Covid pandemic has forced us to relook into our lives and priorities differently. New perspectives have seeped in and have made us adapt to newer ways of functioning especially at the work front. It hasn't spared any sector or vertical. Like in a traditional B2B arena till recently the major chunk of sales relied on one-to-one meetings, trade exhibitions, seminars, and today the scenario has morphed into a different ball game. Zoom and Google Meetings have replaced client meetings, exhibitions have taken virtual avatar and webinar is the new seminar. It will take a while for the world to function like in the past and till then the digital seems to be the obvious choice for all of us.
The good thing is that most of us are aware of the perks of being present on digital platforms, the reason why almost 90 per cent of B2B companies today own a website as a point of contact. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Most of the companies are oblivious to their presence on the internet popularly known as online reputation. In simple terms, your online reputation is what your customer or anybody sees as a result of their search of your company name/ product on Google or related search engines. It’s a total of your digital footprint appearing on search engine results pages (SERP). Google search results showing images, videos, media coverage, social media handles, location maps, customer reviews, ratings all lead to creating positive or negative affinity towards any company or product. It can be a make-or-break situation if you take your online reputation for granted. Because as per a recent study over 90% of purchase decisions are made based on the user-generated content available on the internet.
Online reputation is equally important for individuals also. Gone are the days when companies hired people based on their scores and credentials. New age HR policies stress validating the incumbent's behavioural analysis, especially on social media platforms. And it just doesn’t end at hiring. Even top management teams and professionals are put under the radar and evaluated based on their online reputation. Their past statements were given to media, online portals, response to customer escalations, HR policies, and political views often come across as critical points of validation and assessment. And all these can be critical if you plan to diversify or looking for funds from potential investors or financial institutions.
The roadmap to manage effective online reputation is an ongoing process and one should treat it as an auto-immune condition. You just have to keep managing it with care and attention and consider it a work in progress department. Having said it here are a few quick reckoners to set the ball rolling and begin making your impression on the digital world.
- While most people worry about how their website looks, what is often neglected is the domain name chosen for your site. It is recommended to have the domain name the same as your company name which helps your customers to remember it easily and also Google to put you on top search results. Beware of fraudsters owning domain names and coming up with fake sites. If you don’t own your website domain name someone else will do.
- Do a quick audit of how you appear on the internet. Simply begin with a search of your company name and see your digital footprint. Understanding where you stand at the moment is important before you begin any reputation management initiatives.
- Some of us still think that social media isn’t an ideal tool if you are in the B2B business. Social media platforms are icebreakers; they help in engaging with your customers with conversations beyond business and make you sound less pushy.
- Use videos to showcase your capabilities, because seeing believes. Micro videos are the trend, tell your story in a crisp and engaging format and share it online. Your customers are sure to find them and learn about you before the meeting.
- Don't shy away from media. Engage a PR agent to help you with coverage on publications. Today most of the news portals have online editions and your article can be shared with anyone in the world with a link. Being featured on media adds credibility and transparency to your image.
Let’s be reminded again that online reputation management is an ongoing long-term process and one must put in dedicated efforts to see the results. Undoing on the internet is tougher than doing, so make sure everything that goes on the internet is validated and inspected thoroughly.
Sanish Bhaskaran, Reputation Management Strategist, Surestory, Kochi