Every business should be prepared for some type of reputation crisis. Whether big or small, it matters. An angry customer who posts on social media; unbeneficial reviews of companies that are your competitors and don’t care about fair play, published everywhere possible; a newsworthy item that is embarrassing or critical. These things do happen every day. And they do damage if not handled properly and, yes, publicly.
But one preventive measure that businesses must take to reduce the “blow” is to ensure that they have a great reputation going into any crisis. If that solid reputation is well-established over the long-term, the chances of weathering a small rain shower or an actual storm are much greater.
This preventive activity comes from developing a plan. And that plan includes a strong digital marketing presence and a consistent focus on SEO. Here’s how these two activities should occur.
Digital Marketing as a Reputation Builder
By now, you understand that digital marketing is really not about advertising and selling. It is all about building relationships with your target audience so that they come to like and trust you before you ask them to make that ultimate conversion – the purchase. And even after that purchase is made, your follow-up treatment of those customers is critical. One of the worst types of negative publicity you can get is a customer complaining all over Facebook about bad customer service.
In short, the great content that you produce and distribute everywhere will establish you as an authority in your niche, will form personal connections with your audiences and will demonstrate that you are interested in far more than just sales and profits. How do you do this? Read on.
- You Create Amazing Content
This is not easy. Consider all of the content out there that you see, that appears in your inbox, that all of a sudden is in your Facebook news feed. Most of it you ignore. But what type of content catches your attention and makes you read or view it? It is content that has solutions you want (“how-to’s,” “10 tips,” etc.); it is content that entertains you (yes, businesses can entertain their audiences without any other purpose than that); it is content that may inspire you (a company showcases its giving program – see Toms Shoes).
If you truly know your audience, you will know what types of content does educate, entertain, and inspire them. And you will produce that content consistently – on your website and blog, on all of your social media platforms, in article forums, on others’ platforms (more on that later).
Of course, you can still engage in direct digital advertising, but that is not content marketing.
- Engage with Your Followers Consistently
You don’t establish relationships without engagement. You have to have conversations; you have to ask your followers for opinions and ideas. You have to respond to questions and issues they have. And you have to do it everywhere they pop up. The best way to do this is to use any number of social mention tools. You will receive alerts anytime your brand is mentioned on the web, and you can immediately access that content and see what was said. I just mentioned Toms Shoes above. If this post is published, someone will find this content and check it out.
Another way to engage your audience is through surveys and quizzes. Far more than just reading or viewing what you offer, they have an opportunity to become active with you. And you can make surveys/quizzes related to what they know about your sector or quizzes that are just plain fun. If they are done well, are short enough, they will get shares. And this is also a way to generate leads with email conversions. You can send them the results if they provide their email.
- Use Social Media to Highlight Your Great Customer Service.
Many of your customers will follow you on your social media platforms, and you should encourage this as much a possible. It’s how you stay in touch and can respond to any issues or concerns they have. The beauty of using social media to do this is that it is public, and other followers see how you respond and resolve. If you want examples of this, check out ModCloth’s Facebook page. The conversations show how to handle customer questions and issues.
When you respond to issues or complaints, be honest and fully transparent, be sincere in any apology you make. If you were wrong, admit it. Your audience will love you for that and see you as a trusted brand that puts its customers first.
SEO – Don’t Groan – It’s Not That Bad
Many business owners don’t understand SEO and/or its importance. What they do understand is that they want to get onto that first page when users present their keywords/phrases to Google and click that search button. And all of this talk about algorithms? What are those?
The point is this: search engines have “rules” that govern how they index and rank content. And their methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Technology now allows for “crawlers” to review all published content and to look for certain things. Certainly, keywords are still big factors, but unique and compelling content is also a factor. Another key factor is who is accessing your content, who is sharing your content, and who is linking back to your content.
There are strategies that you can use to improve your SEO rankings. They take a bit of time, of course, but once you get that good ranking, your reputation is greatly improved. And it can help to counter any “negative” press you might get.
- Do the Keyword Research
Yes, keywords do matter, and you need to identify those that are the most popular with your target audience. There are lots of keyword research tools out there, so use them. And you can always spy on your successful competitors too.
- Craft that Great Content that Resonates and Gets Shared
This means you will have an amazing blog, and you will post consistently and often. And you will maintain your social media platforms too. When your audience loves your content, it will respond and share it with their tribes.
- Get to Leaders in Your Niche and Develop Relationships
Follow people known as “influencers” in your niche. Participate in discussions. Get your name known. Ask if you can re-post their content. Ultimately, you should be able to submit a piece of content to them and ask that it be published. Obviously, you will include a link back to your site or blog. Search engines pick up on this.
- Develop a Solid Backlink Strategy
A big factor in SEO involves how many reputable and related sources are linking back to your content. Note the words, “reputable” and “related.” If you sell paint and you set up a collaborative relationship with a baby item supply company to link to one another, you are in for a rude awakening. Not only will this tank your ranking, but you may very well be penalized in more ways too. On the other hand, if you sell paint and you set up a collaborative backlink strategy with an interior decorator, you are good to go. These are related niches, and search engines will see those backlinks as valuable and appropriate.
You can delve into all sorts of sophisticated backlink strategies. This takes a lot of time and effort, and you have a business to run. You might want to consider hiring an agency that will do this legwork for you. But, however you do it, if you can get search engine-friendly backlinks, you are going to improve that page ranking and your reputation.
Building and maintaining a brand reputation should be an ongoing process. Reputation management does not begin at the point of crisis. Using digital marketing and SEO are ways to create and maintain the reputation you want and allow you to control your story.