How many followers do you have?
While some people may be able to answer this question with alarming quickness and accuracy, the majority of established businesses do not monitor or use their social media profiles to their full potential.
However, as the number of social media users grows, with nearly 4.5 billion people worldwide on social media platforms as of 2021, the impact – and, thus, the importance – of social media on public perception is growing, too.
Social media is more valuable than it seems. Beyond posting a quick update or sharing a blog post, social media can help you build credibility and trust with your customers, grow your audience, and can even help you manage your online reputation.
Here, we’ll define reputation management, how social media ties in, and give you fourteen of the top tips to improve your social media presence and, as a result, your online reputation.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management, often referred to as online reputation management or ORM, is the practice of influencing the narrative or narratives that define your business’s or brand’s reputation online.
Depending on the needs of your business, and the news coming out about your business, ORM can be proactive or reactive. Proactive ORM refers to developing and maintaining a strong online presence and establishing your business and brand voice online. Reactive ORM is usually implemented in the wake of a reputation crisis, due either to a lacking online presence (thus increasing the prominence of negative results when people search for more information about your business online) or a prominent, dominating, or defining negative news cycle.
Although ORM utilizes several SEO strategies to help you present yourself well online, ORM and SEO differ. Generally speaking, SEO targets one website for a broad keyword or keywords, while ORM generally targets multiple websites, properties, and other online assets for a more specific or branded keyword. Both SEO and ORM have to do with how you appear in search results, and both practices involve influencing these results. While SEO and ORM are not synonymous, SEO is a foundational tool for ORM.
When it comes to social media, researchers Kip Becker and Jung Wan Lee, in their paper “Organizational Usage of Social Media for Corporate Reputation Management,” define social media reputation management as “the process of monitoring and managing user-generated social media content such as reviews to influence the way your brand or business is perceived. It involves many aspects that include online reputation management, reputation repair and review response.”
How does social media factor into reputation management?
Social media is a valuable tool for any brand, business, or person looking to establish themselves online. While your website is the most essential owned asset for your business, your social media profiles are a close second.
People are already familiar with social media platforms. The familiarity that your audience already has with specific social media platforms does some of the work for you. You don’t have to worry about site structure, loading times, or the best way to format your site. Once you’ve built out your profiles, you can just focus on connecting with your audience, instead of many of the technical elements of SEO that matter when it comes to other owned assets.
Social media provides opportunities to connect with and grow your audience. There are several reasons people join social media, and while researching businesses may not be one of them, it ends up being one of the most common reasons people use social media. Over 50% of consumers follow a brand on social media to learn about new products and services.
Social media ranks well in search results. Not only does having a profile help you increase your exposure on that particular platform, but many of the most popular social media platforms rank well in search results, which can help you improve your overall online presence as well as your presence on a particular platform.
People expect to see you on social media. More and more people are joining social media platforms every day . As people move online, they expect to see the brands they love online, too. And if you aren’t online, you run the risk of being left behind.
Why does social media reputation management matter?
As we’ve said, social media can improve brand awareness, credibility, and help you grow your audience.
But, sooner than later, social media will not be optional. According to Becker and Lee, social media has not only changed the way consumers interact with businesses and brands, but has increased the impact of particular consumers’ experiences, by making the overall reputation and brand of a business a conversation instead of a conversation. As they say, “marketers have lost control over their brands and now participate in a ‘conversation’ about the brand.”
They go on to say:
“With the [increasing] popularity of social online communities it is clear that companies must take cautionary measures in protecting their reputations and brands. The pervasive and ‘always on’ nature of social networks has contributed to their phenomenal communication influence whose power has devastated industries, damaged firms[’] reputations, enabled revolutions and significantly altered the balance of power between consumers and firms.”
What’s more, an effective social media reputation management strategy can keep your business protected during a PR crisis. According to Becker and Lee, “social media can be used to support brands during periods of disruption.” And, for companies who opt out of social media management strategies, they may take a bigger hit than if they had established themselves online.
14 Tips to Manage Your Online Reputation with Social Media
- Know Where You’re Starting
The first step in developing any reputation management strategy is to get a sense of what you’re working with.
To start, search for your business or brand in an incognito browser with a cleared cache in order to get the most accurate Google results page. Take note of what you see. Do your social media profiles populate? How are your reviews? Overall, are your results positive, negative, or neutral? Does your brand or business show up for your search term, or are you getting random results?
