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When speaking about what Reputation.com does, people often think of Online Reputation Management (ORM) as a defensive strategy. And for some, it is. However, Google is often the first impression anyone gets when they’re introduced to your brand online. While SEO is an excellent way of getting your company to the top of search, there are nine other results that come up during these searches as well. What are on them? Are they about you? Are they positive? Are you surrounded by all of your competitors? Are there negative reviews or complaints? What online reputation management does is makes sure that the most accurate, positive, reflection of you, your brand, your products, and your services come up when your prospective clients search for you. How this gets done is up to you; and, like everything, sailing’s always easier when seas are calm.

The content of what comes up on search when you’re searched for can be just about anything, as long as it’s compelling, comprehensive, accurate, and timely. The content can be created by you as you build out your social media and social network empire: Twitter, Facebook Pages, Google+ Business Pages, Pinterest, Tumblr, About.me, LinkedIn, Blogger, TypePad, WordPress.com, YouTube, Slideshare, or your own blog. The content can be created by your PR team or by a third party, be it a journalist, a blog, a press release, an interview, or as a resource to the mainstream media.

An interesting and more authentic way to really become part of the global Internet conversation, and one that’s not appreciated nearly enough, is engaging more thoroughly in your closer and greater community. Why don’t you and your corporate executives spend a little more time invested in your community. Board memberships, associations, altruistic contributions, generous giving, corporate underwriting, company-sponsored fundraising campaigns — they’re all very newsworthy and powerful ways of becoming part of a larger web-community and a larger conversation — plus, it reflects very well on your, your colleagues, your values, and your company. Since Google loves college .EDU and organization .ORG mentions online, contributing time, energy, expertise, advisement, and money to your alma mater could on your own behalf or on behalf of your company can readily benefit you both with stars in Heaven as well as in a gorgeous reflection on search and an A+ for your Online Reputation Management grade.

And if folks love you, you can even reach out to past clients, friends, colleagues, associates, and family and ask them for some link love, some copy inches, some social shares, comments, likes, and +1s. While the ultimate aim of this sort of content population and engagement might well be to own the first two pages of search — a worthy goal, indeed — there are many more immediate benefits as well as a very important caveat-slash-warning.

The immediate benefits are plentiful: you’ll very quickly become a participant in a global conversation known as the Internet. If you’re just a local company, you’ll quickly realize that they entire world’s your oyster. By becoming a part of multiple social networking services and social web platforms, you’ll start to meet your future employees and clients where they live — because just being amazing isn’t good enough anymore.

You start to get a feel for each community and if you really stick with each one, you’ll realize that they’re not just different flavors of icecream: Pinterest is not remotely Facebook which has nothing to do with LinkedIn which can’t even talk to Google+. And, when you start creating your own content via a blog or Tumblr, you’ll start to realize that others will share you, your products, your services, your experiences, and your expertise with all of their friends, colleagues, family, and associates.

None of this will happen right away — but the benefits of opening these profiles and blogs will happen almost immediately since all of these exceptionally popular sites have much more Google juice and mojo than you probably do — or ever will.

And here’s the Warning/Caveat: once you set up all of these platforms, social networks, boards, blogs, and so forth, just right and the way you like them, you’ll need to participate, respond, populate, comment, follow, follow-back, #followfriday, and #hashtag for the rest of your life — or until your company folds.

It might seem like a millstone, but please reframe it as a labor of love. You don’t need to do it all on your own. If you make sure someone gets the job who loves doing it and thrives in the world of blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, pinning, and all the rest then it’s all good.

And don’t worry about needing to provide too much new and exciting content all the time — 80% of all online content-production is just interaction, responding, being smart, being there, helping people out, answering questions, doing some customer support. Only 20% needs to be shamelessly self-promotional content.

And, to be honest, just hire a social media services company — authentic voice? I guarantee you that a trained communications professional who loves social media, gets Twitter and the whole gang down pat and who loves and respects people online and on the Internet will always represent you much better than an authentic staffer or staffers at your company who doesn’t care less about social media, considers it something awful dumped on top of their already over-worked life — a real grind.

This sort of person — the reluctant tweeter — actually might do you more harm than a social media service bureau that really appreciates your work, really loves social media, and speaks online fluently and with infinite patience, generosity and responsiveness.

So now that we’re at the end of this blog post — which I love and adore doing (as well as all the rest of that social media stuff) — I want to remind you that I work for Reputation.com and that our job is Online Reputation Management (ORM). And while you may not understand how investing fully and completely in getting yourself, your company, and your colleagues on social media in a real way, it’s essential.

In order to make an Online Reputation Management (ORM) campaign sing like a Stradivarius, you need something to work with. You cannot spin two pages of positive content about you and your company out of think air — or even straw! You need to start building the bones of an online reputation first, moving on to cartilage, muscles, tendons, and then organs.

And when you’re done with all of this, there’s very little chance of anyone not finding you, your brand, your company, and your services — and in a context that will make you appear much more trustworthy and maybe even quite a bit world class that you currently may be at the moment. And if you’re already a high-income, high-earning badass, investing fully online will only allow you to grow your brand, your reach, and your mindshare — and for a hell of a lot less money than a typical traditional advertising campaign on radio, television, and newspaper ever was.

Building a strong online reputation defense is the best promotional strategy going.

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(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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