The Ultimate Guide to Building and Protecting Your Online Reputation

In the digital world, trust and loyalty to a brand depends on its online reputation.

People turn to the web whenever they need information about a particular brand, and they listen intently to what past and current customers have to say about it. According to research gathered by advertising agency MDG, up to 90% of consumers “trust opinions posted online,” especially those by other consumers. Unfortunately, more often than not companies are not prepared for the backlash of negative criticism, especially if it’s a result of a slip up or mistake exposed online.

One’s online reputation will make or break a business, so the goal of any startup about to invest in online marketing is to focus on creating, growing, and preserving a positive image of their brand. Moreover, tracking, monitoring, and responding to different people’s reactions to your brand is vital to success.

In this post, we’ll go through four important aspects of online reputation management that will help guide you develop a respectable reputation for your business.

Step 1: Create the Image

brand management branchout

The first step is to visualize the kind of image you want your brand to portray and to represent. Does this image reflect your company’s ideals and value? Is it in line with the beliefs, goals, and motivations it stands for?

Online marketing and social media strategist Jeff Bullas enumerates the key actions for creating a solid online reputation, which begins with positioning your brand and focusing on what aspects you want to promote online. In short, you have to identify and define what your brand stands for, who it is catering to, and its value to the consumer.

Knowing who you are promoting your brand to is key to determining which direction to take. Make sure to define the specifics of your target audience (e.g., age, location, gender) as this will help shape the kind of content you would be creating when marketing to these people.

Once you have a solid plan as to how you would go about creating your online reputation, take a look at the available tools to facilitate all marketing activities. Ideally, you would have a domain name that is easy to remember and provides access to your company website. A self-hosted platform or system is also necessary to build your company website where online content, sales, and customer service will take place. Finally, submissions to online yellow pages and local search marketing directories allow you to further reach interested customers.

At the end of the day, the image that you establish becomes the foundation of your brand’s online reputation.

Step 2: Build Your Brand’s Momentum

content marketing bubble

As soon as you throw your brand out into the real world, you realize that there won’t be an excited audience waiting and cheering you on.

There is deep and resounding silence as your brand begins to mix with all other brands that have established themselves already. The competition has created so much noise that no one can hear you and your message.

It’s time to build your brand’s online reputation by getting out of the overbearing crowd and giving people a reason to care.

Here are seven great ways to get your message across and remembered:

  • Create content that is educational, informative, and inspiring. Tell stories, be creative with your headlines, and make sure it’s easy to read.
  • Use various types of media to engage your customers. Experiment with text, video, audio, and visual media like infographics.
  • Guest blog for industry leaders and influencers to get your name out. Try to reach out to mainstream media to get the press going for your brand.
  • Optimize your company’s website, blog posts and pages for SEO. This builds relevance among search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Have an email marketing campaign in place with an easy-to-find sign up box on a prominent space in your blog. Send useful and relevant email to your subscribers on a set schedule.
  • Always engage with people interacting with your content. They may become your loyal customers in the long run.

Once you have built a following, continue to proactively build a positive image of yourself through different means. For some brands like Target, they would create marketing campaigns that are exciting for consumers and helpful for the community, such as charities or schools.

Step 3: Control and Protect Your Image

woman balancing wire suitcase

Content marketing works in building your brand by informing people of what it represents and stands for. But as they say, if you can talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.

Once customers are lining up at your door and ready to buy, you must give them the best experience they’ve ever had. Serve them high quality products, customer service, and encourage them to come back. Give them the opportunity to contact you if they have concerns, issues, and feedback. If you can be consistent with handling your customers positively, they will surely want to come back and convince others to come along with them. You have gained their trust, respect, and loyalty.

Many businesses encounter online reputation blunders because they forget about taking care of their customers. This creates a negative response, which when posted online can go viral and reach thousands of people.

Before the business can reign in and set the record straight, critics are blasting comments and opinions about it with thousands of people listening in. And because they are not able to take control, people now see the business as how their peers have defined it. Brands that have had their online reputations destroyed are where they are today because they have allowed others to take control of it.

The key is to have a solid plan to effectively track and monitor what people are saying and spreading about your brand, how your brand being perceived and received online, and the impact this has on your business. In the infographic published by MGD and featured on Entrepreneur.com, it is ideal to gather and foster brand advocates as well as positive customer reviews, comments, and mentions online. Don’t be quick to ignore people interacting with you and always make it your goal to build strong relationships.

In short, give people every reason to feel confident in doing business with you.

Step 4: Solve and Save Your Image

Let’s say that one of your marketing campaigns didn’t sit well with a customer, and he decided to voice that out. You discovered his negative review or comment on a blog and forum post, and it’s gaining attention with people responding to the negative review with their own opinion.

How would you as a company respond to this? How would you approach the person who has expressed his dissatisfaction? What should you do in order to solve and save your image?

MGD suggests creating and implementing a crisis-response action plan that will allow you to extinguish the flames of negative criticism before it gets out of hand. For instance, when faced with an ordeal, evaluate the situation and communicate your reaction in a professional manner. Never respond to criticism with a hot head or when you’re feeling very emotional. Also, utilize tools that monitor reactions and mentions, and that enable you to reach out to those customers in order to address and solve the problem.

In case the situation becomes too chaotic, don’t panic and run from the problem. Respond as quickly and decisively as you can while taking full responsibility of the situation.

Finally, come up with a recovery plan to rebuild and re-establish your brand’s reputation into the positive image you had envisioned when you first opened up for business.