When I first launched ReputationAdvisor.com, it was 2007. The catchphrase just starting to take off was “online reputation management”. I’m going to share a little history with you.
Every aspect involving a digital brand or name mention fell into this ORM bucket. But executives didn’t often hire the same expert to handle all areas. There were two distinct branches of #ORM at the time:
- Social ORM, i.e. customer monitoring & relationships
- Search ORM, i.e. search engine results & SEO
Let’s take a quick look at both branches, both their similarities and distinctions.
Social Media Monitoring
The social side involved a brand new set of monitoring tools that had just started popping up. People who worked on these extensive social media monitoring tools
- Catalog a timeline of keyword mentions across the web
- Measure individual user sentiment.
- Interpret the results into meaningful and actionable data
If 1,000 people talked about your brand name this month on social media, blogs, and news, what percentage of those comments were positive? How many were negative? What type of problems or complaints did people have?
Most of the monitoring tools that we used pre-2010 no longer exist or have changed hands and brand names. The most popular tools I tested at the time included:
- Google Alerts
- Sentiment Metrics
- Brands Eye
- Reputation Defender
- Visible Technologies
Most of these tools have been acquired or merged into other offerings. I know Salesforce now owns Radian6 and Trackur was acquired by Reputation Refinery. Sentiment Metrics rebranded and is now known as Sentiment.
These tools (with the exception of Google Alerts) attempted to assign a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment to each social media mention of a brand or name and generated some sort of report intended to inform the company of how it was faring with the public in near real time.
What did people do with this data?
More often than not, executives were curious to track the tone of the public for general strategic input. Social media was still a major gamble, and many of the companies paying for monitoring were not effectively using social media to connect to consumers directly. The data served as more of a report card than anything else.
A few higher end tools offered engagement with users through the tool itself, which opened the door for companies to both see trends happening and also stem the tide with direct interaction. The goal being to try to win back unsatisfied customers before their sour experience became a permanent bias.
More often than not, however, companies were simply looking at reputation monitoring as a source of researchable data.
For example, one national chicken manufacturer went through a major brand reputation crisis when an employee was videotaped abusing the chickens in their housing facilities. The company sought to know what kind of backlash they were facing
Search Reputation Management
The organic search side was very different. Rather than monitoring social media sentiment, it focused exclusively on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Search reputation management sought to locate negative content ranking on Page 1 or 2 for key branded or employee terms and displace them by optimizing other pages or sites to get ranked above the negative mentions.
When successful, these efforts essentially buried negative information underneath a pile of positive or neutral content, thus improving the brand’s reputation in the eyes of every potential customer surfing the Web.
Along with a few hundred other SEO-minded folks, I jumped into search reputation management and began serving clients with issues. For example, one client had an SEC ruling against him that ranked in the top 4 results for the CEOs name. In their particular industry, this search result significantly impaired their credibility with potential investors. I was hired to help promote other content and push the SEC listing down. For a brief period, we were able to displace the SEC result to Page 2, but a .gov won’t stay buried forever without ongoing effort.
From a reputation advisor’s perspective, the ideal approach is to monitor both search and social, armed with an army of content writers who can pump out new content at will, and suppress negative organic search results while engaging with customers in real-time on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and wherever necessary.
That was the Wild West era of Twitter. So many branded profile names weren’t even reserved. I sat on my home team NFL quarterback’s local morning radio show
At the time of this writing, Ahrefs.com estimates 6,200 Google searches per month for reputation management, 3,600 for online reputation management, and 1,200 monthly searches for reputation management software.
With all the digital monitoring tools changing names and getting acquired, it seems like the service became more of an enterprise-level offering which most small to mid-sized businesses couldn’t afford.
These days, a small business owner can monitor brand mentions across the Web with plenty of tools… though most have limitations (such as Facebook’s privacy wall). You just don’t hear about the industry as often, and I think that’s in part because many of the experts grew weary of helping unethical businessmen hide their indiscretions.
Not all reputation management issues are the fault of the company, obviously. There are plenty of disrespectful people looking to vent or cash in. Some manufacturing mistakes can’t be predicted. Some customer service issues are the fault of a disgruntled employee. Some personal problems shouldn’t be aired for the world to see.
It’s quite an interesting field. If you have questions about how reputation management works, drop me a comment or send me a contact form. I’d love to help if I can.