Reputation Management for 2017

Every year, reputation management becomes an even more important part of building a successful business. In 2017, it’s almost impossible to attract clients without an online presence, and entrepreneurs who fail to take control of their company’s reputation early will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Reputation Matters

People are expressing themselves more than ever on the internet and they’re also increasingly turning to other people’s comments to decide if a product or service is worth buying. 64 percent of marketing executives worldwide say “word of mouth” advertising is more important than other forms of marketing. On a personal level, we’re often taught not to worry too much about what others think of us, but what people say about your business will have real consequences when it comes to revenue. Company leaders can’t afford to not pay attention or to not care. They must take an active role in promoting the company through all internet platforms.

5 Reputation Management Questions to Ask in 2017

At ReputationDefender, we assist businesses with building or maintaining their online reputation. Reputation management is a growing field that changes regularly as search engine algorithms are updated and SEO techniques evolve. Yet there are some basic elements that every entrepreneur should consider if they want their company to keep expanding in 2017.

Here are five basic reputation management questions, as well as some of the ways companies can answer them:

  • What are people saying about my business? – There’s a lot of negativity on the internet. People are comfortable saying things online that they wouldn’t say in person, and sometimes this manifests as unreasonable rants about businesses or services they feel have let them down. As a business owner, it’s easier and more comfortable to just avoid reading these comments, especially since they tend to detract from our confidence in the company. Unfortunately, the last customer’s rant may be the first thing the next person researching your business sees. If you can’t delete the comment, you can at least respond politely and appropriately, so that it will be obvious you’re not the party being unreasonable. Sometimes customers also complain about real issues, so it’s crucial to take comments as constructive criticism and use them to improve.
    1. Google Alerts – A Google Alert for your name, the brand’s name and any related keywords will let you know any time someone leaves a comment on the website or another review site. This will allow you to respond appropriately.
    2. Social Media – Unfortunately, Google doesn’t index social media pages so if someone rants about your company on Instagram or Facebook it won’t be picked up by a Google alert. There are lots of social media listening tools, like Geopiq for Instagram, Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro, Hootsuite and Reputology, just to name are few. Some are free, while others come with a minimal cost. Of course you still won’t be able to respond to a private social media post, but the more tools you have at your disposal, the better the chances of catching a bad comment or review before it does too much damage.
  • What are people saying about competitors? – Don’t feel guilty about eaves-dropping on your competitors. The internet is a public place, so the information is available to everyone, just as your reputation is available to competitors. If online reviews give your top competitor four stars and they only give you three, which business will the next client choose? Probably not yours, unless there are some other mitigating factors. It’s as important to follow competitor’s reviews and comments as your own, so you can see what appeals to customers and work on imitating it. Give customers a reason to pick you over your competitor, whether it’s a different service, a better price, or just higher quality.
  • Is your website attracting clients? – The official company website is the key to attracting clients. It needs to be professional, informational and easy to navigate. It also needs to be optimized to appear at the top of the search result page for your brand. Most website platforms will offer tools to analyze traffic and let you know whether you’re attracting clients who spend time reading material. If the results are unsatisfactory, consider getting a professional SEO audit to figure out what isn’t working and improve on it.
  • What is not managing your reputation costing you? – Many entrepreneurs think that reputation management costs too much or takes too much time. However, once damaging material appears online, it could reduce profits almost immediately, especially if there isn’t already positive material ranking right alongside the negative reviews. The time and money it takes to build a positive reputation is much less than the cost of trying to fix a damaged reputation after the fact.
  • Do I need a professional reputation management service? – This question has to be answered individually for each company. Large companies may hire their own reputation management team as a division of online marketing. Small or midsize companies should consider working with a professional service unless one of the founders already has experience with reputation management or SEO. Many entrepreneurs may feel they can go it alone to start with, but reputation management can be very time consuming and as the company grows there will quickly be too much to do. Working with professionals from the start will help to give the company the best chance of success.

For more information or answers to further reputation management questions, contact our experts at ReputationDefender.

How Can I Avoid a Phishing Attack?

Phishing attacks are scams that trick people into exposing financial details and other sensitive data. Phishing is not new; this type of online attack has been around almost as long as the internet, but today’s schemes are more sophisticated and harder to detect than ever. In the past, all but the most naïve could see through badly written requests to transfer money or suspicious-looking prize notices. This is not the case with modern phishing schemes which often resemble official communications so closely it’s hard to tell the difference. Some hackers take the time to learn co-worker’s names and personal details to make them appear even more convincing.

