Reputations, to alter Henry Fonda’s quote, aren’t built on what you plan to accomplish.  Your marketing, ideas, products, or content don’t make your online reputation. Customers, stakeholders, and partners create your brand’s reputation. So reputations are built out there away from your office, intentions, campaigns, and plans. Reputation Economics shares five ways to protect, enhance, and extend your online reputation.

  • Friends and Fans.
  • Stakeholders and Partners.
  • Reviews, Comments, and Social Media.
  • Visitors, Customers, Advocates.
  • What You’re Doing NOW.

Online Reputation Economics – Friends and Fans.

Understand an important online reputation truth – you can’t defend yourself, company, or brand. Defending tightens the online reputation Chinese finger puzzle. Pulling, struggling, and fighting a finger puzzle strengthens the grip. Relaxation is the only way out, the way to making a bad situation worse.

Peer to peer defense is the only medicine sure to quiet a reputation brush fire before years of work, lots of money, and time becomes smoke. Online your reputation, policies, past actions, and possibly untrue fictions created by those who want what you have been under constant attack in places you may never discover, know, or learn.

Similarly, friends and fans crowdsource your Online Reputation Management (ORM). Think about the implications of the last paragraph. If your brand is simultaneously under attack in hundreds or thousands of forums, websites, and blogs AND any defense by you results in more flames winning hearts and minds to create advocates, defenders, and protectors is your only hope.

These statements apply equally to the Fortune 100 and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Past reputation is no protection against future disaster. When United Airlines removes a passenger, their online reputation burns. When Choate Rosemary Hall, I’m an alumnus, mishandles sexual misconduct the story blows up. Don’t learn the hard way about online reputation management.

Winning Friends and Fans

You must win friends and influence people to crowdsource your online reputation. And you must win advocates and friends in a harsh environment. Online good news pales while bad explode like gasoline fires and feedback is delayed or nonexistent. Understanding Ben McConnell and Jackie Hub’s 1:9:90 Rule is a critical success factor (CSF).

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
Citizen Marketer

Advocacy depends on five things.

  • Asking for help.
  • Defining what you want via examples (features of helpful user-generated content).
  • Rewarding advocates.
  • A safe place for advocates to interact with and learn from each other.
  • Sharing your website with advocates via profiles, exclusive content, and inclusion.

Online Reputation Economics – Partners and Stakeholders

Partners are companies you pay or who pay you for products and services. Stakeholder interests align with you. When you benefit the stakeholder benefits. Your reputation is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Select a poor supplier, and your brand takes the hit.

What is the only way out of a brand, partner or stakeholder fire? Friend, fans, and advocates are your company’s defense against a brand, bad partner or stakeholder fire.

Extend your brand carefully and realize how other brands help or hurt your online reputation before engaging or renewing deals.

Online Reputation Economics – Reviews

Everything you do earns or loses reputation. For legal reasons you can share your terms of service but reinforcing those wishes is another matter. Let’s frame the discussion helpfully. If doing something risked everything you’ve worked hard and spent heavily to build would you do it?

Your mission Mr. Phelps is to solve the puzzle, to find ways to help (period, full stop). What happens when you convert Debbie downer to positive Peggy? Customers you’ve calmed, supported and over-served become fierce advocates more than half the time.

So never make a mistake, but when you do admit, assure, listen, and then act differently. Fight, struggle, and contradict and you’ll lose. Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.

Social Media

No way to define all of the social media reputation dos and don’ts here. Let’s recall two critical success factors:

  • Everything either builds or destroys an online reputation.
  • Each Tweet, Facebook or Instagram post can confuse, anger, and upset someone.
  • The only way to defend is with an army of friends, fans, and advocates you can’t seem to control and whose recruitment must be voluntary and more them than you.

Online Reputation Economics – Visitors, Customers, Advocates

There’s a new conversion funnel. McKinsey’s New Consumer Decision Journey shows how smartphones, ubiquitous Internet, and social media changes your customers’ journey.

McKinsey New Customer Decision Journey image
Buying is the center not the end of the new online “conversion funnel”. Are your customers:

  • creating unboxing videos
  • sharing their experience with friends
  • writing a review

Earning advocacy to cement relationships begins another conversation, another buying journey. Keep customers talking is the new digital marketer’s goal.

Online Reputation Economics – NOW

What are you doing today? The next generation of customer advocates depends on your recognition, support, and understanding. Doing these things help convert visitors into customer advocates:

  • Customer Profiles on your Website
  • Monthly Customer Features
  • Social Rewards (mentioning customers on social media)
  • Loyalty Program/Game

Online reputation economics depend on the quality, frequency, and recency of your customer conversations so the old catalog metric Recency, Frequency, Monetary (RFM) becomes Recency, Frequency, and Conversations (RFC).

Your generosity, vulnerability, and sharing earn the same. Yes, betting on the come, your sharing before your 1% customer advocates do the same, is scary.

Your ability to have, reward, and encourage conversations is the only tactic scaled competitors like Amazon haven’t fully figured out yet (though Amazon’s reviews are close), so there is no choice. Be open to conversations, share your transparent self, and be vulnerable or your brand ends.