Your company could be one scathing blog post away from a public relations nightmare. Here’s what to ask the experts who tidy up your online reputation.
01. Where do I start?
By getting in the game. “Claim all of your digital properties, build profiles on various platforms, post content and be a part of the conversation,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a consulting firm. Brands, says Schawbel, need to “not only be online, but to be responsive.”
02. What should we be responding to?
The most socially engaged companies answer almost every tweet, post or review—with some exceptions. “They respond to the good and the bad, but not the ugly,” says Schawbel. Still, most negative reviews present opportunities. “It’s your chance to respond in a public forum,” says James Alexander, founder and CEO of Vizibility, which helps companies and individuals craft their online identities and Google results.
03. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, news sites, comments on blogs and news sites—how can we possibly keep track of everything?
As fast as these social channels emerged, technology and software has been developed to help manage them. Monitoring firms help to keep track of and analyze your presence across these platforms, while online reputation managers can help you tackle your company’s search engine results.
04. Is your technology patented and is your company venture-backed?
“Being venture-funded by a top firm implies that you have a lot of technology, and technology is necessary to solve Web scrubbing problems,” says Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation.com. Having patented technology is another reason for confidence.
05. I want this tweet/post/comment/review gone. Can you help me?
Typically, no. The only way to remove something completely is to ask the website owner to take it down, and by that point the damage may be done. “Deleting negative results is impossible,” says Fertik. Be wary of companies that claim they can.
06. If you can’t make it disappear, what can you do?
Promotion and suppression. The first term refers to the selection of content that you want to appear on the first page of a search engine, typically Google; certain technology can elevate Google rankings. The second means pushing undesirable content further down.
07. Besides mentions of our company online, what else should we look for?
“Listen to the conversations about your competitors and your industry,” says Gordon Evans, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce Radian6, a social-media-monitoring platform. “This is where the new opportunities exist.”
08. What is your relationship with (fill in platform here)?
Many vendors will claim to help with a specific site, such as Google or Yelp. Be certain that they have a formal relationship with the relevant site. “You want to know that they aren’t doing something surreptitious,” says Alexander.
09. We have an online crisis. Can you help—and fast?
Timing varies greatly. “It can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to months, depending on your problem,” Fertik says. Better to be proactive. “Have the strategy, people and procedures already in place,” Alexander says.
10. You’ve cleaned up our Web presence. Are we done?
Sorry, but no. Managing and engaging in your online community is “an ongoing process, because what’s online now can always change,” Schawbel says.
For more information, contact: James Alexander, Vizibility, firstname.lastname@example.org, 866.380.3400, vizibility.com; Gordon Evans, Salesforce Radian6, via Twitter @gordonevans, 888.672.3426, radian6.com; Michael Fertik, Reputation.com, email@example.com, 877.258.3166, reputation.com; Dan Schawbel, Millenial Branding, firstname.lastname@example.org, millenialbranding.com
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of Worth.