Phishing scams pose numerous risks. The most common scenario is a virus that will infect a computer through a contaminated link or a compressed document. Malware delivered through phishing can steal personal information, including financial details, or it may contain ransomware that will encrypt computer files and hold them hostage until you pay a fee. Most viruses have the ability to spread and infect an entire company network and businesses are frequently targeted since they have more resources and incentive to protect their data.

Falling prey to a phishing attack leaves a company vulnerable to financial theft, as well as leaks that could release trade secrets and confidential information. Compromising data released to the public causes reputational damage that’s hard to undo. Experts at Reputation Defender work to safeguard client reputations through regular privacy audits that catch problems as they emerge. We also help to repair online reputation by creating and promoting positive content.

Types of Phishing Attacks

There are basically two ways a hacker may design a phishing scheme:

  • Mass-scale phishing – A general attack that includes many different methods of communication. A lot like casting a large fishing net, mass-scale attacks do not target a specific person. However, they may include numerous semi-random attempts aimed at discovering the weakest link in a company’s network – the one employee gullible enough to click on a random link or reveal their password to a stranger.
  • Spear-phishing or Whaling – Spear-phishing is a targeted attack aimed at a specific person or a group of people. This type of phishing attack often includes details that make the included information seem legitimate. Emails can be designed to resemble personal office communication or a typical business invoice. Whaling is a type of spear-phishing that targets high-level personnel, particularly the CEO. Hooking these so-called “large fish” gives cyber criminals easier access to sensitive company data and financial accounts.
Methods of Delivery

Fraudsters have found even more creative ways to deliver links, through email, phone calls, text messaging and social media feeds.

Email phishing

A phishing email often looks like a generic notice from a well-known company or a bank. Cyber criminals have been known to copy logos from PayPal and eBay well enough to avoid detection. Typical scare tactics include warnings that the account is insecure, the password has been changed or there is a payment past due. Phishing emails usually include a CTA asking victims to click on a link or open an attached document. A targeted spear-phishing email may reference a colleague or a boss.

Things to look for – Many phishing emails still have small spelling mistakes or grammatical errors that a native speaker wouldn’t make, so this is the first thing to check. A missing email signature is another red flag or a form of address or writing style that’s not normal. Sometimes the only way to detect a phishing email is through slight changes in the email or domain name, such as the use of zeros instead of the letter “O” or “rn instead “m”. These can be easily missed, so if anything seems off, double-check the email address and domain name carefully.

Voice phishing – Vishing

Phone calls are another phishing technique (called vishing) which is aimed at getting individuals to hand over financial details or personal information. Like email phishing, vishing is often based on scare tactics that encourage victims to take action quickly without thinking about the consequences. Fraudsters may warn that a bank account is in danger or they may threaten legal action if a bill is not paid. Between 2013 and 2016, almost 900,000 people in the US received vishing calls purporting to be from tax collectors with IRS. These calls resulted in 5,000 victims with collective losses of USD $26.5 million.

Things to look for – Asking that bills be paid over the phone is unusual, so this should be an immediate warning. Banks also rarely ask for financial details or personal information over the phone. Don’t give details out unless you’ve made the phone call yourself to an official number and you know the counselor you’re speaking with well enough to recognize his or her voice. Other things to watch for are masked numbers or unknown caller ID.

SMS phishing – Smishing

Text messaging is another phishing technique that has come to be called smishing. Smishing messages often resemble phishing emails; they can come in the form of fake account notices with a CTA link. Some cyber criminals have even been known to use smishing to highjack a two-party identification system, first by requesting a password reset on your account, then sending a text asking for the code you just received in order to fix ‘’unusual activity” on that same account.

What to look for – Unusual or unfamiliar numbers should be a give-away, as well as unsolicited messages or codes you haven’t requested. Unless this is a company that normally sends texts, you should wonder why they are using this form of communication.

Social Media Phishing

Phishing schemes have also infiltrated social media. Fraudulent posts may claim you’ve won the lottery or ask you to click and sign up for membership. Targeted attacks often pretend to be from a friend who’s opened a second account. Some scams may even come from a regular account that’s been hacked.

What to look for – Watch for irregularities (why would a friend choose to open different account?) or language that doesn’t sound like the person you know. Be suspicious of sponsored posts from unknown businesses and links included in comments made by people you don’t know well.

