American Painting Contractor Magazine

April 2013

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Cyber Status Take control of your online reputation before it takes control of you By Darylene Dennon hat makes a person or a business a success isn't always about what they offer; more often it is about who they are and if they stay true to their word. It is all too common a thought that building an online reputation, or any reputation, doesn't matter or shouldn't matter. People tend to think that if they focus on being the best at what they do, they needn't worry about anything else. Caring about an online reputation doesn't mean we need others to like us, but it does mean we need to provide a service others can know, like and trust. Social media has changed the rules for reputation both personally and professionally. One minute you can be on top of your game with positive remarks and good testimonials, the next the dreaded negative comment appears from seemingly nowhere. Whether it's real or not, it is written for all to see. Your reputation is now in question. My suggestion is to be proactive and take control of your reputation before someone else does. Last month I covered How to Create an Authentic Personal Brand. This is a very important "starter" to managing your W • About 77 percent of American consumers say they are more likely to buy a product or service recommended by someone they know. Roughly 81 percent go online to verify those recommendations before actually making a purchase. Wharton University, July 2010. • Note that 72 percent of those who research online will not buy if there is a negative comment about a business. 32 • April 2013 APC online reputation. Once you have a personal brand, you are ready to build a reputation around it. Today's consumers have endless amounts of information at their fingertips; therefore, it is harder to maintain a top-of-mind presence in the current marketplace, even if you have millions to spend on advertising. How does a person or company level the playing field and provide the consumer consistent proof that the personal brand that they created is trustworthy? Before you can answer this question, we have to understand exactly how to build a reputation. A reputation is not earned by simply telling people what they want to hear. A reputation is something that is earned when you share knowledge, answer questions, provide insight on your field of expertise and provide information that helps your target client address real problems. Building a reputation isn't as hard as you might think. It can start with offline content marketing that you can do by giving speeches, teaching seminars, participating in interviews or contributing an article to a local paper, magazine, newsletter, etc. Content marketing today is best served online as part of your social media strategy and includes links to articles, videos, photos and graphics that tell a story, not just advertise. This marketing method reaches more people faster through online and social media platforms, and the content is much easier for consumers to read. The content needed to build a reputation has to relate to you and your business. It should be relevant to your business and must focus on things your target client needs or would like to know. ✓ Build a list of topics or lessons learned. ✓ Give interesting industry news. Tell a story about challenges you faced and how you overcame them. ✓ Write about a business with which you had a great experience while working together. ✓ Interview another company or person or share a story that inspires. ✓ Provide industry news from a new perspective. Building a reputation these days requires consistent content that is enjoyable to read. Don't bore anyone with what you can do for them or talk about boring product explanations or service descriptions. Most will stop reading. Once you build your online reputation, then the challenge is to keep it positive. Here are a few ways you can monitor your online reputation: 1. Search your company name and your own name – read every post. 2. Respond and correct any negative customer issues. Do it in a professional manner, and learn from these comments by improving your product or service. 3. When you create content to build your reputation, use a variety of online social media, blogs, videos, etc., and make sure you optimize them so they come up high in the search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. 4. Stay on top of what is being said about you and your business, respond to customer comments and work to build a positive online image. The time you spend is worth it for you and your company's reputation. Remember, once you have created your personal brand and built a reputation it is up to you to keep it positive by remaining authentic in your message, being honest in your approach and living each day with integrity by being true to the words you speak. Give back to your community and listen with understanding. People buy from people they APC know, like and trust. ✓ Darylene Dennon is co-owner of Solid Energy, Inc., in Washington state. She can be reached at Women in Painting is a PDCA forum created to give a female perspective of the painting industry.

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