Reputation means everything in brand management. If you’re trying to get potential customers to notice your brand and give your products at least one try, you must convince them you’ve already got some “positive rep.”
All this has always been true. But now that nearly every aspect of life is connected to the Internet, it’s truer than ever before.
To be more specific, online reputation management is defined by how well you can harness and control two things: search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media exposure.
Search engine optimisation means getting your brand name and website to appear among the topmost results spewed out by Web search engines (e.g., Yahoo or Google) each time someone searches for any keyword relevant to your product. It’s a simple principle: you need to get such key words, your brand’s name, and your website to get mentioned together within one web page, as often as possible, across as many sites as possible. And of course, reputation management demands that each mention comes within a favorable description of your brand.
All of this requires a search engine optimisation expert to at least help you design (if not implement) a coordinated effort across different sites and blogs.
But even after achieving a good level of SEO usage, you will also need to cultivate your brand’s presence in social media networks. That’s because a lot of the social media networks’ content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) is private and exclusive to small networks of “friends”—and thus, don’t show up on search engines. You will need to get into these private networks and introduce your brand there, then post links to your existing SEO efforts (i.e., linking Facebook updates to a blog or site that promotes or mentions your brand). And you’ll have to do this quickly. Word of mouth spreads very rapidly through these highly-decentralized social media networks, and you need to move fast to control it.
The best reputation management tools
Another absolute “must” for online reputation management is reputation management software.
Any of these applications will enable you to keep a sharp eye on your brand’s entire SEO and social media campaign by providing you with a comprehensive, pilot dashboard-like view of it all. It automates how you send out coordinated messages across all social networks, SMS, blogs, paid ads, and other website. Some of these software applications will help you conduct mini-surveys among your existing and potential customers, and analyze how to “tweak” your campaign to get more brand recognition. Best of all, you can do all this from a mobile device (i.e., iPad, smartphone, Android)—which means you can respond to your audience’s own responses to your campaign, in real time.
Some brand managers have resorted to combining a handful of reputation management software instead of employing only one. (All that’s needed is a smartphone, a laptop, and an Internet connection.) Here are some of the best so far:
BrandsEye. This application has all the basic features you need to run an SEO and social media campaign, including competitive analysis. It also allows both you and several of your co-workers or employees to work on the campaign together in real time, no matter where you might be.
Technorati. This is freeware, and is good for entrepreneurs with only a simple campaign and little SEO or social media management experience. The application tracks your blog posts and individuals who refer or “link” back to your posts.
Alterian. Best for those running a truly global campaign, this can help you see how your brand is viewed across different countries and demographics.
SocialMention. Another freeware application, it can alert you every time one of your SEO keywords are mentioned on the Web.
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