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Managing your reputation in social media.

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The social media landscape is the premier medium companies use to generate and monitor buzz about their brands, products and services. With all the consumer-driven channels—social networking communities, blogs, forums, newsgroups, wikis, video-sharing sites, social bookmarking—there is a wealth of information being spread about your companies' products and services that you may or may not be aware of.

For a lot of companies, this is a good thing. Social media are the online version of word-of-mouth advertising, one of the most effective and viral forms of marketing. However, it should be noted that customers will typically share bad news three times more often than they'll spread good news. Negative commentary in the social sphere can have a major impact on brands that companies have spent many years and significant resources building.

This is where having an online reputation management strategy comes into play. You can effectively spin conversations about your brand in a positive way. Think of reputation management in social media as an interactive extension of your overall public relations strategy. Damage control is one aspect of this strategy, but it is important to note that reputation management is most effective as a proactive measure rather than a reactive one. Being heavily connected to the social media landscape is a great way to put your brand in a position of control, as opposed to the ad hoc approach of chasing after and squashing various dissenters.

To manage its reputation on a tactical level, a company might:

  • Create and manage a profile on all the major social networking sites.

  • Have a third party build a Wikipedia page for your company and link out to positive resources about your products and services.

  • Use social bookmarking sites to develop portals that link to positive press about your company, products and services.

  • Broadcast any visual media from your site by creating a YouTube channel and a Flickr account.

  • Participate in active discussion boards and blogs within your industry.

  • Build a company blog (with accompanying RSS feed) and advertise it to the masses.

Using these tactics and many others, you can tap into the power of social media and uncover insights into the kinds of discussions audiences are having about your brand. Implementing a holistic brand optimization strategy is the first step to aligning your online reputation with your overall marketing objectives.

Nick Bourgeois is senior search specialist for Acquity Group (www.acquitygroup.com), a provider of integrated solutions for strategy, technology and design.

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