Digital strategist and technologist Chris Abraham knows what makes a reputation resilient—how it can prepare against hurricanes of rumor and come back strong from social media flames. With his company, Gerris Corp., he has used social and mainstream media engagement to help boost brands and raise reputations in a wide range of industries including financial services, nonprofits, and consumer goods. Previously, he was team lead at Reputation.com.
Senior living leaders know that a low star rating or negative comment can shade even the best and brightest community. Argentum asked Abraham for best practices and smart tips that could work at diverse sizes and types of communities, as well as for people with different degrees of technical savvy.
First: Fill in the blanks
“Google abhors a vacuum,” Abraham says. “When a community doesn’t own its narrative, its narrative is vulnerable. The more you populate your site, upload your own images, create your own copy, and do your own shares, the less vulnerable you’ll be.”
This goes not only for a community or corporation’s own website, but for verticals such as online directories. For sites such as Yelp and Google My Business, simply claim your community and fill in your information. Usually, it’s free.
Ditto for social media. Fill out your profiles, share good news and keep track of the conversation. Also, some companies buy many variations of a domain name to fend off malicious copycats.
Do something, not everything
That already sounds like a lot of work, and we’ve barely started. But Abraham is reassuring: Your content and narrative don’t have to be perfect—just get it up there.
The ideal might be having an official social media director overseeing an automated content calendar full of attractive, professional photos and targeted, compelling posts—but if you can’t reach that bar, something will always be better than nothing, he says.
In fact, he says, people are less likely to ding your community for blurry photos and typos than they are for insincerity.
“Your reputation online can be curated, but it has to be the truth,” Abraham says. “It’s kind of like a dating app—you know not every man is over 6 feet tall and has a full head of hair. If you juice up your persona too much, it can breed resentment.”
Engage, engage, engage
What do you do when something negative does happen—such as a bad star review? First, realize it’s hard to avoid. “People today don’t complain to the staff, they go straight to the streets—they go online,” he says.
While liability concerns may limit some kinds of responses, prioritize scanning for comments, know in advance what you can say, and respond with some emotion and substance.
“Online reputation damage is like water damage,” Abraham says. “It’ll seep through if you try to paper it over.”
A sincere public response with deep apologies and respect can sometimes boost positive impressions. “It’s ‘mea maxima culpa marketing.’ You show you’re flexible, you listen.”
A scenario where a family member leaves a negative comment can be a chance to open a door to a face-to-face or phone meeting. And responding to positive comments with thanks magnifies their impact.
Practice website hygiene
Google gets smarter every day, so keep your website in top condition. Make sure it’s secure—https scores higher than http—and optimize for mobile: People of all ages search with their phones.
Two more tips: Yes, keywords matter, but cleaning up bad links matters much more. And user experience matters more than content. As Abraham puts it, you can’t enjoy the view if the road is full of potholes.
Give it time
Managing your online reputation is like getting fitter, Abraham says. “Spend about 20 minutes a day, walk more, take the stairs at first. If you try too hard in a weekend, you might break something.”
Don’t beg for likes and reviews just to get a lot of stars up there fast. Instead, shift reputation management into a content creation operation to keep your online presence appealing and positive.
“If you create enough content, you can own the first two pages of Google,” he says. “And you can create 90 percent of this positive content just by making sure you participate.”
(This article was originally published on the Argentum website on December 20, 2019 and written by Sara Wildberger)
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