How to Build and Protect Your Online Reputation

It’s more important than ever to invest in building and protecting your online reputation. Our Douglas tech expert offers you tools and strategies to look good online.
You probably spend a fair bit of time building your reputation as an individual or a business. You meet the right people, offer outstanding service that earns great word of mouth and steer clear of anything that would take the gleam off that stellar reputation. Do you spend the same energy on your online reputation?
Well, you should because your online presence is often the first opportunity someone has to meet you. This presence includes social media content, the photos you post on friends’ sites, comments you make on news stories, along with what others are saying about you. Together, this makes up the “online you.” Not looking after that reputation essentially offers someone else the opportunity to frame your digital presence. This could lead to lost revenue, lost prospects or lost clients. The good news is, it’s simple to keep yourself ship-shape online.
Carve Out Your Niche
The first step to protecting your reputation is having one. If you don’t have a domain name, then reserve one or maybe a couple. They’re cheap and you don’t want someone grabbing a similar URL and pulling in your customers.
If you don’t have a social media presence, it’s time to set one up and start creating content. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn are good places to begin. That bit about content, that’s important. An online presence is an empty shell if you don’t have serious content your audience wants to engage with.
Do be smart with your content and really think through your messaging. There have been some epic fails when it comes to maintaining an online reputation; just ask Kenneth Cole who, while trying to promote his footwear, made a crass reference to the Syrian War when he tweeted: “‘Boots on the ground’ or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear.” Then there was AT&T, who was forced to remove their tweet message commemorating the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks after Twitter users attacked the company for capitalizing on the tragedy to promote its products.
Be Vigilant
You’ve invested energy in an online presence but that’s only the beginning. Others are likely — hopefully — talking about you, so set up Google alerts so you know when someone mentions you online. It’s also simple to do an Internet search on your name. Add this task to your calendar and do it regularly.
If someone is talking about you, respond to both the good and the bad. Praise the former and convince the latter. There are shades of bad on the Internet, so use your judgment. If you have a customer complaining, it’s often easy to turn that frown upside down by offering to resolve the issue or simply thanking them and vowing to make improvements.
However, if you have a nut-bar troll yelling, turn the other cheek — some people just like attention. And if someone really makes you angry online, step away and take a deep breath. Those angry online retorts sometimes become the stuff of legend, in a bad way. As well, if someone posts an unflattering photo of you or says something inflammatory on Twitter, it is your right to ask them to remove it.
The Boy Scout Way
It takes mental energy, but do have a crisis plan in place, even if it’s just in your head. As a business, this is essential, especially if you have online sales and customer banking information is involved. Think through what you would do if someone hacks your brand: how will you communicate with customers, what is your messaging, how will you regain trust.
Responsibility for your online reputation falls with you. It isn’t a huge time commitment but it does require regular maintenance. It’s not rocket science: be secure, provide decent content, monitor and reply. And it takes far less time to do this than it does to respond to a threat to your reputation.