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Don’t play defense when it comes to your online brand reputation

Online reputation management (ORM) is a critical piece of an effective communications strategy. We’ve all heard stories about B2C companies who’ve been savaged online because of one misstep or another. 

And while negative reviews and posts aren’t as prevalent in B2B as they are in B2C, they do happen. Like in the business software space. There are several sites that have thousands of user ratings and reviews: G2 Crowd, Gartner Peer Insights, Trust Radius etc.

Even if there isn’t a review site specific to your industry, platforms like YouTube or Google let just about anyone do a product review. And most B2B marketers have their own branded social channels that are designed for followers to engage directly with positive and negative feedback.

So, online reputation management is important for B2B companies too. It's most successful when it’s approached as a proactive measure to manage your brand’s perception across the web and social channels.

Many businesses are forced to leap into a reactive mode after something negative has turned up. At that point, the damage is much harder to contain.

A strong offense is the best defense against reputation-damaging online content. Consider deploying these four offensive strategies as part of proactive online reputation management:

1. Valuable content

Savvy B2B marketers know that having relevant content pays off in many ways, including significantly impacting your brand’s overall reputation. A content strategy that includes posting useful, informative content to your social channels on a regular basis builds credibility and engaged followers.

2. Social media optimization

Let’s assume you have created a good amount of content that is valuable and not overly brand focused. In addition to SEO, make sure it is optimized for social channels. With YouTube, for example, video titles, descriptions and tags are the core ranking factors.

With Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to make sure posts contain keywords, hashtags and social meta tags. A strong optimization program helps ensure higher rankings for your positive content and pushes down or minimizes any negative items that could appear in the results.

3. Monitor regularly

The best way to ensure your online reputation is positive is to stay current with how your brand is showing up. What are others sharing and posting about your brand?

Identify the keyword terms you want to monitor and put a system in place that regularly reports results. There are many tools and services available to help automate the process, but sentiment analysis is important since most automated tools can’t detect sarcasm.

4. Have a response plan

No brand is immune to a negative review or social post, so it's important to make sure there’s a plan in place for who/what/how when it comes to responding.

  • Who's charged with responding? Identify the person the response should come from. It could be from the general brand account, a real person with an actual identity (like a customer service representative) or a designated brand ambassador.
  • What do you respond to? Not every criticism deserves a response, but some may need immediate attention. Develop guiding principles ahead of time so it’s easier to make those decisions when it happens.
  • How do you respond? It’s always a good practice to keep responses professional yet authentic. Acknowledge the issue in a personal way--nobody wants a canned response. If it’s a serious issue, offer to take the conversation offline and provide assistance one-to-one.

Don’t be caught playing frantic defense with your brand’s online reputation. Proactively manage it to ensure the best possible results when your audiences interact with you online.