There are a lot of misconceptions about online reputation management. Some people think it’s just social media monitoring, while others believe it has something to do with public relations, and still others literally have no idea how it can impact business and sales.

In this guide, I’m going to explain the role of online reputation management in today’s business and media landscape. Companies of every size can benefit from having a clear outline of its main concepts.

They Are Talking About You

Just a few years ago, the internet was very different. Companies were not engaging customers but just selling to a passive audience; people could not express their voice in a powerful way, and the overall communication landscape was very “top down.”

The situation has radically 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.

No matter the size of your business, they (prospects, customers, clients…anyone and, potentially, everyone) are talking about you. They are tweeting about your latest product, leaving a comment on your blog, posting a Facebook update about their customer experience, and much more.

If you think you can skip this, or if you think you can make it without taking into account people’s voices, opinions, and reviews, think again.

The Transparency Risk

One of the most recent business commandments is “Be transparent.” Opening up to criticism and feedback seems to be beneficial for companies that embrace this new communication mode with their audience.

What does being “transparent” mean? Here are some examples:

  • Allowing employees to talk about products and services publicly
  • Establishing a 1-to-1 communication channel
  • Asking for feedback
  • Not hiding criticism, and addressing it publicly

Easier said than done! Most small and medium sized companies do not invest much on communication, and they struggle with this concept. As a result, their efforts usually are incorrect or inconsistent.

Being transparent is risky. But in the long run, not being transparent is riskier.

Online Reputation Management “Failures”

 

The transparency risk led many companies to literally fail in their quest to be “radically transparent.” Being open, in fact, does not come without a price. If you and your brand accept feedback, customer opinions, and so on, you also must be ready to face them promptly.

Consider these scenarios:

  1. What if your product/service sparks too much criticism?
  2. What if your employees are not social media savvy?
  3. What if your competitors take advantage of this?

These are some of the reasons one needs to have a proper online reputation management plan in action before embarking on a “transparency journey.”

Here are three famous cases of reputation management failure in the digital era:

  • Dark Horse Café received a tweet criticizing their lack of electrical outlets for laptops. Their response was something like: “We are in the coffee business, not the office business. We have plenty of outlets to do what we need.” Needless to say, this kind of defensive/aggressive behavior doesn’t work in the online world. Many blogs reported the fact as a negative public relations case.
  • Nestlé received negative comments about their environmental practices a few years ago, and they did not address them. People started becoming aggressive and posted altered versions of the Nestlé logo, forcing the company to close their public page. Takeaway? Do not pretend people are not talking, and address criticism as soon as possible.
  • Amy’s Baking Company fought fire with fire against a one-star internet review. Their insults against the reviewer eventually were picked up by the local news. It is obvious that negative attention is not good publicity.

What’s The Sentiment Out There?

 

What are people saying about you? Good online reputation management is not only about reacting well to what people say about you, your brand, or your products and services, but 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 millions.

A proactive approach to the matter consists of monitoring your public reputation on a regular basis, and not just when you come to know about a specific event to deal with. How do you do this? The magic tools invented to solve this problem fall under the name of “social media monitoring.”

Simply put, social media monitoring allows companies to gather public online content (from blog posts to tweets, from online reviews to Facebook updates), process it, and see whether something negative or positive is being said affecting their reputation.

Social media monitoring can be both DIY (Google Alert is an example of a free web monitoring tool accessible to anyone) and professional, depending on the size of the business involved.

Online Reputation Bombs

 

Ted Mosby Is a Jerk

In the online reputation management scenario, there are two types of negative content that companies should be aware of. One is represented by complaints on social networks. They need to be addressed properly, but unless your company has serious problems, they do not pose a real challenge to your business.

The other is what I define as “online reputation bombs,” which affect your reputation and sales long term and can severely damage a business. They are very powerful because, unlike social network content, they are prominent in search engine results. What if someone googles your brand name and finds defamatory content? Let’s see what they are:

  • Negative reviews: Review sites allow users to express their opinion on your brand. Did they like your service/product? Would they recommend it? Negative content can affect your sales, and addressing the criticism on the site may not be enough. Websites like Ripoff Report and Pissed Consumer provide the perfect platform for this kind of negative content.
  • Hate sites: Some people go beyond simple negative reviews and create ad hoc websites with their opinions, some of them containing illegal content. So-called “hate sites” sometimes address companies and public figures with insults and false information. Needless to say, a search result like “The truth about NAMEOFYOURCOMPANY” or “NAME scam/rip off” will make your potential customers run away!
  • Negative media coveragePhineas T. Barnum used to say “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That may be true for controversial public figures like Paris Hilton, but many times unfavorable TV, print, and online media coverage impacts negatively on companies and brands.