All of these questions will help you understand how to move forward. If your query doesn’t return much about your company, you’ll likely want to work on building out your online presence, as being findable is the first step in establishing yourself online.
If your query does return results related to your company, consider where profiles are landing. Is your Facebook profile on page 1, but your Instagram is on page 3? Why is this the case? Perhaps you post more on Facebook, or have a more targeted username on Facebook.
Your brand or business’s name are not the only terms that prospective and current customers will be searching for. When seeing how your social media profiles perform, look up any search terms that could bring customers to you – or any search terms that you would like to rank for. Even if your company doesn’t rank for a certain search term or query, seeing what does rank can give you some insight into how to improve your own standing.
Once you’ve explored your Google search results, it’s time to look at how you’re doing on social media platforms. How many followers do each of your profiles have? Do your social media posts receive engagement? How often do you post on different social channels?
Once you’ve taken in your social media presence, you can define your goals. Do you need to focus on showing up in search results, or do you need to work on making your search results more representative of your brand? Is there negative press or negative reviews you need to address? Do you need to increase the engagement you receive on social media? Have you fully optimized your profiles? Once you know where you’re starting, it becomes much easier to determine where you want to go.
- Create All Relevant Profiles
Once you have taken stock of what you have, it’s time to build out your social media profile. Create any social media profiles that you haven’t already.
Stuck on which profiles to make? While there may be profiles specific to your industry or field that could be worthwhile to secure, there are the heavy hitters that we recommend for any company:
We’ll also throw a couple honorable mentions at Quora and Medium.
Why are these the profiles to make?
First off, these are some of the most popular social media platforms. As of 2021, Facebook boasts roughly 2.89 billion monthly active users, with YouTube close behind at 2.29 billion.
But it’s more than the numbers. While the popularity of these platforms factors in, you also want to think about what people use these platforms for. For example, 81% of Instagram users report using the platform to research products and businesses – and Instagram currently holds the #4 top social media spot.
As we talked about earlier, one of the most advantageous elements of social media platforms is users’ familiarity with the platforms themselves.
once you have determined the username you will use across platforms, secure all relevant profiles - even the ones you won’t use! Even if your business doesn’t want to put the work in to create and maintain a Twitter account now, you don’t want to run into the issue of your username being taken when the time comes to implement a Twitter strategy. Secure all profiles, and set any accounts that won’t be active to private until it’s time to bring them out.
- Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
Once you’ve created your profiles, it’s time to optimize them. Optimizing social media profiles has similar rules to optimizing any online assets for social media purposes, though it can definitely be a bit less technical than some on-page SEO.
To get the most out of your social media profiles, consider:
- Username: your username must include your brand or business name and be consistent across platforms. If you use different usernames across platforms, you risk confusing or alienating customers. Different usernames can also harm your efforts to establish a consistent brand. If your desired username is taken, consider a similar username that still contains your brand or business name, and prioritize consistency across all platforms.
- Description: most social media platforms give you the opportunity to write a description of your business. While the word count will vary – longer word counts on Facebook and Linkedin, not so much on Twitter – make sure to include your brand or business name, and utilize the space you are given. When possible, include other keywords you hope to rank for.
- Additional information: anywhere you can put information about your business, do it. Include a profile photo, location, media, a description (optimized for your target keyword or keywords), and any other information that can be hosted on your profile. Any section that is not filled out on your profile is a missed opportunity, so make sure to complete your profile as thoroughly as possible.
It’s not necessarily all about the SEO - make sure your descriptions (and profiles in general) give users useful information about your business. In addition to letting them know what your business is about, let them know why they should come to you. The best SEO and ORM strategy is the strategy that takes users into account, so don’t write your descriptions for search engines.
- Link to Your Profiles on All Owned Assets
Once you have created and built out your social media profiles, include links to these profiles on your other owned assets. Owned assets can be your website, blog, directories, and even other social media profiles.
There are a few benefits to including your social media profiles on your owned assets:
- Brand building: as we’ve talked about, social media can be a huge asset when it comes to establishing your brand online. When you have your profiles where you want them, sharing them on your other owned assets and encouraging your audience to follow you on those platforms can help to grow your brand awareness and audience.
