One of my college professors once said “perception is reality,” and that is more true today than ever. The opinion people have of you or your company is their reality, their truth, whether it is accurate or not.
In my corporate life, I worked as PR manager for a major homebuilder; if I mentioned their name you would recognize it. One of our competitors was getting much more traffic than we were, and they were killing us in sales. My boss said (he came from a sales background, not a marketing background; no offense to sales pros!) “I don’t understand why they’re doing so much better than we are; we use the same bricks, lumber, and landscaping as they do.” The answer was simple: homebuyers “perceived” them as offering a higher value product. Why? They spent more money on merchandising, or decorating, their homes than we did.
Perception is a tricky thing; it’s so subjective. Especially online, where comments spread like wildfire. But here are some tips on how to manage your online reputation, and what to do if your reputation starts to slip.
1. Use Twitter as a monitoring tool. Setting up a Twitter account. Even if you don’t tweet often, this will enable you to claim your company name before anyone else does.
2. Write guest articles in well-known industry publications, business publications, or your local newspaper, if applicable. If you are quoted in an article, this is even better because this sends the message that you’re an expert in your field. This increases how you’re perceived more than anything else, because now you’re seen as the “go to” person in your field. And it has a residual effect; if you’re quoted once, journalists may come back for more quotes at a later time.
3. Set up Google Alerts. This is a convenient way to learn about what people are saying about your company, or your competition. After you set up your account with Google, you’ll automatically receive a notice via email whenever your company is mentioned online. You can set up a Google Alert for your individual name, a competitor, or your industry in general.
4. Get social on social media! Get to know other professionals in your industry by participating in industry and consumer forums. Your company will be exposed to your peers, and you can keep track of negative comments made about your organization. This is an excellent way to nip potentially harmful chatter about your organization in the bud.
5. Remember to update your blog. Google loves fresh content, so post often; two to three times a week is best. (So far I haven’t been able to post that often, but it’s a goal I’m working towards!) Optimize your blog with the search terms you’re using to promote your website, and it won’t be long before you’re on your way to that coveted “top spot” on Google.
6. Don’t forget Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Wikipedia, and Facebook–they’re five of the most influential ways to socialize online. We already talked about Twitter, which is an incredible resource for optimizing yourwebsite’s presence. Use your strongest key phrases, and interlink Flickr, YouTube, etc. with your blog posts (if possible.) Remember to use acceptable anchor text. This will give your rankings another great boost.
Let me know if any of these tips work for you. I’d also be interested in how you promote your company online.