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3 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation - 11/15/2010 -

If you do nothing else, start paying attention to who’s saying what about your association's brand online.

By Priya Ramesh

Online sentiment is the cumulative effect of reviews, ratings, recommendations—and in certain cases, rants—given by your members, staff, and sometimes just a casual passerby on the internet. As Alex Wright from The New York Times rightly describes it, "for many businesses, online opinion has turned into a kind of virtual currency that can make or break a product in the marketplace.” 

The blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates shared about a particular association brand act as bricks and mortar for your organization’s online reputation and also affect your SEO rankings to a large extent. Have you asked yourself the following questions recently?

  •  How does our association look online?
  •  What are people saying about our association’s brand(s), media products, events, or services online?
  •  What is the overall online sentiment about our association? (Positive, neutral or negative.)
  •  How do we stack up against our competition (nonprofit or for-profit) in terms of online sentiment?
  •  What is the most dominant online perception our members and targeted potential members have about our association?

If you don’t have answers to the questions above, here are three simple steps to start managing your online reputation.

1.     Monitor by setting up social alerts. This may sound basic, but it is surprising at how many communication professionals still haven’t taken the time to set up Google news and blog alerts for their own association, its media and other products, as well as the competition. You can also set up tweet alerts using Tweet Beep. Monitoring and listening how you are being referenced online is the first step in online reputation management.

Another good return on your marketing investment is to conduct a quarterly online reputation audit. Social media engagement without listening in and feeling the pulse of your community online is like shooting in the dark. So take half an hour to set up your basic alerts and start listening.

2.     Analyze your social reviews. This is a natural progression from the first step of monitoring. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis format works well for online reputation management. It is a good practice to regroup every quarter and analyze recurring themes, identify major concerns being expressed online, and pinpoint key contributors to positive feedback.

A good recommendation is to take the feedback from the daily monitoring and present it to your association’s communications team. For example, if you find that members are tweeting about how difficult it is to navigate through your association’s website or to complete their purchases of your association’s training products, that is information that needs to be shared and acted on immediately. Organizations that take their monitoring to the analysis stage benefit by delivering what their members want versus what the association thinks they want.

3.     Engage based on online sentiment. Now that you understand where your association stands in the eyes of the online user, start engaging with the blogger or the member that complained about your association on Twitter. A simple comment saying, "Thank you for your feedback. We are working on resolving this issue,” can do wonders in terms of transforming a negative sentiment to at least a neutral sentiment.

Of course, comments need to be followed by action. A "listen and comment strategy” (in addition to more strategic social media engagement efforts) can improve your association’s image online. By diligently commenting back on blogs posts and responding to tweets, you should see an increase in mentions that recognize your efforts to listen and act on member feedback.

Whether or not you believe in social media and its power to influence behavior, it is a good communications management strategy to pay attention to who is saying what about your association’s brand online.

Priya Ramesh heads the social media practice at CRT/tanaka and blogs at The Buzz Bin.



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