subject but I didn’t really mention how to watch and listen. That’s a really important step that I think many people and businesses overlook.

  • Addoway, Inc

    Great article! 100% spot on. Keep up these great posts.

  • This is a fantastic post David. It’s always been about giving before getting. I’ve used Google alerts before but never through the feeder so thanks for that info too.

  • Randy Kemp

    Excellent ideas. Provide valuable content and be likeable are probably the main keypoints. Thanks for sharing.

  • Absolutely. Uber soft. Like the softest 🙂

  • Thanks Elijah! Massively appreciated!

  • “Eager Elena” just made me almost spit up the water I was drinking. You rock.

  • My pleasure, Lindsay! Thanks!

  • Doug – I ALWAYS welcome different opinions for sure.

    I like Dynamic Doug, haha. And I think this is simply a case of some of these folks trying to treat the online “marketing” world like offline direct marketing. Based on purely numbers. Direct mail. Billboards, etc. The comparison kind of sucks.

    And then you ask these same folks about networking events, taking clients out for golf and they seem to understand that metaphor better as to how the online world works. Great points.

  • Thanks Carrie!

  • Will do 🙂

  • Watch, listen, respond 🙂

  • sure David

  • troygroberg

    I like to see people who practice what they preach. Disqus is such a hand tool for that. I was thinking about that a bit and wanted to take your post a little further so I went and Googled David Garland . Looks like you have a little competition for your name. I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have anyone else using their name online (*knocks on wood) but I was wondering what you do to promote your personal brand/online reputation and not those other guys with the same name. Might be a good topic for another post.

  • Great insights! Spot on!

  • Excellent article!
    Net-Zilla Web Consultig

  • Excellent article. I love the humorous way you illustrated your point. I believe people and businesses should research themselves once a month and see what is up with their online reputation. It’s not just about what we do online, but what people are saying about us online. It’s a whole new area of concern for marketing reputation. Thanks for the food for thought!

  • Great article David. You’ve touched on five effective tactics for managing a small business reputation. One note I might add to point number four is to avoid flame wars. Obviously, engaging in meaningful discussion with a dissatisfied customer is critical not only to maintaining a good online reputation, but also to figuring out possible weaknesses in your operations.

    However, if you feel that you’re being targeted by an anonymous bully, or if the complaint is demonstrably false, you should not allow yourself to be sucked into a back and forth with an online troll. If you can’t make peace, sometimes it’s better to walk away than give additional weight to a bogus claim. Instead, focus on other proactive branding measures, such as the ones you’ve listed in this article.

    Thanks again for the great piece!

    Rob Frappier
    Community Manager

  • troygroberg

    Depending on who you are you may want to google yourself more often than that. If you are a big company you probably need someone actively monitoring twitter and facebook for mentions of your brand.

  • Francine Bishop

    Awesome article David!

    You really nailed the things that are important to every business owner – online and offline. Even those business owner who are not online (yes, there are still some business people who haven’t got it yet), their customers are online and if they aren’t taking that seriously their reputation is in real trouble.

  • Raquel

    Excellent article, David, thank you very much for the way you look at the world and the excellent tips you share. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Raquel Meylan

  • Thanks Scorch!

  • Thanks, Jennifer!

  • Thanks Bonnie. Business is supposed to be fun, right ;o)

  • Great point, Rob. I call those people “negabots”. There is a massive difference between a negabot and someone with a legitimate concern. Well said.

  • Thanks Raquel!

  • Absolutely. There is definitely one world now. Online and offline. Not two scary different places.

  • Absolutely, Francine right on!

  • Gina Cuclis

    Last month I was on a panel with two others about crisis communications where the question of negative comments on blogs came up. One of the panelist works for municipalities and said he ignored blogs. I disagreed and explained the need to respond with facts. I wish I had your example to tell the class to visit. Thanks.

  • David, long posts usually bore me. But yours was refreshingly relevant, helpful and easy to read. Thank you for doing what you do, and doing it so well.

  • Fantastic post David!

    It really is one of the greatest challenges nowadays for business, particularly those who are new to the online or have no presence at all. It used to be that you have a bad customer experience and you told a few friends before you got it out of your system. And that business wouldn’t know about it, it would just move along as usual.

    Now though it can erupt so quickly and so many businesses still remain unaware of what people are saying about them. Even if they don’t have a web presence, people are still talking.

    Some points well made, and great advice.


  • Thanks David, this is truely valuable content. After following your suggestion I found neither our company or our products are mentioned anywhere in conversations. where do you start when this is the case?

  • Might not be a bad thing, Jeroen. The question becomes: How do you get people talking? And what might they talk about? *HINT* it is probably something bigger than just your product or service.

  • Gina – You should email it to them. Glad you took a stand!

  • Why thank you, Jeff. That makes my day/night!

  • Definitely Brigid. The key of course is not avoiding or pretending it doesn’t exist. Social media amplifies bad companies and good companies 🙂

  • Great article. Wonderful timing as I prepare to enter into 2011. I find myself wondering…more social media or more belly to belly/face to face marketing. I think I’m going to incorporate alot of your advice and find a successful blend of both!
    Keep the great posts coming..

  • Mike

    Wow, great post! So much here to take in.

    As I’m just getting started in building my niche and business the reputation of my company is all important. If your reputation isn’t good you’ll never get a chance to wow them with customer service.

  • As a fledgeling business owner, I am learning how to balance social media with time to actually work, so right now I spend a lot of time researching how to utilize social media, but also seeking how to be authentic, effective, as well as EFFICIENT. I still have so very much to learn, but your great article was enormously helpful! Thank you so much. I can already tell that I will reference this article and your excellent suggestions often, but your excellent article also makes me want to want to see what else you have to say, past and future. Thanks so much!

  • René Power

    Great post, well timed as many companies that are new and nervous to all this (especially trade b2b) are starting to consider the most relevant social media tools for their businesses.

  • As you did mine. There is no greater wisdom than kindness.

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  • Hey David…

    Awesome article and I love seeing your stuff on these other blogs. Nice way to open the blogging world up for me. Ha!!!

    Because I’m creating The RockStar Project, I’m intentionally trying to be edgy and push my readers conservative thoughts to the edge. I like to challenge my readers and hope they’ll live a little out of their comfort zone.

    Life happens out of the comfort zone.

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  • Rob, I think this was one of the social skills I appreciated learning most: being able to quickly identify the negabots as David calls them. They can zap up so much of your time and energy if you’re not careful.

  • Challenging is always a good thing Jason 🙂

  • Definitely, Rene. Well said.

  • So glad you found it helpful!

  • Exactly, Mike. Reputation in many cases can cause or prevent a handshake.

  • My prediction: Both 🙂

  • Diana Ochart

    Excellect post!!! Everyone that are doing business has to understand the importance of the web 2.0.
    Thanks!!! 😉

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  • I am glad I ran across your article. I find it to be very informative. Very well done.

  • David I don’t know why you left my last name off the part about me but there was really no need! 😉

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  • Hi David, this is a great article. Those who want to enter a business should have a broad knowledge in social media because this is a big help to their business!

  • Chatmeter

    Thanks for this timely information for online reputation it is what every small business needs to know.

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  • Raj

    Excellent Blog for infrmation

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  • i find that recommendations and referrals are the life blood of our graphic design business.

  • David, your a star your style of writing is easy to understand a very useful article. BIG Thanks!

  • Great points for all businesses and very well made.