Avoid Getting Hooked

Avoid all forms of phishing with these basic guidelines:

  • Don’t click on a link in an email or a text message unless you’re sure who the sender is.
  • Be wary of unsolicited messages and unusual account notices. Verify with the company before taking any action.
  • Always sign in to your accounts via a trusted app or by entering the URL in your browser. Don’t use an embedded link even if you think it’s legitimate.
  • Double-check any communication that’s doesn’t follow normal protocol. It never hurts to follow-up with an old fashioned phone call to make sure the message is from the real sender, especially if there’s money or confidential information involved.
  • Don’t transfer money without verifying who’s asking for it and where it’s going.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone.
  • Don’t fall for scams that seem too good to be true. They probably are.

How Can Social Media Help Business Strategy?

Social media is one of the most important, fastest growing parts of the internet. This term loosely refers to platforms and apps that allow users to create and share content, whilst at the same time participate in social networking. At first glance, social media might seem to be geared toward private individuals, but more and more businesses are finding these platforms to be a vital marketing asset.

Professional social media pages are key in any reputation management strategy. At Reputation Defender we help company brands to boost their online profile by improving search rankings and presenting a positive cohesive brand message. Official social media profiles are a target page one result, as well as a place to promote other content.

Social Media for Business

Business focused social media is all about using social channels to connect and engage with customers and build long term relationships. Of the many social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most important for focusing an initial business strategy.

The social media audience is vast. Globally, 1.55 billion people use Facebook per month; about 72 percent of all people active on the internet. Of these, 70 percent say they interact on a daily basis. By contrast, only 38 percent of Twitter users and 22 percent of LinkedIn account holders are active daily. None the less, Twitter is one of the most popular microblogging platforms with 341 million active monthly users, whilst LinkedIn is largely seen as the most official social media business directory.

Facebook

A business Facebook profile offers a chance to interact with customers on a personal level via a trusted platform. Followers will begin to see the business in the same way they view their friends. They’ll look forward to regular posts that are genuine and thoughtful.

At the same time, Facebook offers a way for new clients to find out important details about your business such as location, history and contact info. It’s important to claim your brand name as a keyword and link back to the company website through your business profile. You can also add a “Like us on Facebook” button to the company website. Facebook will offer different templates depending on the type of business to let you target the audience you want to reach.

Many Facebook features are designed to make the platform accessible and useful for business purposes. Call to action buttons introduced in 2014 offer suggestions for customer activity such as “contact us”, “book now” or “sign up.” One click will take the client straight to the desired page, so this is a very effective way of driving traffic to your website. Typical business posts can share brand-based videos, images and blog articles. A Facebook page can also be used to advertise a special offer or promote client feedback. Sponsored advertising campaigns disseminate material even more efficiently and ensures that all followers see all your posts, while Facebook Analytics will help to pinpoint your current activity level and target improvement.

Twitter

Like Facebook, Twitter can be used to interact with customers, promote material and increase awareness for your product. A business profile should promote the business name, target an important keyword and link back to the official company website. A logo and other professional images can give the account a more personal touch.

Tweets can be leveraged for business purposes by promoting a specific marketing message. Tools such as TweetDeck and Periscope allow for multimedia tweets, while the hashtag system targets a specific topic zone. Like Facebook, Twitter offers paid advertising for businesses that want to maximize the marketing aspect of their account and Twitter Analytics offers tools for analyzing strategies and measuring success.

LinkedIn

As a professional networking site, LinkedIn carries more authority than Facebook or Twitter. This platform offers the opportunity to connect with colleagues and industry leaders, recruit potential employees and gain referrals. Managers will need a personal page to set up a business profile on LinkedIn, so this is the perfect opportunity to build your own career along with the company’s reputation. A Premium Account offers enhanced opportunities for profile viewing and targeted searches.

Like Facebook and Twitter, a business profile on LinkedIn should include all the company’s details and link back to the website. LinkedIn allows several different administrators, so it’s easy to delegate account management tasks to other employees. Showcase Pages on LinkedIn lets you target additional keywords and highlight specific company products and services. You can also post job applications and send targeted email marketing.

Fine-tune Your Profiles

In contrast to traditional advertising, social media is about connecting personally with customers whilst sharing the brand message. Especially on Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to strike a balance between promotion and providing genuinely interesting content that will make people want to follow your page.

