Your reputation, online or offline is vital extremely important. Recently, a friend of mine owned a travel business. After hiring an employee with a light criminal background and having thousands of dollars embezzled from him, he started to pursue legal action against this individual. This person decided to get revenge by badmouthing the owner and business through Rip Off Report and other online platforms. Now, anytime you Google his name or business some very offensive things are displayed as a #1 result. Consequently, his business has suffered tremendously.
This situation is the perfect example of the need for reputation management. One of the most powerful (and easiest) methods to begin to control your reputation in the search engine result pages (SERPs) is to create social profiles on major social media websites. Since domains like Twitter or MySpace have such high authority it takes a lot less effort to rank, than creating your own site, by creating a profile that will outrank and push down undesired search results. Also, these search results gives you the added benefit of having control over your brand and being accessible and available on multiple platforms strengthens your overall branding efforts.
Which social profiles should I have?
Once you understand that you should be monitoring and repairing your reputation, you will need to figure out how to do it. As a rule of thumb the Big 4 social media sites are a great place to start. Generally your goal would be to obtain user profiles that are an exact match as the keyword you are trying to manage. In most cases this is a branded term such as your company name. Additioanly branded usernames are generally available on social media websites. Many sites, particularly niche sites, can be useful to your company and your specific ORM situation. But the 4 you must have are:
If you want to check across 120 different social sites to see which keywords or names are taken you can do so very easily with one of the best social media monitoring tools out there called KnowEm.com. Just type the desired username and click “Check Username”. Additionally, they offer a service that will register you on all those different social media sites as well for .50 cents per social media site.
Steps to Take
Once you have your accounts setup, you will need to do a few things before your campaign can be effective.
1. Create a complete profile
Simply obtaining the name twitter.com/companyname, isn’t enough. You need a complete and full profile to have a legitimate working account, this includes bios, avatars etc. As much information that you can fill in and feed to search engine spiders, the better.
2. Engage and Interact
Participating in the community strengthens your profile and gives your account credibility. An account that has your name but nothing else looks like a spam account.
Also, you gain the added benefit of internal links from these social sites. If you just create a profile and let it sit then it doesn’t gain internal link equity it needs, for high SERP rankings, from other profile pages, group pages, etc.
Interacting (e.g. returning messages, commenting, voting) is vital to the strength of your profile. For an example, check out the hat tip to Steve Espinosa for showing how to get DoFollowed links on YouTube here.
When a company engages in social media they are opening themselves up for a lot of commentary regarding their brand. Be prepared to monitor the sentiment to measure if it’s positive or negative. Have a contingency plan for when you come across negative sentiment. I’ll spare the lesson on monitoring and handling sentiment and direct you to The Online Reputation Management Guide by Outspoken Media. Another good resource on ORM is The M&Ms of Online Reputation Management by @DaveSnyder.
Remember that social media profiles are only one small part of online reputation management but a critical step indeed. Even if you don’t have any negative sentiment in the SERPs, pre-empt now by registering and building out your profiles today to prevent it from happening in the future.
Jordan Kasteler (aka. Utah SEO Pro) is a co-founder of Search & Social, the parent company of Search Engine Journal. Search & Social integrates social media marketing into the Online Reputation Management, SEO, link building & search marketing mix.