Guest Blogger Michael Fertik: Taking Control of Your Online Brand

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In the era of digitalization, when ROI is often determined by your company's online presence and reputation, how are professionals monitoring, managing, and perhaps manipulating their brands' image online?

Gregory Perrault of Long Beach, California grabbed headlines this February when he sued review website Yelp -- claiming that the company "extorts" customers by promising to hide or remove negative reviews if companies purchase advertising subscriptions. And while Perrault's suit garnered the most attention, this incident is far from isolated and raises a series of interesting questions around companies, the vast importance of their Web presences, and lengths they are willing to go to maintain these reputations.

In the era of digitalization, when ROI is often determined by your company's online presence and reputation, how are professionals monitoring, managing, and perhaps manipulating their brands' image online?Unquestionably, we're seeing brands shift towards a more interactive future, one where their strategies constantly engage the consumer and foster two-way conversations rather than traditional one-way monologues. This shift is due in large part to the Web, mobile devices, and now the iPad. Bottom line: New ways of content delivery are forcing a new way of thinking when it comes to positioning yourself, your brand, and your employees in the public view.

Consumers now want authentic relationships with the brands they support, and luckily the Internet (or the "social web") has provided the perfect arena to perform such functions. With this open engagement, however, brands must be aware of those that are out to cause harm. This is where monitoring and managing your online identities, personal and professional, becomes so very important and can often times make or break, well -- you.

You are your brand. Whether you're a director of marketing, customer service representative, or small business owner, your personal brand is now reflecting your company's global image and it's becoming crucial that both are in sync and functioning seamlessly as one.

Checkmate?

While managing both your own brand and your company's can seem intimidating, it's not hard to begin proactively taking control of the information that is already out there. Here are a few simple but effective tips to get you started.

  1. Social networks all play a role, some more than others. Grab all your profiles, create strong passwords, and delete information that provides an open book to your personal life such as phone numbers and addresses.
  2. It seems as if it couldn't possibly get simpler, but monitor and manage. Watch what people are saying and respond -- join the conversation. Especially if they're talking about you or your brand, who's the best source for information on that? It's simple - you are.
  3. It gets crazy out there, especially when you're juggling 20 or more social profiles across the Web. Use a service or tool that can help you monitor all the chatter. Have it scour the Web for you so you have time to focus on the real stuff -- you and your business.

Go.

No doubt, the move toward the social Web has led to a digital world where original content is in overload with photos, tweets, and blog posts -- all leaving the consumer, the brand, and the professional at risk.

Yet with this risk comes huge potential. Professionals are now helping to not only bring the spotlight to their companies, but also to grow these brands tremendously. Great examples of this are Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group, David Pogue of The New York Times, even actor/producer Ashton Kutcher. Their online identities are leading their companies into the future and sending brand awareness through the roof.

Online social communities are not going away. They will continue to grow, expand in popularity, and become a major vehicle of communication in our society. Start managing. Start listening. And make sure your online brands -- both personal and professional -- are contributing in the thought leadership arena, offering transparency, and providing a vehicle to help grow ROI.

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About the Author: Michael Fertik is CEO of ReputationDefender

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