When we use the internet, consciously or not, we leave our footprint everywhere we go. While we are surfing online we do not even notice that our data, commentaries, registrations, photos, etc. are recorded and distributed to places we would never guess. The more active we are on the internet, the more it knows about us. This is called “digital footprint” and you leave it since the very first day you started using the internet. If you are a person, who keeps a blog, website, online business, or if you are a public figure, the information about you increases drastically. If you search for “Alexander Nenov” (my colleague) online, you will immediately find his website, his Wikipedia page, his lectures on YouTube, websites where you can buy his book from, other websites presenting his book, the interviews he has have given… and so on, tens of pages with results.
In this case, his name is his brand and that is why the information about him online is highly important because everyone can find him through it, get acquainted with him, get to like him (or not), and get in touch with him for consultations about their new business – something he makes for living.
This is valid for every single business. Apart from your website, which we assume is well optimized, the information about you will be available on more and more other websites. Some of them will be just catalogs, some will comment on your business, some will put you in charts, and some will have interviews with you, while others will do something else… Sometimes you will be surprised to see where you have been positioned and what has been written about you. Since you have decided to do business, you should be sure that people will talk about you, no matter whether you have a website or not, whether you want to be on the web or not.
The whole process develops on its own and the better your clients know you, the more the information about you on different websites. Most companies decide that this process is out of control and go with the flow but, in fact, this process can be mastered at the expense of a lot of work and experience. I should warn you now that you should not delude yourself that you can handle this on your own. A single wrong move may cause a wave of negative emotions against your brand.
For instance, many people think that if they pour some scorn on the competition on several online forums and at the same time praise their own company, they will manage to steal clients. Such a primitive way of thinking is frequently seen but very often the results are just the opposite because the truth will come to light very soon and there will be definitely a counter-reaction from the other side and eventually you will find your company trapped into a downward spiral heading to the bottom.
What should you do then? The answer is to find an expert. The expert will be of use because they have already established a network of websites, relations, and contacts and have vast know-how, which will make your desired results be found easily, while everything that can harm your image, and is the result of a negative campaign launched by your rivals, will lose rating.
Some time ago I worked for a very popular person, whose name I cannot mention. The task was to conquer Google. Briefly, we had to fill the whole Google front page only with articles and content that the person in question wanted and liked. Our team of eight people spent nine months working on the project to achieve the set goal. Even if someone wanted to position a negative comment or material among those we realized, they should have worked twice as much, which is not a winning move when making a smear campaign.
Online reputation management is a complex service, which includes monitoring who, when, and what is written about you and your brand; reaction, if need; communication with your clients and Facebook users, and realization of standard operating procedures in case of a crisis.
Some time ago one of the biggest mobile operators in Bulgaria changed its logo. Minutes after the news broke and the new logo was presented, an unprecedented campaign was launched on Facebook. There were thousands of comments on the issue and all of them were negative. Some claimed that it was a copy of another logo, some simply did not like it, while some made funny collages. The mobile operator remained silent. The silence strategy is well-known and sometimes it helps because sooner or later people get tired or bored with it, then in a few hours or days, they stop commenting and they even forget about it.
In this case, however, every single negative comment of a Facebook user boosted further the rating of the article about the new logo and made it more visible for the friends of the person, who had posted a comment. In just a few hours the wave went out of control and even if someone liked the logo, they would not have shared it because of the thousands before them, who had posted a negative remark. This is explained with the fact that people want to be like everyone else and follow the masses, most of them do not have a personal opinion, so they simply copy the opinion leaders’ point of view. They turn on the TV or go on Facebook and assume someone’s opinion, without being able to ground themselves and explain why they think they are right, while the others are wrong.
What was the problem here? The number of the employees of the company was bigger than the number of comments on Facebook. However, this resource was not used. Even the company’s marketing and PR teams kept silent and left people ranting. What the experts expected was for the company to launch its “standard operational procedures” for such type of a crisis, which they should have expected months before the presentation and should have been prepared for. The hundreds of employees of the company should have joined in with “likes” and positive comments, instead of keeping silent and justifying themselves before the managers. But none of this happened.
Recently, another mobile operator rebranded itself, after changing its Greek owners with Norwegian ones. In contrast to their rivals, they had month-long preparation and knew what reactions they should expect. As a result, there were funny caricatures and collages in the style of their campaign, which all experts believed to be inspired not by some amateurs but marketing experts navigating consumers’ energy in the right direction.
In the end, the campaign passed in the spirit of fun and positive emotions. A few months later the mobile operator in question even managed to promote itself at the expense of its biggest rival. The internet network of the biggest operator in the country collapsed, which cut the internet, television, and even phone services it offered. The Norwegian company seized the moment and informed all consumers online that their major rival was suffering from technical issues, and in a time when this was the most wanted information online, breaking this news was more than a successful advertising trick. A trick that was even cited by many reputable media outlets.
These examples come to show how good online reputation management can save and earn money, drive back or win consumers, create negative or positive impression, control and manage the behavior of the masses, neutralize or channel harmful actions or simply leave a good digital footprint online, and improve the company or brand’s general image.