Here's another dirty little secret about your brand and how you manage your online reputation...
There's no difference between what's being said online and in the "real world."
In fact, let's call a moratorium on the separation of the two... because that no longer exists. If someone tells you about a brand, product or service, what's your first action at that point in time? You do an online search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Twitter, whatever...). You don't run down to a retail store to look for yourself, and you don't call up an office and ask for more information ("can you please mail me your corporate brochure?"). You look to see what is being said about the brand online (by them, their competitors and your peers). Positive, negative or neutral, that is your first brand interaction.
Most people have their first brand interaction at a search box.
But that's going to change in the coming months and years as most people's first brand interaction is going to happen in the palm of their hand (and then, maybe, the second brand interaction will happen online). And so it goes: the world continues to blur. There is no online and real world, and there is no longer a "mobile" and the "Internet." It is all this simply this: one unified brand reputation that is not divided up by technology, platform or channel.
How messy it already is.
Most brands still keep the two separate (or try to). That was made abundantly clear to me when I was asked to be a part of the article, Looking good in cyberspace, which was published in the Montreal Gazette today (full disclosure: I have a business column that runs twice monthly in this newspaper). The message is trickling both up and down the business world - from the corner dry cleaner to the multi-national brands: any one individual can say whatever they want about your products and services - whether you enable/empower them or you don't. They can spray it on their Facebook wall, tweet it out to their Twitter followers, post it on a review platform like Yelp!, or even on their own Blog. It's there, it's public and it's permanent for the world to see. Not just the virtual world.
Let's do everyone a favour (brands, consumers and marketers alike) and drop the "online" part from "online reputation management."