“Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.” - Richard Branson
Susan goes to HourlyNerd, an online talent portal based in Boston, and bids on a project to do research on the Italian wheat market for Cargill, a privately-held food conglomerate. Cargill executives receive Susan’s bid, review her proposal, and read reviews from her past clients. Winning Cargill’s business will depend on how Susan presents herself online, in what is known as online reputation management.
Social Media and Reviews Drive Online Reputations
- 84% of professionals who use social media for B2B purchases are in charge of purchasing for their entire company or business unit, versus only 56% of buyers who have this level of influence and do not use social media.
- 75% of social buyers prefer to work with sales professionals that are recommended by trusted peers.
- 65% consider it critical to check the references of vendors, including on LinkedIn and other platforms.
What is Reputation Management
Reputation is the feedback loop of our personal brand. Reputation management begins with the experience of our clients. If our clients are happy, they will say good things about us, and that will help us get more clients.
Brand = story + marketing + reputation
Our brand begins with a story about ourselves. We share our story with the world through marketing. Our clients share the experiences they have with us, and their stories become our reputation.
Your story is your life, your identity, how you began, your purpose for starting, what you strive to offer customers, your name, and your logo.
Your reputation is what other people say about you.
Did she deliver on time? Did he do what we asked him to do? How well did she present the work? Did he respond to feedback? Did she exceed my expectations?
As business freelancers, we must be willing to ask our clients the ultimate question:
“Would you recommend me to your colleagues and friends?”
Online reputation management includes
- having a website,
- online talent portal and business directory listings,
- public relations activity by means of blogging and other content,
- involvement in social media sites, and
- building social profiles.
The goal of online reputation management is to use the internet to create competitive advantage.
Reputation Management Strategy
The first step is to listen. What are people saying about us? Does what we are hearing match what we think about ourselves?
Identify the parts of your business where online reputation management can have the biggest impact. For example, blogging can be a good way to share your expertise so that potential clients know what you can do.
- Understand and define the audience you are trying to reach online. For business freelancers, we are selling B2B, so our audience is other business professionals.
- Select online platforms where your potential audience is most active. LinkedIn and Twitter are good places for business freelancers to network with other business professionals.
StumbleUpon can be a platform for sharing blog posts and driving traffic to your website.
Only connect with people on social media that you know IRL or who are referred by a trusted source.
What is the ROI of our online reputation management activities? How are we tracking our performance?
Analytics platforms from Bing and Google provide metrics to measure website performance, and social media platforms provide metrics for tracking profile performance.
Reach, Engagement, Sentiment
For metrics on a blog post shared on LinkedIn, consider the following:
- Reach = number of contacts, followers, and visitors to your website
- Engagement = likes, comments, and shares
- Sentiment = positive versus negative comments
Focus on creating original content, not just sharing content created by others.
How to Build Social Profiles
Your website should be your primary online profile. Potential clients will go to your website to learn more about you. And your website provides a hub for all of your other social media profiles, making you and your content more discoverable.
As you engage your audience across platforms, strive to provide a consistent experience to build your brand and reputation.
According to SEOmoz in their annual report Local Search Ranking Factors, the single most important factor in search engine results is On-Page Signals. This means the basics like what is your name, address, and phone number (NAP). The information should be accurate and consistent across platforms.
External Signals are the second most important factor in search engine results. Include links to your social media profiles, like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, on your website,. And include your website URL on your social media profiles.
Tell your story in long and short versions. On your website, include a bio, resume, and client feedback. Develop a tag line and abbreviated bio for social media profiles. Consistent messaging will help strengthen your brand.
People want to know what you look like. Pick a photo and use it consistently across platforms where you are building your brand as a freelance business consultant.
Keep your clients up to date by posting news and events to your blog. Share this content to LinkedIn, Twitter, and other sites that allow posting. Regular updates will remind your clients to come visit and let search engines like Bing and Google know you are still in business.
Check out Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich for further reading on communication and reputation management in the digital age.