It truly boggles the mind to think about how complex our online world has become in just a few short years. A brand, as recent examples with Kentucky Fried Chicken and Motrin prove, can suddenly be flooded with negative publicity and feedback all due to the giant sounding board that is the Internet. From social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to individual blogs that may be deriding your product or company name to message board flame wars that feature your product again and again, your reputation is at stake. Regardless of whether we like the fact, people will base their decision to use your product or not based on what they see and hear online.
Reputation management is now a full time concern for business owners. While no one can completely prevent what people say about them online, there are a few savvy things business owners can do to help control the conversation. First, instead of relegating the conversation to areas in which you don’t have any control, start up and publicize a company blog. This way, when negative publicity hits, people will be drawn to a forum that you can control and moderate instead of one you can’t. Don’t censor outright, that will only make things worse, but have someone posted there that can answer questions and help defuse the situation so when someone Googles this issue or incident, they get both sides of the story.
Do the same with Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Have someone create official pages for your product, so when discussion is had about them, both good and bad, it can be on familiar ground. What you want to do here is control the entire first page of Google results for your product or brand. We all know that no one looks past the first page of Google results, and if you can control or at least have an official say in the first set of results, you can control or at least influence what is being said.
One final tip, choose your words and your actions carefully. Even if you are defending your reputation against completely absurd and made-up accusations, you will always come across as the big corporate bully against individuals, even when you are right and they are wrong, and that is not a reputation that benefits any company.