Should We Call The Cops?

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It is obvious that everyone has the right to express their voice about your brand. There are, however, certain boundaries that need to be respected. Some of the negative content online actually is illegal. Why?

  • It uses defamatory language
  • It reports false information
  • It is aimed at damaging the company’s reputation

How do you react to all of this? How do you defend yourself or your company from this kind of illegal behavior? Depending on the scope of the problem, several paths can be pursued in order to restore your online reputation:

  • Aggressive SEO: If someone googles your name, appearing on page 1 and 2 of the search results will be much more important than your business card or website. They will show at a glance several high ranking web sources talking about you. If they display false information, the first thing that you or your online reputation management company should do is devise a search marketing strategy that increases the ranking of positive content, owned by either you or third parties. The search engine game is too important to be ignored, and it is the first step in restoring your image.
  • Review removal: Did that user claim something false about your company? Is that review clearly aimed at destroying your reputation rather than providing feedback? Does it contain improper language? Legal liaison and speed of reaction will make it possible to remove the negative review.
  • Online investigations: In case of serious attacks to your brand image, it may be necessary to hire skilled online analysts to investigate untraceable threats and attackers via email tracing, data cross-indexing, and other information collection techniques. Cyber investigations are the definitive path to get to the bottom of difficult reputation management cases.

10 Online Reputation Management Commandments

Calling it “online reputation” really is redundant. Your online reputation simply is your reputation. In the digital era, nothing is protecting you from criticism anymore. This is good from a freedom of speech perspective; bad if your company has been defamed and attacked.

To conclude, ten practical tips that sum up what we have covered in this guide. The world of brand reputation will change in the coming years, but following these simple “commandments” definitely will benefit you and your brand:

1. Become well respected

According to several business experts, trust is a perishable asset and it is hard to gain. Making people respect you and your work is more important than any other online reputation management commandment.

2. Be radically transparent

After years of hiding critics, Mc Donald’s publicly forced egg suppliers to raise hens’ living standards according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals request.

3. Monitor what they are saying about you

 

Apart from the aforementioned reasons to monitor your online reputation, social media monitoring also can bring business! These days, lots of people ask questions via Twitter and Facebook because they are evaluating whether or not they should buy from you.

4. React quickly and politely

In 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.

5. Address criticism

In 2009, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s WSJ op-ed on Obama healthcare reform caused a controversy among WF customers. Two days later, the company provided a response statement recognizing there were “many opinions on this issue, including inside our own company” and invited people to share their opinion on the matter.

6. Treat your Google page 1 as your business card

First impressions count, and we do judge many books by their cover. If the words “scam” and “rip off” are associated with your brand, then that is something you should worry about.

7. Understand your detractors

Criticism can be the chance to learn more about your audience and craft a better message in the future. Motrin’s controversial “baby wearing moms” commercial sparked a lot of criticism. It did not come from competitors or illegitimate attackers, but from people in Motrin’s target audience who felt offended by their promotional content.

8. Attack your illegitimate attackers

Sometimes we simply have to fight illegal behavior. In 2009, Domino’s Pizza employees who posted disgusting videos of themselves playing with food were fired and arrested. Another example is people who post false information on the internet. Sometimes, if you don’t sue them, they might do it again.

9. Learn from your mistakes

 

Sony certainly learned a reputation management lesson back in 2005. The company placed copy protection (XCD) on its CDs which created computer vulnerabilities that malware could exploit. Instead of being upfront about their mistake, Sony stonewalled criticism and lost millions in class-action lawsuits.

10. Ask for help if necessary

If your online reputation management efforts are not enough to protect or restore your brand image, you have the choice to request help from a professional.


This article by Dan Virgillito was originally published on neilpatel.com

About the Author:

Dan Virgillito is a content strategist for Massive PR, providing online reputation management services (i.e., helping companies monitor, defend, and restore their brand reputation on the internet).


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

About Twitter

Are you a webmaster? If so, your website should generate income for you. Whether you sell a product, a service, or generate income through the use of affiliate links, internet marketing is important to your success. A successful internet marketing campaign will generate website traffic, as well as income and using a platform such as Twitter will increase your chances of a successful campaign.

