A digital tattoo can be viewed in many ways (literally). Used well, it can demonstrate the best aspects of your business to a large online audience. If poorly managed, however, a damaging digital tattoo can become a serious liability. So: what is the digital tattoo of your business, and how can you control it?
When someone googles you, what do they see? If you've never tried Googling yourself (AKA egosurfing) - take a deep breath and give it a shot. If your search does not return many interesting websites, consider a few simple search tips to improve accuracy:
- Use AND between your first and last name (i.e. John AND Anderson) or use quotation marks to surround your complete name (i.e. "John Anderson").
- If you have a fairly common name, try adding your middle name or initial. Alternatively, you might try adding a business, school, organization or society that you are strongly affiliated with (i.e. "John Anderson" AND "BC Hydro").
- Try using a few different search engines to see how the results differ.
Happily surprised, or cringing in shame? Chances are, if you have participated in social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or have created a blog using your real name, most of these sites will show up in a search for your name. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big deal these days - and for many businesses, social media profiles will actually rank higher than their business home page / webpage, and at a much lower cost.
Now...what about your business? Using the same strategies as used for searching your personal digital tattoo, look instead for the name of your business. You might also add the geographic location of your business (i.e. "John Anderson Accounting" AND "Kelowna") to improve accuracy.
One of the biggest differences between a personal and a business digital tattoo, is that people tend to be more critical of a business than an individual on the web. Consumers love to vent the frustrations they experience when purchasing goods or paying for a service, and the internet has only magnified the voice of unsatisfied consumers.
Don't be surprised if - when googling your business - you run into a few unflattering comments that have been posted on an online discussion board, rating/review website or on personal blogs. Instead, view this as a chance to re-connect with your customers. Don't ignore the negative feedback - respond to it! A strongly worded negative review of your new business can usually only be removed (or reworded) by one person - the creator of the review. Rather than ignoring the online negativity - and allowing anyone who googles your business to view it, try to engage the criticism and to correct the (real or perceived) problem head-on. Who knows - with a little effort and communication, that negative review might be turned into a glowing recommendation.
Managing the digital tattoo of your business:
- Social media lets you control the message - or at least your side of the story. This can also help to balance the inevitable negativity that businesses are exposed to on the web.
- The more places that your business 'exists' on the web, the wider your presence will be. Bigger is better.
- Don't ignore consumer feedback - particularly criticism. Monitor what people are saying about your business through online review sites. Respond (with empathy - not aggression) to online voices.
- Have a social media policy in place - and make sure that your employees are aware of what it means to them. If one of your employees will be handling your company facebook page - make sure that they fully understand what is and is not appropriate.
- Ask for online recommendations. Your customers and business partners may be more than willing to write a few positive words and post it to their own websites, blogs or facebook pages. Quid pro quo - you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Be willing to do the same for them.
- You are your business. As important as the digital tattoo of your business name is - as its owner, your name matters too. Try to keep your digital tattoo aligned with your business wherever possible.
Your digital tattoo should be accounted for when making marketing decisions. Try not to shy away from managing the online presence of your business, or decide simply that it's out of your control - it's not.
+ PHOTO CREDIT: Photo How well I could write if i were not here! created by madamepsychosis on Feb 7, 2006, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Last viewed on Dec 28, 2010.