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 find your company when searching online, while ORM shapes what they think about you.
SEO makes sure your business gets noticed, while ORM influences what people think of you once they’ve searched for you on Google.
SEO’s job is to promote a specific website on search engines and increase traffic to that site using keywords, such as skateboards or skateboard decks.
ORM focuses on influencing searches for businesses, like Jim’s Skateboard Shop, in an effort to shape what potential customers think about that business.
SEO is used to increase the search engine ranking of your website.
ORM is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of your business by influencing online information about you.
Any company, no matter how small, has an online reputation.
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 decide on one widget or the other.
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 negative information 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 there is damage already done. ORM is not about damage control, it’s about establishing a solid, positive foundation for your brand.
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 because there are a lot of misconceptions about it. 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. In addition to SEO, here’s a list of other ORM tactics.
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 products or services, leaving a review on Yelp or Google, and more
If you think your business doesn’t need ORM, or if you think you can make it without taking into account people’s voices, opinions, and reviews, you’re wrong. Your online reputation is your reputation. Period.
SOME ORM “RULES”
Following these simple “rules” will get you started with ORM and will benefit you and your business.
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 commandment
2. Be transparent.
What does being “transparent” even mean? It means asking for feedback and not hiding criticism, even addressing it publicly. Easier said than done. Most small and medium sized companies struggle with this concept.
If you and your company accept feedback, customer opinions and reviews, you also must be ready to face them promptly.
3. Monitor what is being said about you on social media.
What are people saying about you? Good ORM is not only about reacting in a positive way 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.
Sometimes a reaction is not necessary, and sometimes a reaction that is too late can cost you money.
These days, lots of people ask questions via 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 both 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
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 CEO or part of a growing mom and pop store, 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 step up to fix things that seem to be out of your control? After all, dissatisfied customers already have made up their minds to choose a competitor, right
Not exactly. 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. Understand your critics and learn from your mistakes.
Criticism can be the chance to learn more about your audience and produce a better message in the future.
7. Ask for help if necessary.
ORM is not for the faint hearted. If you’re busy busy busy, where will the time to work on ORM come from? Professionals who are expert in ORM -- like Kitchen Design Partner -- are available to either get you started or do it for you.
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, ensuring that a clean results page today doesn’t turn into a nightmare tomorrow.
Just a few years ago, the internet was very different. Companies did not interact with customers but just sold to a passive audience; people could not express their opinions in any kind of meaningful way. The situation has profoundly changed.
Today, websites are no longer static brochures. User-generated content is a must. And regular interactions on social networks are vital 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.
The experts at Kitchen Design Partner stand ready to help you with your proactive Online Reputation Management program.
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