In terms of internet marketing, there are many ways to market your website. In fact, you may be overwhelmed with your options. To get started, you may start with the most recommended approaches. These include submitting articles to article directories with bank links attached, purchasing advertisements on popular websites, exchanging banners with other webmasters, and learning search engine optimization. Yes, these steps are important, but there are benefits to thinking outside-of-the-box. When you do, you will find Twitter.

Twitter is a social networking micro-blog. At first glance, Twitter looks like it can be fun, but also distracting. Yes, it can be, but it all depends on how you use the service. If you aren’t already a member, register for a free account. Choose a username, password, and provide your email address. The next step involves developing a list of contacts. These are individuals whose updates and Tweets you will receive and follow. Look for others to do the same for you.

To make contact with other Twitter members, you can search based on email address, name and location. If you belong to online community, ask for Twitter exchanges. This is ideal if members are your targeted market. For example, does your website share work-at-home opportunities? If so, post Twitter link exchanges on work-at-home related message boards. These individuals will benefit from clicking your links and visiting your website. The more contacts you make on Twitter, the easier it is to market your site.

Twitter

image credits: Pixabay

How it Works

Once you have developed a following on Twitter, you can start marketing your website. This is also where you can make costly mistakes. Twitter, as previously stated, is a social networking website. For that reason, avoid spammy advertisements. Instead, be clever and social about it. A great introductory post is “Thanks for following me on Twitter. I just finished updating my website, tell me what you think.” First, this offers a personal introduction. Next, it accomplishes the goal of increasing page views.

When you receive followers on Twitter, you are encouraged to return the favor. This is not required, but it can work to your advantage. You will receive Tweets or updates from other members. These updates may include daily updates on activities, but questions are commonly asked. Does someone on your follow list complain about the long drive to work? If you run a work-at-home website, respond with an @reply. Your message could say “Yes, I remember those days. I am glad I now work from home. Did you know that you could too?” and provide a link.

In addition to responding to @replies from those you follow, visit Search.Twitter.com. Messages that are public will be displayed. In keeping with working from home, use targeted keywords, such as work from home, employment, and online jobs. Remember, be sure to include a personal message, but always include a link to your website. In addition to just answering a question, become a follower of the other member.

As for why you should cleverly market your website, it has to do with personalization. In the above mentioned example, you provided a link to your website, but you also provided a personal message. This shows that you are truly reading Tweets and not using Twitter for the sole purpose of advertising. When consumers feel used, they are likely to turn away. If you notice your followers on Twitter decreasing in numbers, it may be because your messages sound like spam.

In short, Twitter has the potential to be an amazing internet marketing tool, but use it wisely. Including a quick personal message with @replies and cleverly incorporating your website link into your Tweets is the perfect way to advertise your website, as it is an advertisement in disguise.

Learn More

 

Social media has the potential to become the largest source of online traffic for any company. That distinction is now claimed by search engines.

While search engines do have a wider footprint and record more activity than social media, the ability of companies to reach out to their target audience and in person is what makes social media special.

You can target profiles and hence generate quality traffic from social media platforms.

Search engines have very little to offer to companies that don’t manage to get their websites ranking on the first page of search results. Social media too has its share of challenges but those are a little less overwhelming.

The odds are a bit more manageable compared to organic search engine optimization. There are more than two billion people on social media. There are dozens of social media platforms. How you strategize your social media outreach will determine the traffic.

Social Media

image credits: pixabay

Here are ten tips to get traffic from social media platforms.

  1. Know what to post. It is no secret that you need to come up with engaging content to intrigue your followers and the larger target audience so they check out the links or information and get redirected to your website. Normal posts, shares and tweets or images and videos will be of little help unless there is a content development and management strategy. The content can be anything from an article to an info-graphic, an image to a video.

You could share short or long content, in snippets or as a larger report hosted on your website. You could publish content directly as pages on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Whatever you choose to share must be relevant for your audience. For instance, very few teenagers would want to read a three-thousand-word post. Very few professionals will have the time to check out a five-minute video. You need to know how much time your target audience will be willing to give you, what format they would prefer to access and what kind of information they are looking for. Develop the content accordingly.

  1. Interactive content works better than one-way communiqués. Polls, quizzes, surveys, contests and any kind of Q&A or inviting feedback will open up a channel of communication. Social media works best when there is a two-way communication and in real time. Twitter and Facebook have become phenomenally popular because of this reason.

