Online reputations can be tarnished in an instant. Anyone can post or write anything they want about your company. Entire communities of people can start a thread about your company.
But do you know about it?
With your online reputation always on the line, it’s important to know where you customer base “hangs out” online. Whether it be social media sites, forums, blogs, in the comments section of articles written about your company, etc., you need to be there and be ready to take action when a crisis strikes.
But it’s not all about managing crises, either. When you engage a customer base outside the realm of your own business and jump into their territory, you get to interact with them, learn about them, and ultimately, when you engage enough, your customer base will see your company in a different, better light. It’s like giving a digital face to your brand.
Here are some tips to get you started…
Go to Google.com, search your industry, then tack on the word “forum” to the end of it. From there you can find a whole list of forums that are related to your industry and where people that are most interested in your products most likely are.
At the bottom of the page, there will also be related searches where you can find more specific versions of your search or different phrasing for your search. This will help you get even more results.
Participating in Forums
Once you find the forums, it’s important to choose sites that are the most closely related to your field. After all, there are probably hundreds of forums out there related to your business’ area of expertise. Choose a few forums that are well populated and join them.
Be sure to sign up as a member under your company’s name. This gives your company some visibility in the online world and with your customer base.
Be active. You want to be seen on the forums, so answer questions, participate in conversations, and always use your expertise to further discussions.
If and when a problem does arise, be sure to be honest with the people you’re talking to. Have a discussion with them about the issues they are having. They’ll appreciate the fact that you were there to talk with them about it, rather than having to go through customer service.
Finding and Participating on Blogs
Finding blogs is much like finding forums. But instead of searching on Google.com, use http://www.google.com/blogsearch
Again, you’ll need to find the most reputable blogs you can. AllTop.com is another good resource, if there’s a category for your industry.
And you’ll want to be active commenting on blogs. Just like with the forums, the more active you are, the more your customer base will trust you (plus you can also establish relationships with influential bloggers in your industry).
Another good way to see who is talking about your company on the web is to just search the name of your company on Google. You may need to scroll through a few pages to get past the business side of things, but you’ll always find stories (if people are talking about you) where your company name is mentioned.
This is really helpful in finding those less-than-flattering stories and jumping in to dispel any rumors or set the record straight.
Having social media accounts is a must these days. Being on Facebook and Twitter gives you direct access to your customers. It also gives your customers direct access to you.
But it goes farther than that. On Twitter you can search key terms or even your company’s name. This allows you to see what people are saying about your company, even when they aren’t speaking directly to you.
The Twitter apps TweetDeck and Seesmic both allow the user to “follow” certain terms, rather than people.
Twitter also has its own search functionality, allowing you to search terms and see all the instances of your terms in other people’s tweets.
Facebook doesn’t have this functionality, but the “wall” does give you ground to speak your mind (or do many different marketing things). It also gives your customers a place to post their thoughts on a product, your brand, or whatever else is on their mind.
The most important part of being online is actually being online. Check out where your customers’ online hangouts are and go participate with them. This helps you not only build a rapport with your customer base, but also police your brand’s image.
Lance Trebesch is the CEO of TicketPrinting.com & Ticket River which offers a variety of event products and ticketing services. After nineteen years of Silicon Valley experience, Lance found the key to happiness is helping customers worldwide beautify and monetize their events with brilliant print products and event services. Listening to his customers and learning about how they plan their events – ranging from concerts to fundraisers has helped him gain insight and expertise on how to host a successful event that he is always eager to share.