Companies can no longer ignore their online image. Yet choosing the right strategy is the key to avoiding setbacks. But first, what is an "e-reputation?"
"This online reputation can be measured in terms of all the online data about a company, ranging from information published by the company or its employees to information published by clients, suppliers and the competition. This includes anybody speaking about the company on blogs, on twitter, in forums, etc." explains Yannick Chatelain, a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management and an online marketing specialist.
Five recommendations for managing your e-reputation
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1. Choose a strategy that fits your company
Plunging headlong into social networking and the World Wide Web is a recipe for disaster. To guarantee an image suited to the company, clear objectives have to be established. With these goals in mind, it's then possible to settle important strategic decisions concerning the choice of social networks, the creation of a blog, the pace of updates, the tone and other factors.
2. Be open, honest and responsive
Being present online means interacting with internet users AND their criticisms. "The worst community manager is one who deletes all criticisms. As long as the criticism does not qualify as libel, an insult or a smear campaign, the best solution is to answer. And even better, to answer quickly." suggests Yannick Chatelain.
3. Provide the necessary human resources
There's no point in creating a website, a blog, a social network account or other internet communication tools if you don't have the time or resources to use them. Communication tools such as Twitter, Facebook or blogs require regular updates with pertinent information. Choosing your goals and the tools you will use is a great first step. Allocating sufficient manpower to use these tools correctly is, however, the decisive next step. Air France offered us an illuminating example of e-reputation management gone wrong when its Twitter account was "closed" on a Sunday during the Fukushima disaster in Japan. "While reactions were first voiced over the increase in airfare, the real outcry was caused by the fact the airline company simply didn't react." points out Yannick Chatelain.
4. Be aware of the risks
Risks are an inherent part of any internet presence. According to Yannick Chatelain, dangers such as libel and smear campaigns can threaten a company's image while phishing and other scams can threaten a company's identity. The first step to counteracting these threats is being aware of them. "If the risk becomes a reality, for example if your company is libeled from another country, companies can develop their online communication and hire an e-reputation management company."
5. Seize on real opportunities
Improve your company image, learn about your clients, connect with new potential clients, improve your products and services, in short grow your business. The combination of a properly managed e-reputation and a coherent digital strategy is an incredible source of growth and opportunity for any company.