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6 tips to improve your online reputation and social engagement

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo

20101210_sOptimize your digital footprint with these steps

Incredible amounts of research have gone into determining how people form first impressions. The digital age has complicated the phenomenon by eliminating physical signs and signals. In place of smiles are likes, retweets and reviews, not direct word-of-mouth referrals. Businesses must therefore consider how their digital first impressions (gained not only through their websites but also via social media chatter and search engines such as Google) impact their brands.

In the world of public relations, first impressions fall squarely into the category of reputation management. Practitioners recognize that to build, modify or solidify a company or brand, the organization must first make a good impression. Statistics have proven that customers are more than halfway through the sales process before ever engaging a company representative – whether for shoes, furniture, vacation rentals or a car. This leaves companies with little room to cultivate loyal followers. The process has become an uphill climb. Individuals across the globe are now able to investigate nearly everything online courtesy of official websites, blogs, social media profiles and reviews. As such, digital first impressions are paramount.

What businesses may not realize is how critical each digital element is in creating an overall digital footprint. In short, online reputations (comprised of digital pages, articles, images, videos, contacts, reviews, etc.) serve as your first impression well before any meaningful dialogue or outreach occurs. To maximize your “digital handshake,” we suggest the following:

1. Learn what Google knows. Do a search on your company. What do you see? Is your company information listed properly? Did you find negative information, news or reviews you never knew existed? How is your company perceived on social media channels and where did your business appear – at the top, in the middle, not at all on the first page? Are the reviews and comments about your business accurate? If you’ve found pitfalls, you needn’t read further; you likely know you have some digital reconstruction to do.

2. Speak your customers’ language.
Whether through their business websites, blogs or social media channels, businesses have the opportunity to engage customers minute by minute if they wish. Engagement and response are just the beginning; another element is how you engage and respond. Is your tone, content and effort enough to make the customer feel welcome? Are your sales channels optimized so that purchase is seamless and followup encouraged?

3. Share your expertise. To elevate your brand/business’ profile, you need to be perceived as offering something unique whether it’s an in-demand product or particular knowledge. If you want audiences to know you do, you must share the details! Share useful and relevant content (text, pictures, videos, etc.) to improve your digital position.

4. Measure your influence. While “influence” is somewhat subjective, it’s all about whether or not you evoke a positive feeling about your business/industry/brand. In what areas can your business improve? Does your business generate an awkward or negative feeling or do you believe people generally love you overall? People spend money on things they want and need. If they can find something better elsewhere, that’s where they’ll go.

5. Connect correctly. When it comes to digital footprints, it’s important to make sure you aren’t only connected to people who adore you but also influencers in the industry who, frankly, don’t.  A combination of regular Joes and Janes along with top-tier influencers (press, celebrities, social media pundits, industry mavens, etc.) help to maximize your influence – the sweet spot of reputation management.

For more tips and techniques on how to manage your online reputation, download Axia Public Relations’ Online Reputation Management e-book.

Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and non-profit public relations. In addition to serving on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force, Wendy enjoys cooking and rooting for her favorite New England sports teams.

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Topics: public relations, inbound marketing, shared media

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