Companies are using these mediums to engage with their audience live. When you are done with polls, quizzes, surveys, contests and feedback generation or addressing grievances, you should focus on content that will initiate a discussion. Contents that encourage or invite comments, where people have something to say will always score better than just close ended informative contents. The purpose is not just to share some helpful information but to get the reader to check out the website. Only that will generate traffic for you.

  1. Once you know what to post, you should know when and where to post it. There are specific times when people of specific profiles come online and check their timelines.

Students wouldn’t be online when they are supposed to be at school. Professionals will not check the posts from brands they follow when they are in the midst of their first meeting or the end of day session at work. Homemakers will rarely be online when they are cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner, doing chores or when they need to get groceries. Likewise, every social media platform has its periods of peak and off-peak activities.

Find out when your target audience is live or active and on which social media platform. Share your content when your target audience is online and has the time to check out your posts.

  1. You can post your content at the best possible time after due research and even then, your traction could be limited. Be sure that your competitors will also do their homework and post at the same time. Hence, you would need to repost your content. If you repost frequently then you would just be spamming your audience. Time, you repost smartly and offer something new every time. Do not just share or re-tweet. Add a new fact or highlight something new from the post as you repost it or share it. This will keep the same post interesting and you can avert being deemed a spammer.

  1. You must become an influencer or you should use influencers. Associate with influencers on specific social media platforms who are followed by many and whose opinions are trusted by many. If these influencers endorse your posts or share your content, then you can be sure of having a windfall gain in traffic.

Some influencers offer their endorsement for a fee. You could try this route. You can also go for organic endorsements. In due time, your social media presence must command the influence to form and shape opinions.

  1. Try to trend your content. You can use hash tags for easy indexing of contents and also to entice more people to check out the piece. You can sponsor a post or some content to pop up on timelines of people who don’t follow you. A trending topic will always have a larger outreach and you would witness a spike in your website traffic. Social media is all about expansive outreach and that is what you must focus on.

  1. Always work on the credibility of your brand. Your social media presence should be impeccably trustworthy. Spamming, sharing poor quality content or generating interest and then failing to satiate the needs of the target audience will erode the trust of the people and that can be hard to regain.

Trusted brands will always have more people willingly checking out the links or contents. Others will be shrugged off by the same people who still follow those handles or profiles.

  1. Promotion or an amazing offer is the best way to generate substantial traffic immediately. However, it cannot be misplaced, mistimed or poorly targeted. Do not put forth a discount for those who wouldn’t be in a position to purchase.

Do not come up with an offer that may look great on paper but doesn’t really help in reality. Do not promote everything but your bestsellers. Many companies commit this mistake of trying to prop up products that people don’t necessarily want at this time or the offers are not enticing enough. Go all out with your promotions if you want an exponential spike in traffic.

  1. Consider social media automation. Automate daily posts, use software to track the traffic generated from social media, use analyses to study the outreach and the impact of every post, have auto follow ups for any activity originating from social media such as a redirected user signing up for newsletters or making an enquiry.

These are some ways to make social media marketing more efficient, punctual and organized.

  1. Finally, combine social media marketing with email marketing, search engine optimization, pay per click advertising and other outreach programs for an optimum impact.

Often, the first communication doesn’t generate traffic or any traction, the second or the third point of contact does and they don’t have to be through the same medium

You’ve heard a lot about decentralization lately, but what exactly is decentralized internet? And what do people want when they seek it?

The internet comprises a network of networks, and if one piece fails, the internet as a whole still continues to function. You may have experienced times when you could not log into your internet account, for example. Perhaps a server crashed. Or maybe a cable disconnected. But when you logged in again you saw the internet continued to function without you. And so the world turns. The internet exists as a decentralized structure, to begin with.

Some aspects of the internet operate under a centralized authority, however. If you want to publish a new website, for example, you have to purchase a domain name from a provider because a central authority controls domain names.

But do people clamor for the peer-to-peer administration of domain names? Do people even think about domain name administration? Let’s take a closer look.

Infrastructure

The internet defines an infrastructure, similar to plumbing or an electric grid. A plumbing system maintains a reservoir of potable water and a network of pipes and controls. If a new house desires running water, a protocol exists to bring that house water. Thus it is with the internet.

Are users demanding new plumbing, though? When people turn their computers on, the internet connects, business transacts, everything functions normally, and that appears to be sufficient for most of the population.

The World Wide Web

When people talk about a decentralized internet, sometimes it sounds more like they’re referring to the world wide web. Tim Berners-Lee created the web in 1989, and it operates as a layer on top of the internet. It functions primarily as a user interface and provides browsers and links so people can navigate to websites.

