Online Reputation Management Do's and Don'ts For 2012 and 2013

Online Reputation Management Do's and Don'ts For 2012 and 2013

An online reputation manager is a person whose job description didn't even exist ten years ago.  In just a few short years, reputation management online has become a multimillion dollar industry with competitors popping up all over the United States and around the world.  Whether you're using online reputation management software to help you do the job yourself, or have hired an online reputation manager, this guide will make sure you know the biggest do's and don'ts for the next year.

DO Take Down Libelous Content

There's no reason that you should have to put up with defamation.  Online reputation management often includes sending takedown notices to websites that are hosting content that is libelous.  If you're not sending takedown notices to these websites, you won't be able to have the information removed and it may be one of the first things that potential clients see when they search for your website.

It's very common today for unscrupulous competitors to try to sabotage your reputation management online by posting negative reviews or otherwise defaming your company.  An online reputation manager can identify these negative posts immediately and will ask you whether they are true or not.  If they're not true, best practices for online reputation management call for an immediate takedown notice.  Obviously, truth is a defense to libel, so if your online reputation manager discovers that the negative review is true, they will have to use different tactics for your reputation management online.

DON'T Issue Takedowns For Honest Critique

Even though you may feel sensitive to negative things that people are saying about your company online, it's a huge mistake for your online reputation manager to issue a takedown notice if you don't really have legal grounds to.  If you're not really being libeled and send out a takedown notice as part of your online reputation management strategy, you could be ridiculed—even publicly—as a result.

If you see honest critiques or things that just involve people expressing a disgruntled opinion, sometimes the best response for your reputation management online is just to ignore them and work on building more positive links for yourself.  An online reputation manager who tries to make these go away with takedowns is attempting censorship, rather than real online reputation management.

DO Create a Positive Social Media Vibe

Using social media is a good tool for your online reputation manager.  By doing online reputation management through Facebook or Twitter, you can put your best foot forward and force any negative links about you to lower ranked search result pages, where they'll only be seen by the most dedicated researchers.

Having an upbeat, interesting personality on social media websites can help your online reputation management significantly.  It's important for your reputation management online that you make your social networking content engaging and easy for people to talk about.  This can lead to people sharing links, and your online reputation management posts becoming a virally shared source of new links.

DON'T Sound Fake or “Corporate”

Just because you come to the office in a suit doesn't mean that your Twitter and Facebook accounts need to be dull and ponderous.  Online reputation management is easiest when you sound like a real person.  Try to avoid sounding either too formal or too self-consciously casual for your reputation management online.  Either of these extremes is likely to come off as fake to your friends and followers, and you want to portray yourself as honest and trustworthy.

DO Improve Your Directory Listings

Your online reputation manager can do a lot of the heavy lifting for this one.  Online reputation management is significantly easier when you've created the listing for your website on directories.  Directory listings often remain largely blank until someone fills them out, and you could be missing out on a big tool for reputation management online if you're not using them.

Your directory listings can often include not only a text blurb about your firm and its mission, but also graphics that help you extend your brand awareness.  Since directories are often prominent in searches, this form of online reputation management also helps you to keep negative results off the front page.

DON'T Make Fake Websites or Reviews

One of the first thoughts many law firms have about online reputation management is: “if there's a negative review that's fake, why can't I make a ton of positive reviews that are just as fake but will drive new clients to my business?”  While this is indeed a strategy that is used by some online reputation manager types, there are several reasons that it should not be among your strategies for reputation management online.

First of all, do you really think you'll be able to keep the secret forever?  Many review websites are very sensitive to fake reviews for reputation management online, and will pull your reviews if they detect several from the same IP address.  Your online reputation manager will be in big trouble if you're caught out lying for reviews.  You could even run into ethics problems with your local or state bar association if you're not careful.  It's not worth risking your license to practice law over—use different techniques for your reputation management online.

DO Create Conversation with Critics

Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean you should be silent and just let them talk.  If you're willing to engage in open, honest communication with your critics, you'll be seen as reasonable and assertive.  If someone says something negative about your law firm in a blog, for example, you can make a comment on the blog that engages with their point of view but disagrees with it.

DON'T Shut Down All Negative Reviews

In some cases, a negative review can actually help your reputation management online.  How?  If your online reputation manager is taking down all or almost all negative reviews, people may start to suspect that you are somehow gaming the system.  By keeping at least some negative reviews—perhaps the ones with the most positive overall outlook on your firm—your online reputation manager can help you to present a more appealing and honest public face.

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