Whom do you want controlling that online identity? That’s an easy question – and by using the great suggestions offered by the DIMA 2013 Keynote Luncheon speaker Janine Warner, successfully building the online image you want isn’t all that hard either.
One of the most important steps is knowing what’s being said about you and your business by others. A great way to find out is by Googling yourself – often – and remembering to use not only regular Google searches, but also searching Google images, videos, and blogs.
Social media tools are the best path to building a good online reputation, but you don’t have to use them all – focus on the ones that make the most sense for you and your business. Use them to create positive posts. Be honest, be accurate, be consistent, and keep your online profile up to date, Warner said. She also suggested using multimedia – like video, audio and animation – to stand out from the crowd.
Always be careful what you say online, and avoid using sarcasm, because it will often be misinterpreted, Warner said. “Today we live in a world of fact checkers. Never post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times or have appear in a court case. Those things happen, and people are always surprised when email messages they thought were private came back to haunt them. Nothing is private online.”
If you do make a mistake, and say something you shouldn’t have online, own up to it, apologize and move on, she said.
“Practice social grooming,” Warner said. “The fastest way to trash your own online rep is to post negative things about other people; but the fastest way to build it is to compliment others: like them, share their posts, retweet them. Listen and respond thoughtfully. Answer questions and make introductions. Find influencers and opinion leaders who are talking about you in a positive way, and respond to them.”
How do you know who’s an influencer or an opinion leader? There is an easy, if imperfect, website called Klout.com that measures a person’s online influence: basically, how popular you are in the world of social media. A perfect score is 100 (that’s what Justin Beiber has, while Barack Obama has a mere 99), but most people have a score under 20.
Many people worry about others saying negative things about them or their businesses; some go so far as to stay off social sites all together – but that’s a mistake, Warner said.
“Is your business on Yelp? It might be, even if you didn’t add it yourself; anyone can add any business to that site. Yelp gets a lot of controversy because it’s a place where people can criticize you. If someone is so frustrated with your company that they add it to Yelp just so they can complain about you, that’s a problem,” she said. “You need to take an active role.”
If someone does say something bad about you or your company online, she warned against getting so offended that you say something nasty back.
“How do you handle critical people? Don’t feed the trolls. If someone posts something bad on your page, you can delete it. If it’s on theirs, take a deep breath, step away from the computer and think about it. Your negative response makes things far worse than whatever they said about you. People are quick to criticize and slow to compliment, but if you have a good following and someone criticizes you, your friends will often come out of the woodwork to defend you. One negative comment can result in many, many positive ones,” she said. “You can post a positive response on your own blog, website, or page, and you may be amazed by how much support you get. If you don’t, it’s okay to privately reach out to a few people you trust and ask them to say positive things they legitimately feel about you in response. The best defense is a good offense.”