Why a Little Paranoia in Online Reputation Management & Brand Monitoring is a Good Thing

Though it may be hard to put a monetary value on it, your business’ reputation and brand image are vital assets.

As such, when it comes to maintaining your online presence, paranoia should strike deep.

Everybody look what’s going down…

-Buffalo Springfield

Everywhere we turn these days, there continues to be a seemingly never-ending stream of business and marketing experts extolling the great virtues of social media and as well as the platforms, tools, and devices built around them. While it’s true that the Internet and social media coupled with the advances in mobile technology can be a welcomed boon to smaller companies looking for low-cost ways to market their products and services, business owners should nevertheless proceed into the social media sea with caution.

The power and potential of social media to “put your business on the map” is as great as it’s ability to swiftly and thoroughly destroy your business’ brand and reputation. User generated content in the form of blogs, websites, forums, consumer review sites, or the social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare can be calm waters one instant and an unbridled tidal wave, the next. Though this may seem like a well-known fact to some, it amazes me how ignorant others remain.

If you are going to be generating waves then you want those waves to work for you, not wipe you out.

Here are five, not so well-known reasons why you need to be extra vigilante when monitoring and managing your online reputation and brand:

1. Just because it’s not true, even if you can prove it, does not mean it will go away. This is one of the most important ideas to keep in mind with regards to social media: impressions are formed quickly, yet they are hard to change once there. Realize that the average consumer is being bombarded with a constantly changing array of information, images, and sounds, and there is often little time (or patience) to stop and ponder the validity of it all. A series of bad reviews from some disgruntled customers or a negative piece of publicity (even if it is exposed as a fake) has the power to turn away potential clients and irritate current ones.

2. Silence in social media = acceptance. Though silence may sometimes be golden in certain social situations, it usually does not apply when it comes to social media. Failing to promptly and adequately address a torrent of negative publicity can have grave consequences for your business and its brand. Many people may actually look for your response initially, and finding nothing, they will assume the message is true. Moreover, in some instances, your response should be made within a few different platforms. So for example, a sudden flurry of negative consumer reviews may warrant a message on your company’s website, not just a direct response on the site where the reviews were made.

3. Free monitoring tools and services are a good start… but realize they don’t catch everything. Services, such as Google Alerts or social media search engines, like Social Mention, definitely have their value and are important tools worth using for your online reputation management. But the depth and relevancy of their searches are actually quite limited. Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to consider a paid monitoring service or hiring a reputation management consultant.

4. Your employees and business relationships (not your customers) pose the biggest threat. As much as it is of vital importance to value and trust your employees and business partners, it doesn’t mean that you should be lax in sharing confidential or potentially damaging information either. After all, these people out of necessity will likely be exposed to more insider information regarding you and your company than those on the outside, and they therefore are in a position to do more damage if they choose to. Make sure that you do your due diligence when it comes to confidentiality and social media usage policies. This is especially important if you have an assistant or other employee who has access to your email and social media accounts.

5. Professional and personal boundaries often get blurred. Even if you go to great lengths to keep your personal and professional profiles separate, the chances that sensitive or damaging information will leak or “cross over” online are pretty high. It is easy for these two worlds to get intertwined- especially with the way social media platforms and mobile devices are being set up these days. As a small example: if you use Foursquare, the social check-in site, is it as a business person or as a consumer? Do you really want your clients to know where you are checking in?

Bottom line: in order to avoid unleashing a tidal wave of online negativity (or at least be in a good position to stem the flow), it pays to be on your toes. When it comes to online reputation management and brand monitoring for your business a little paranoia can be a very good thing.