You’ve probably heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). And possibly you’ve heard about Online Reputation Management (ORM). And maybe you have an idea that they are related. And that’s true, they are related, but they’re not the same.
SEO works so that people can find you when searching online. ORM affects what they think about you after you’ve been found.
SEO makes sure that your business gets noticed. ORM influences what people think of your business once they’ve visited your site or read your reviews.
SEO is used to better the search engine ranking of your website. ORM is used to shape people’s perception of your business by influencing online information about you.
OK, so we’ve established that SEO is not ORM. Yet ORM incorporates SEO principles. But SEO is not the whole story by far.
If you search online for a widget, you will find a lot of companies selling them. But you need to know which one is best before you make a purchase.
So your second search is about the companies that make the widget, so you can make an informed decision.
SEO works to get a brand into the search results in the first place. Whereas ORM works to help a customer go with one widget or the other.
Got it ?
As a small business owner, you have to care about how people see your business online.
How do you start?
The first step is to find out what’s out there right now – so don’t be shy – Google yourself or your business. Is there anything negative anywhere you can see?
If you see something negative, it is time for Online Reputation Management.
When someone Googles your company, they will also come across that negative.
The funny thing is, most companies that look for Online Reputation Management only do so whenever damage already done.
ORM is not about damage control, it’s about establishing a solid, positive foundation for your small business.
ORM is proactive.
By being proactive, small businesses – like yours — that actively work at their online reputation can enjoy a long term, positive presence online while also protecting against negative results that may pop up.
A company of any size benefits from having a basic understanding of the main concepts of ORM. Some think it’s just social media monitoring, while others think it has something to do with public relations, and still others have no idea how it can impact their business and sales.
ORM includes SEO, but SEO is just one tool in the ORM toolbox.
• Have an informative website
• Build profiles on social media sites
• Be active on social media, interact with your followers
• Ask for reviews from customers
• Write quality content in a blog, on your website
• Write articles for the local newspapers and get inbound links from them
• Monitor your online presence to make sure your results remain positive
Many of these actions influence search engine results. For example, maintaining a positive presence on Yelp means that the Yelp search engine result will include a good star rating, which reflects well on your business in Google results.
No matter the size of your business, “they” — prospects, customers, clients, anyone and everyone — are talking about you. They are tweeting about your latest product, leaving a comment on your blog, posting a Facebook update about their experience with your service, leaving a review on Google or Houzz.com.
If you think your business doesn’t need ORM, or if you think you can make it without taking into account people’s opinions, and reviews, you’re wrong.
The following are a few simple “rules” to get you started with ORM.
1. Become well respected.
Trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose. Making people respect you and your work is the most important ORM rule.
2. Be transparent.
What does being “transparent” even mean?
It means not hiding criticism, even addressing it publicly.
Easier said than done, right? Most small companies struggle with this concept.
When you ask for feedback, customer opinions and reviews, you also must be ready to face them.
3. Monitor what is being said about you on social media.
What are people saying about you?
Good ORM is not only about reacting to what people are saying, about you, your business, your products and your services, but it’s also about whether to react at all and, if so, when.
These days, people ask questions via Google, Twitter and Facebook because they are evaluating whether or not they should buy from you. If you’re paying attention, answering these questions can bring in business.
Social media monitoring is an easy D-I-Y. Google and Yahoo have free alerts you can sign up for that monitor the web for mention of your business.
4. React quickly and politely.
In the case of a customer complaint via Twitter, for example, a prompt and simple “We are aware of the problem. We are working on it and will get back to you as soon as possible” is better than a late reply with more information or no reply at all.
The way you handle social media complaints says a lot more about your company than any kind of advertisement.
5. Address criticism.
Should you even bother to try to fix things that seem to be out of your control? After all, dissatisfied customers already have made up their minds, right?
According to a study, when customers received a response to their complaint, almost half of them were pleased by the company’s answer, and many of those customers went on to post a positive comment about the company after.
6. Learn from your mistakes.
Criticism can be the chance to learn more about your prospect and potential customers and produce a better message in the future.
7. Ask for help if necessary.
ORM is not easy and it’s time consuming. If you’re busy busy busy, where will the time to work on ORM come from?
ORM is an ongoing process, it’s not once and done. It includes having a system in place to monitor up-to-date mentions of your business.
Just a few years ago, the internet was a different place. There was no interation with customers. People could not express their opinions in any kind of meaningful way.
That situation has changed.
In today’s digital world, websites are no longer static brochures. Company and product reviews are a must. And regular interactions on social networks are essential to any business success.
In the second part of this look at Online Reputation Management, we’ll go deeper into the strategies and tactics used in a successful ORM campaign.