Online Reputation Management for a Changing Digital Marketing Landscape

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Information in today’s age is a very powerful weapon. The World Wide Web ensures that this information is accessible to everyone everywhere. Search engines like Google and Bing help segregate all this information to give a consumer exactly what he or she requires. This is precisely where both the pros and cons are present!

With the advent of search engines and social platforms, information can be delivered to a specific set of consumers, allowing this valuable weapon help you grow your business through what we today call search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing, among others. However, there is flip side to this: Web 2.0 gives the classic “Word of Mouth” a whole new definition.

User Generated Content (UGC)

In today’s digital marketing landscape, user generated content (UGC) is considered to be an important decision-making factor apart from all other marketing efforts. The logic is very simple: A team of marketers simply cannot create enough information on limited channels to create visibility.

On the other hand, you incentivize the consumer and he, in return, will carry out all your publicity. Now, this was the ideal scenario. Looking at the exact opposite, a consumer who is very unhappy with an expensive product he bought through your company will also react in the very same way. You can also have competition doing the exact same thing (i.e. trying to portray your brand in a bad light) to capture your market.

There is nothing like a business incurring huge losses due to bad reviews on the Internet by a disgruntled ex-employee of the company. For many companies, its monetary value lies in the brand it has created over time. This value gets associated through all its stakeholders, esteemed employees, products, and services. Studies in marketing research show that one happy customer tells three friends, while one UNHAPPY customer tells 3,000. This is one trait, we humans are exceptionally good at.

What is the impact of all this online? Your brand gets a negative vote of trust which in turn drives down its ROI. In addition, negativity added on the Internet will always stay on the Internet.

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Is there a way to tackle all this?

The solution in this dynamic consumer-driven marketing landscape is an evolving field called ORM (Online Reputation Management). Reputation Management has close ties with SEO and SMM in today’s digital marketing strategy. SEO and SMM create and capture user intent, while ORM helps convert this intent into a sale.

Reputation Management is essentially an art, wherein the ulterior motive is to promote and increase positivity for a brand/person on the SERPs usually for a small set of brand keywords that can have a massive influence in the buying cycle of a consumer.

This again needs to be done taking into consideration various factors of Google’s and various other search engines’ algorithmic changes. Another aspect of ORM is that while it helps eradicate negativity from the viewing glasses of a consumer, it additionally helps promote the brand along the way. So looking at it, ORM is not just a tool to be used in crisis situation, but as a long-term strategy for safeguarding the brand value of a company.

History is witness to encounters where proper reputation management has prevented major losses in business by showcasing all the various efforts being undertaken by the company.

In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred off the Gulf of Mexico, it was the focus of every major environmental agency to completely tarnish the reputation of British Petroleum.

Over time, BP has undertaken major efforts to protect and conserve the environment and all this has been effectively portrayed on the Web, and if you perform a search of “BP” on Google the results that appear will be quite evident of this:

BP has not stopped over here. It went ahead to sponsor the 2012 London Olympics with the message of protecting and reducing its impact on the environment. All of this as a proactive measure to ensure that its brand value stays protected over time.

Along with brands and companies, a lot of unverified negative chatter is posted online about businessmen, entrepreneurs, and celebrities alike. Tackling this issue requires another kind of strategy within ORM, where the focus is not limited to cleaning up SERPs but also moderating Google’s Auto-Suggest results and, at the same time, cleaning up Fake Social Profiles that keep on cropping up on major social platforms.

As digital marketing keeps on growing, user-generated content keeps on increasing. Websites thrive by cumulating this negative feedback and in turn promote it by citing consumer awareness (accountability of facts here is still unchartered territory). The advent of Web 2.0 has provided the necessity to have ORM as part of digital marketing; Web 3.0 (semantic web) will tend to take this to a whole new level.

So, unless ORM integrates into the entire digital marketing mainframe, going ahead with various marketing initiatives will prove to be a very costly affair.

Muzzammil Bambot
Muzzammil Bambot works as an Asst. Project Manager at Convonix, an internet marketing firm from India, providing overall digital marketing strategies to many clients, world over. He as a part of Team Convonix strives to educate fellow SEOs and stay-focused on research based SEO. Read more stuff written by Muzzammil on the Convonix Blog
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  • Matt Coffy

    Excellent write up, Muzzammil. You help in reminding us that as an SEO and/or marketer, that this option to manage our (and our clients’) online reputation is necessary to be planned in a long-term view. As with your example for BP, we shouldn’t wait for something unpleasant to occur before we start a strategy to highlight our “positives”. We have to make an effort to always sell/promote our assets – content after all is huge and can be very influential.

  • Muzzammil Bambot – Convonix

    Thanks Matt

    You are absolutely spot-on. Content in its various forms is the way-forward for Digital Marketing; may it be SEO, ORM or any other form of communication.

  • Todd William

    Thoughtful commentary, Muzzammil. While BP is a high profile example of reputation management, small businesses face an equally formidable online reputation challenge with a very small marketing/pr budget .

    Any thoughts on how businesses that are not particularly “social” (e.g., plumbing, home repair) can build buzz?

    • Muzzammil Bambot – Convonix

      Small and Medium Enterprises alike can also equally manage their online reputation.

      With SME’s, what can be done is to have their online presence through at least a few online social profiles. We can start with a basic LinkedIn page for the company(Optimized of Course), have our Google places listings in place, have other local online business listings that allow a decent amount of content to be added with the listing. Apart from that , for creating a buzz for such industries – Infographics come in very handy. Many softwares are present out there that allow small infographics to be created with ease. The only prerequisite here would be have an idea say “How much money can be saved by installing good plumbing systems!” or “Value of a Home with/without repairs” etc and get some tangible data from public reports released by research firms . This can create good amounts of online buzz.

      As far as reviews and complaints already that exist online are concerned; a good way would be to have an official reply and asking that customer to share their details and that that conversation offline. Once the complaint is solved , the firms can request the customer to provide their feedback on that review. That way you will have good user generated content present online for your enterprise.
      In this process at least negativity is converted into neutrality and service trust is reinforced with a third person view.

      Hope this helps 🙂