  • Keep advertising in check – Out of 7 posts, only 1 should be obviously promotional.
  • Ask questions – Find out which industry related topics interest your followers the most.
  • Post fun facts – You’ll gain authority and help clients learn more about what you do.
  • Provide valuable tips – People will keep following to learn more.
  • Offer rewards – Organize a contest or offer points for virtual check-ins at your business.

A dedicated group of social media followers is a valuable reputational asset for any business. It increases customer retention and provides a long term client base which will help to counteract negative publicity in the future.

ORM for Hotels – The Importance of an Online Profile

Nowhere is online reputation management more important than within the hospitality industry. Statistics show that 97 percent of people look at online comments from previous guests when considering a hotel, while 93 percent find this an important way of determining their choice. More than half (53 percent) won’t book a hotel without reading online opinions.

Many hotels don’t establish an ORM strategy until they start receiving negative attention. This is a mistake. Google and other search engines rank content from online travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Expedia highly, so what people are saying about you really does matter. Unless the hotel already has a strong online profile, content from these sites is going to appear prominently on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and this will be the first thing a potential customer sees. It’s impossible to control guests’ opinions, but by optimizing brand-generated content so that it ranks high on page one of the search results, will at least ensure that clients find a balanced representation of the hotel. Responding appropriately to customer comments further decreases the impact as researchers see you are using feedback to make the experience better for everyone.

ORM Strategy

An online reputation management (ORM) strategy needs to be planned and coordinated just like any other marketing campaign. Large hotels often devote an entire department to this effort. Small and medium sized organizations may have fewer resources to employ qualified full-time staff. Working with a third-party can be a cost-effective way of implementing a professional ORM campaign without expanding employee payroll. Reputation Defender has been a global leader in this industry since Michael Fertik founded the company in 2006. We help numerous individual and corporate clients establish their brand’s presence on the internet.

Online Reputation Equals Revenue

A 2015 TripAdvisor survey which investigated more than 10,000 hospitality businesses around the world, found that ORM was a top investment priority for 60 percent of hotels. This was in contrast to small scale renovations which were only a priority for 53 percent and other marketing campaigns which ranked at 51 percent. This study shows that hoteliers are recognizing the strong correlation between positive online reputation and sales volume. A TripAdvisor rating, which is based on the quality and quantity of the recent guest feedback, can have an almost immediate effect on booking, so it’s important to already have positive content posted, especially positive customer testimonials.

Establish an Online Presence

How does a hospitality manager counteract the weight of customer opinion which is now so available and measurable on the internet? Every business will face negative online comments at some point. The key is to build a positive presence through brand generated content, so researchers can see at first glance that the hotel has a lot to offer. It’s not enough to build a professional website and move on to other things. Hoteliers need to maintain a constant stream of up-to-date and relevant content, backed-up by thoughtful and genuine responses to guest feedback.

Here are 5 musts for establishing a hotel’s online profile:

  • Optimize the Brand Name – Promote the hotel’s website with Google Business and claim official profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Connect company blogs and secondary websites on an alternate domain to ensure your content dominates as many results as possible.
  • Post Regularly – Fresh content will rank higher with search engines, so make sure you post regular blog and social media updates. This includes multimedia content such as images and videos. Tag the hotel’s brand name in filenames, titles and alt content so that it ranks for that search term.
  • Set Up Automatic Alerts – It’s important to be the first to know about negative feedback, yet it’s impossible to constantly monitor all social media platforms, especially when you are running a business at the same time. You’ll need an automatic system that directly notifies the hotel when new comments are posted. Someone should monitor this feed during business hours and notify appropriate staff.
  • Analyze Feedback – Figure out what went wrong. Was it a one-time lapse in service, an endemic problem that is likely to happen again, or an unreasonable guest who would not have been satisfied no matter what you did? Knowing whether the root of the problem lies in the service department or within ORM strategies will help you devise an appropriate response that limits similar problems in the future.
  • Work as a Team – Set reputation objectives and share these with staff so that everyone promotes the same cohesive brand message. Put a coordinated team in place to handle monitoring and responses. Make sure everyone posting on official social media profiles exemplifies the same professional style.
Summary

ORM for hotels is about balancing your own content against what customers say about you. Be ready with a strong, positive online profile, whether this is created by your own staff or a third party like Reputation Defender. Once a comment is posted, it’s time for damage control. Respond appropriately and take action to avoid attracting similar criticism. If you have the SERP already filled with positive, brand controlled content, one negative review will have less effect.