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:
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.
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.
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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.”
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.
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#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.
Search.Twitter.com: 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 Search.Twitter.com. 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.
#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 Alltop.com, 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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