- Backlinks: a foundational element of SEO is backlinking. Though the way backlinks can help your SEO has changed as Google has changed, a variety of backlinks from a variety of sources can help to boost your positive properties. While the few backlinks to your social media profiles from your owned assets may not send massive signals to Google, they can help the search engine understand the connection between your profiles and other owned assets.
- Legitimacy: we’ve all heard of catfishing – and if you haven’t, I encourage you to watch some Catfish clips online to see what I’m talking about. While most businesses probably won’t run into a lot of people genuinely trying to pose as your company online, it is possible that profiles with similar names to your business or background exist, and these can confuse customers trying to learn more about your brand. When you feature your social media profiles on your site, you can create a roadmap for customers to ensure they’re finding the right profile.
- Keep Profiles Consistent (and Read the Room)
You may be managing two, three, four, or even more social media profiles for your business. While that can get a bit hectic, maintaining consistency across platforms can help save you some time and improve your reputation online.
Though every platform has a different atmosphere, identity, or vibe, it is vital to maintain consistency across platforms. This can help your brand awareness and recognizability, ensuring that customers that find you on Facebook and customers that find you on Twitter are both getting a similar idea of your business. Additionally, maintaining consistency across platforms can help reduce the time spent on social media management, as you will be able to repurpose similar posts or ideas across all the platforms that your business is active on.
That said, it is important to take into account your platforms when posting. While you want to keep your brand’s voice and the information you’re putting out there consistent, you want to make sure that the content you’re sharing fits the specific platform. For example, Twitter caps its tweets at 280 characters, while you can get away with quite a bit more on Facebook or Linkedin. Another consideration is your audience – your audience on Facebook may be primarily made up of customers, while your audience on Linkedin may be people that work in your professional space.
- Keep Your Profiles Active
Potentially the only thing worse than no social media presence at all is a social media profile that hasn’t been updated since the mid-2000s.
Maybe it hasn’t been that long since you’ve posted a Facebook status; the point still stands: inactive social media profiles aren’t going to do you many favors. Not only can sparse social media profiles actually deter users, but profiles that doesn’t have much activity are less likely to rank in results, both on the specific platform and in Google search results.
To avoid your social media profiles going dark, create a posting schedule and stick to it. Make sure to prioritize quality over quantity, but don’t let your profiles go too long without a post, as more active profiles tend to perform better in results. Also make sure to update any profile information as you need to, whether that’s your business address, a new product or service offering, etc.
- Monitor Your Social Media Mentions
Prior to social media, it was difficult to gauge who was talking about you. Individual responses didn’t have a huge impact on a business’s reputation. According to Becker and Lee, “prior to social networks word of mouth complaints were quickly isolated leaving the dissatisfied individual a lone voice.”
This is changing. As the prominence of social media in our society grows, so does its impact, including the impact of an individual voice. In the same paper, Becker and Lee stated that “with the aid of viral [social media] networks these single voices now have the ability to quickly garner the attention of millions.”
Thus, paying attention to even what one person has said about you is in your best interest when it comes to managing your reputation online.
There are many social media monitoring tools available. When determining what to pay attention to, consider:
- Direct mentions: mentions of your business that are tagged or directed towards your business (such as @statuslabs).
- Hashtags: hashtags relevant to your business.
- Brand mentions: mentions of your business that may not be tagged, but are still name drops of your brand or business name.
- Respond to Customer Feedback, Good or Bad
One of the biggest impacts of social media on how customers interact with businesses is the way these platforms facilitate direct and public communication – and customers don’t like to be ghosted. 20% of consumers expect to receive a response within one day of posting a review, and 96% of consumers reported reading business’ responses to other reviews, with 40% reporting reading those responses every time they were researching a business.
As such, it’s important to not leave these comments hanging. When customers tweet about your brand or feature your products in their Instagram stories, be sure to return the favor, either by retweeting, sharing their stories in your story, or just responding with a quick thanks. This can not only help you build a rapport with your audience, but can help you bond with your audience, which will protect you from the impacts of a future PR crisis. “The best way to protect your reputation online is to create a strong foundation before a reputation crisis strikes. According to Becker and Lee, “How the bonds are established and maintained [with a brand online] can ultimately determine the degree of success that a company will have when attempting to mitigate the potentially damaging effect of negative social network campaigns.”
