Building Your Online Rep

Building Your Online Rep

Defined as the opinion or social evaluation of the public toward a person, a group of individuals or an organization, a reputation is something that most people spend a great deal of their lives cultivating and honing. It starts as early as grade school, continues through high school and college, and then moves along into adulthood at jobs, in social situations, and within families.

With so much focus on reputation-building at the individual level, it stands to reason that individual companies would use the exercise to ensure their longevity. And while companies of all sizes strive to do this in the bricks-and-mortar world, it wasn’t until recently that small to midsized businesses gained access to the tools they needed to do just that online.

Utilizing Web networking options

By combining online reputation management with online resources such as Yelp, Naymz, LinkedIn, and RepVine, companies of all sizes can track what’s being written and said about them online, while at the same time influencing what people see when they search for their products and services. Much like firms such as Amazon and IBM take these steps to handle their increasingly tech-savvy and information-hungry consumer audience, small to midsized companies can do the same with just a few simple steps.

“We’re seeing companies of all sizes getting interested and paying attention to their online reputations,” says Miriam Warren, director of East Coast marketing for San Francisco-based Yelp, a Web guide that relies on community voices to reveal insights on local businesses and services. “When they find out that a Google search on their business name turns up a Yelp review before their own company Websites, they’re even more interested.”

Increasing visibility

To launch an online reputation-building strategy, Lorrie Thomas, a Web marketing expert in Santa Barbara, California says the first step is to become visible on search engines that specialize in communities (such as Yelp, RepVine, or LinkedIn), and create a public profile (at no cost) that everyone can access and comment on. “Tap the power of these low- to no-cost tools,” Thomas advises, “and use them to create alliances and build the public’s positive perception about your company and its products and services.”

Once the profile is built, the next step is to focus on the kind of outreach that will attract people by posting useful content, networking with others in your industry, and using “descriptive words and phrases that accurately describe your firm and what it does,” Thomas says.

The other way to drive traffic to your rep-building profile and get past and present customers to post reviews about their experiences relies on the age-old “ask for the sale” strategy. “When someone buys from you, ask them to visit the appropriate site and give their two cents on the experience,” Thomas says. “Those little steps will go a long way in creating a solid online reputation.”

Addressing criticism

But what happens when the reviews are negative? According to Warren, even the most scathing comments can contribute to a