You may be thinking that a decentralized internet could bring a better user interface then. But anyone experiencing the user interface of typical cryptocurrency wallets and blockchain sites might well be skeptical.

The web implemented a number of design choices reasonable people might well argue against. But centralization hardly ranks as an issue. Users freely choose their own browser. They decide if they want a browser from a large centralized corporation like Microsoft or Google or from a smaller product like Tor.

The Tor Project

Tor Browser

People who ask for a decentralized internet look for privacy and control of their own data.

Computer scientists founded the Tor Project in December of 2006 with the mission of enabling anonymous communication. Obviously, anonymous communication enforces privacy. Tor, an acronym for “the onion router,” protects against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The onion router provides anonymity with an algorithm of layers along the route of communication. Each layer only knows about the layer before it and the layer after it. The origin and final destination remain unknown to the intervening layers. In cryptocurrency, some privacy coins such as Monero implement a similar algorithm.

Tor publishes many products, including the Tor browser. The Tor browser builds on the same foundation Firefox uses, and Tor provides it as free and open source software. But nothing ever really comes for free.

Users of corporate browsers pay by allowing those corporations to harvest user data. Users of the Tor browser pay primarily with slower response times and a generally more cumbersome user experience. Besides, some websites require user login accounts, so you provide your identity to them anyway.

OpenBazaar

Open Bazaar Marketplace

Targeted advertising arises as one of the more annoying aspects of providing your personal information on the internet. Every purchase you make defines an exploitable aspect of your personality, and advertisers hound you ever after.

OpenBazaar provides an online peer-to-peer marketplace with no middlemen and no fees for using the platform. You buy and sell on OpenBazaar by downloading their app. This makes you a node on the network, and unlike traditional e-commerce sites, no central authority rules.

You can make payments with over fifty different cryptocurrencies. And your transactions are secure and anonymous.

To avoid scams and ensure customer satisfaction, OpenBazaar utilizes a feature of Bitcoin known as multi-signature escrow. The buyer and seller agree to a mutually trusted third party before transacting business. The payment goes to an escrow account. If the transaction satisfies both buyer and seller, the funds are released. In the case of a dispute, the trusted third party settles the matter.

Floating Above the Cloud

The internet reigns as a platform for conducting business, and consequently businesses move to decentralization through cloud computing. The cloud services organizations by providing virtual, configurable computing resources. This means companies don’t need to own their own servers and mainframes (known in the industry as “big iron”), and they do not need to purchase resources from a physical data center.

Cloud providers allow users to create and configure virtual computers in software. Users thereby create servers as powerful or modest as their needs dictate.

But the cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure own the massive amount of equipment required for this task. And although the cloud frees businesses of the need to purchase and maintain their own big iron and servers, cloud services are expensive.

Can Decentralized Blockchain Computing Replace the Cloud?

The simplest service provided by cloud computing has to be disk space for file storage. Put a file on a system on the cloud, then retrieve it later.

In a blockchain file storage scenario, a peer-to-peer network exists. Nodes with excess disk capacity lease disk space to customers. Customers then upload, store, and download files as needed. Users pay with cryptocurrency on a blockchain. Customer files are encrypted, preventing the host or anyone else from reading private data. The files are also broken into multiple parts and distributed across multiple nodes. This distribution also enforces privacy since a host only has a fragment of the user’s information.

Note that in this process, no centralized authority controls or sells the disk space. Peers sell available disk space to other peers.

Multiple companies now provide platforms for storage using decentralized blockchains. The Sia Storage Platform launched in 2015, and Siacoin powers commerce on their network. Similarly, Storj also provides decentralized storage and uses Storj coin. Finally, the Filecoin project developed by Protocol Labs represents another popular choice.

Decentralized Internet – Concluding Thoughts

To some extent, decentralization resides in the eye of the beholder.

The blockchain network for Bitcoin is decentralized in terms of the consensus algorithm. But given the cost of hardware resources and electricity, wealth is required to mine it. And simple common sense tells us the majority of Bitcoin wealth is centralized in a relatively few affluent early adopters.

When people speak of a decentralized internet, the gist of the matter seems to be the lack of privacy on the web, the lack of control over our personal data, and the desire for affordable resources.

No one product defines the decentralized internet, but blockchain technology provides at least some capabilities to achieve these goals in a variety of functional areas. Time will tell if the products on offer meet user expectations or not.


This article by Wilton Thornburg was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Wilton Thornburg is a software engineer, currently based in the greater Boston area.


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