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The internet is a really interesting place. For some, it seems to be a magical land where they can say anything to anyone without any consequence. This is obviously far from the truth, as you can find a record of just about anything ever posted on the web, and plenty of it can be found within the pages of a skynet Google search. Some people know how to behave themselves, but there’s an army of trolls that don’t know how to conduct themselves properly (comments on YouTube videos or news stories are evidence of this). I’m not sure who taught these people to use the internet, but clearly they’re doing it wrong. If it was up to me, everyone would have to take an online reputation management course for both their personal and their business accounts. In addition, it would really save me a lot of eye rolls when on the internet. Let’s look at some basics for ORM from both a personal and a company perspective.
Personal Online Reputation Management Basics
1). No One Really Wants to Listen to Your Super Emo or Angry Social Media Updates.
It’s good to vent. I can’t argue with that – I’ve clearly been doing my fair share of venting in this blog. However, a long string of tweets as to why you’re down on yourself or a 7 paragraph Facebook rant about sociopolitical theory is just ridiculous. Say what you have to say now and then, but do it tastefully. If you’re “that” person (and I know we can all think of a few from our newsfeed), then you’re really just irritating everyone. Unless of course, being a whiny brat is what you’re better known for. The rest of us would really prefer if you acted like it was 2002, pulled out your old Dashboard Confessional CDs and moped that way instead of blasting it all over the internet. The best advice to fixing this problem is the simplest: STOP.
2). Trolls are Only Cool if You’re Referencing The Movie Troll 2.
If you’re not hip to the marvels of Troll 2, there’s a clip on YouTube of one of the most ridiculous moments ever to be captured on film. You’re welcome, America. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get on the net and intentionally fire people up. I get it. Sometimes it’s fun to get under someone’s skin and then of course there’s the amusement of watching two trolls try to troll one another on a fellow troll’s newsfeed. That sort of thing just about makes the internet implode on itself. But here’s the deal – it may be funny while you’re doing it, but to the rest of the world, it just makes you look like a total Jerk. Anonymous comments or off-topic things meant to incite anger all day don’t make you cool – it makes it look like you’ve got nothing better to do than scour the internet trying to get under people’s skin while the rest of the world is out there living their lives. Great job, pal.
3). Go Home Social Media, You’re Drunk.
It seems like an easy enough rule: don’t get blasted and then get on social media. However, there’s the whole “inhibitions thrown out the window” kind of thing, and then it just turns into a mess. Drunk dialing or drunk texting results in disaster about 9/10 times, and as you can imagine, so does slamming a bunch of Maker’s Mark and updating your social profiles. Also, remember that those boozy pictures you thought were such a good idea at the time have the potential to be found by current and future employers. You might not think it’s a good idea, but if it’s something that you think you’re going to have a hard time explaining it, you might want to think twice about posting it. Not only are you representing your own personal brand in a way, but you’re also representing the company.
Company Online Reputation Management Basics
1). Your Employees Are a Representation of Your Company
This actually applies to both personal and corporate ORM. There’s no way around this rule anymore, especially for a small to mid-sized business. I’m not advocating a company asking for employee Facebook passwords or monitoring an employee’s every move – this sort of thing is really over-intrusive and unnecessary. But there should be some sort of social media policy in check for any company. The specifics of said policy will vary from company to industry (some are more social than others), but employees need to understand that they’re a face of a company so they should use caution if posting anything that could make the company be seen in a negative fashion. God forbid you miss out on landing an important account because one employee just can’t behave him/herself online. If they need a guide to follow by for their personal accounts, I’m pretty sure I just wrote out a few guidelines for managing your personal ORM.
2). Don’t Respond to Crisis Like Applebee’s.
Do you remember the great Applebee’s social meltdown that occurred earlier this year? If your company is thrust into the spotlight by an employee that was not following any of the aforementioned guidelines, you may be forced to deal with it. Deleting negative comments, generically responding to consumers and then even arguing with them are some of the worst ways to respond to crisis. Whoever runs your social media account should know better than to argue with someone, but just in case they don’t, I’ll emphasize this point for you: do not argue with or chastise consumers via your brand’s social accounts. This can turn sour in a heartbeat. Address the issue, find a way to settle it through an email or a phone call if it warrants that sort of action, but do not aggressively engage an angry consumer or client. Tread softly. Your overnight social media meltdown could become a PR nightmare for your company and could tank your online reputation. So again, don’t respond to a crisis like Applebee’s. Ever.
3). Your Business Should Mirror Your Ideal Online Reputation
Let’s be honest, people take to the internet to comment on a business for two reasons: they are either extremely pleased or are super angry. Therefore, the best way to safeguard against this sort of thing is to make sure that all is running well at your home base so everything also runs smoothly on the digital front. If there’s a common complaint that you receive via social media, this is a good indication that you need to look into this problem within your internal business structure. In a perfect world, every comment on your social networks is going to be a glowing review of your business. In reality, that’s just not the case. So be sure to respond to meltdowns and if there’s a problem at the office and it’s easy for people to address you via social media, then politely respond to their criticism and legitimately work on the problem. Don’t give them a blanket response as well. Again, refer to the Applebee’s example of what not to do when this sort of thing happens.
4). Be Proud of Your Company’s Achievements – But Mix it Up
You have pride in your company, and you should. You work hard, your employees work hard, and you’re turning that hard work into a substantial profit. Well done! However, don’t use social media as an excuse just to talk about how awesome you are all the time. Suddenly, you’re no better than the guy who wants to post updates to his social channels about how awesome it was when he raced a few guys today for fun and then got into a road rage battle. In other words, mix up the awesome with industry relevant content and even spotlight pieces about your employees or things you find interesting. Posts that encourage interaction from your target audience also help. This helps your reputation because it shows that you care about more than just shameless self-promotion and that there’s a personality to the company.
To Sum it Up, Be Nice.
I feel like that’s kind of the common theme to ORM. Remember that the internet is not a place where you can just say whatever you feel like and be okay. The same goes for your employees and your business. You’ve got to be polite, you can’t flaunt your ego, you’ve got to respond to crisis properly and you can’t behave like an 8 year old every time something goes wrong. It’s as simple as that. Show some personality and follow these guidelines. You’ll find that it goes a long way in how both your personal and corporate brands are viewed among your peers and consumers.
About Chris Apaliski
Chris Apaliski is the Social Media Director for Magic Logix and is responsible for implementing social strategy and content for Magic Logix and various clients. He has a decade of experience in digital marketing, typically blogs about social media or current marketing trends and in addition to Magic Logix has been published on CIO.com, Yahoo! Small Business, Sprout Social and other websites. Chris has a BA in English Composition from The University of North Texas and a Master’s Degree in Marketing from UT Dallas. Follow Chris on Twitter @RedefineChris