Don’t only respond to positive comments, either. While it is intimidating to respond to a critical or dissatisfied customer, it may be your only opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Learn how to effectively respond to dissatisfied customers here.
Thus, paying attention to even what one person has said about you is in your best interest when it comes to managing your reputation online.
Not all comments deserve a response. While responding to customers can build your credibility, transparency, and turn a negative interaction into a positive one, responding to some comments or reviews can create more trouble than they’re worth. Remember that everyone receives a negative comment or two, and if a particular comment is too heated, off-base, or you can’t provide a solution, it may be worth leaving it be.
- Listen to Your Audience
Don’t just take the comments from your customers in stride. Social media can be a valuable sounding board, with loyal customers giving you immediate and direct feedback on the changes and developments of your brand.
While not all feedback is created equal, consider approaching it with the 80/20 rule – 80% of the feedback you read may not be all that relevant to your business, but there may be some gems in that leftover 20%.
- But Maintain Your Identity
While you want to make sure your customers feel heard, and that you are serving them the best you can, don’t let the constant commentary on social media make you lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve with your brand and business. On social media, there are certainly too many cooks in the kitchen, and while some can help you identify areas of opportunity or blind spots, the majority of what you see online is not relevant to what changes you need to make to your brand.
As Becker and Lee state, “while [companies need] to be adaptable…for the consumer brand relationship to be maintained, the company must be vigilant to assure that both the consumer’s personality and the brand’s personality remain in equilibrium.”
In simpler terms, it can build your trustworthiness with your audience to respond to their requests, but don’t allow that to dictate your brand strategy. Learn how to sift through the feedback, and maintain the brand you set out to create.
- Engage in Relevant Conversations
In addition to engaging with comments directed at your brand, be sure to engage in conversations relevant to your industry, areas of expertise, and current events. Successful social media profiles do not only receive substantial engagement, but engage themselves. Find conversations relevant to your industry and weigh in. Respond to your employees, thought leaders in your industry, or your customers.
Similarly to monitoring your own mentions, set up Google alerts or something similar for topics in your industry and stay on top of the goings on. Produce content weighing in on certain trends or happenings, and respond to prominent figures in your field. Not only will this keep you profiles active, but this will establish you as an engaged player in your field, and will build your connections within your industry.
- Consider Your Competition
One of the most important things to keep in mind when improving your online reputation is the volume of content being published every day. The vast majority of pages online never receive any organic traffic, and over 4 million new blog posts are published every day across all platforms.
While this can make you want to throw in the towel, it’s not all in vain. The key to maintaining a strong online presence is to stand out. As Becker and Lee say, “The ever-changing competition in the information age pushes companies to find more creative and flexible means to reach out to and retain their customers as well as protect their brand image.”
One of the best ways to get a sense of how you fair in comparison to others is to check out the competition. Seeing how your competitors utilize their social media profiles can give you insight into what works, what your target audience responds to, and how you can improve.
Take note: do not look at competitors and copy exactly what they do. Instead, try to understand what about their strategy appeals to customers, and how you can replicate similar ideas without doing the same exact thing.
- Maintain Your Social Media Presence
We’ve already talked about not creating any profiles you can’t keep up – this is true in the short term and for the long haul. The best social media presence is one that is consistent and dependable – after all, the average person spends over two hours on social media a day, so the more you post, the more facetime you’ll get with your target audience.
What’s more, social media can act as free advertising, helping you develop your brand and increase your reach without spending a dime (though you will have to spend some time).
And I can’t stress the benefits of a strong social media presence, especially in the wake of a reputation crisis, enough. Your social media presence can have a huge impact on your overall reputation, and it is an entity that is entirely controlled by you. As Becker and Lee state, “How the bonds [with an audience] are established and maintained can ultimately determine the degree of success that a [company] will have when attempting to mitigate the potentially damaging effect of negative social network campaigns.”
- Consider an Online Reputation Management Firm
This has been a lot of information, and if you are currently experiencing a reputation crisis – or even just a bit of bad news – some of the advice here may not be of much use to you. If that’s the case, it may be time to hire a professional.
An online reputation management company, such as Status Labs, can help identify areas in need of improvement, develop an effective reputation management strategy, and do the work to improve your social media reputation online so you can focus on your work and your customers.
If you’re interested in hiring an online reputation management firm, schedule a free consultation with Status Labs to determine what course of action is right for you.