Having been around the online reputation management business for some time, it still irks me somewhat when I find suspect seminars and fee-based marketing gimmicks designed to rake in hundreds or thousands of dollars for simply pointing small businesses in the right direction concerning SEO. I’ve long believed that there is undoubtedly a niche for this service, yet in my opinion this is derived from 1-on-1, honest, simple dialogue between a reputation management service and its client rather than fancy marketing terms and gobbledygook. My stomach still turns when I see some obvious online ploy (usually disguised as an entry-fee seminar or monthly fee contractual agreement) with a handful of suits jockeying for position by offering an unreasonable price for everything from social media consultation to developing online brand identity. The reason for this isn’t due to a lack of demand for such information, but rather the fact that most small businesses and individuals could do the research themselves for less than one-fifth of the overall cost; if not much less than that.
Claiming Your Brand Online
This brings me to an introductory step that many firms must take when deciding to take a hands-on approach to reputation management. For our readers who are just now getting into the concept of monitoring and responding to online feedback about a particular brand, online branding encompasses tasks such as ensuring that your company’s data is published correctly and responding to online entries (such as reviews) in an effort to improve the overall perception of your firm while also gaining valuable feedback from customers.
If you’re completely new to this process, the first website you’ll probably want to visit is Google Places. If you type Your Company’s Name into the Google Search engine, the information displayed (along with a map) is due to the data gathered by Google Places. Once you’ve created an account, you can simply click on the “Business Owner” link while visiting your firm’s page to properly identify yourself as the owner or official representative of a particular company. The verification process involves providing as much key information as possible about your business (this is beneficial in the long run). There are separate slots available for providing photos and video content of your site (in cases where customers are expected to visit a physical address) along with a space for adding an online coupon for those who are referred to you by Google searches.
Foursquare is another commonly used website that integrates social media and allows users to check-in when they are dining out, shopping, or partaking in any other professional service as a client. You might find that upon visiting Foursquare.com that there is already a profile listed for your particular company. This is due to the fact that customers are allowed to create a listing for you (just like Google Places and others) in order to check-in. Once you have gone through the simple process of claiming your Foursquare account, you will then be allowed to enter all relevant data related to your business as well as offer bonus rewards for those who check-in the most often. Ensuring that all the information published is correct is vitally important due to the online marketing aspect that comes with a Foursquare entry.
The process is very similar when it comes to claiming your brand at Facebook Places, or review sites including Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com. It really doesn’t take any large amount of effort; only a small amount of your time and the ability to sign up for an account plus verify that you are the owner or an official representative of the firm in question.
Hopefully this guide will prove helpful for those who would like a non-intimidating way to get involved in their own online reputation. If you have any questions, feel free to leave your comments below.
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