Your reputation precedes you; your reputation follows you, and once established, your reputation is—for better or worse—tough to shake. That’s why actively positioning yourself and your professional brand is so important. Think of it this way: your reputation is on the line with every tweet, shared image, Facebook update, LinkedIn post, and response (or lack of a response) to a negative review or customer complaint online. Social media doesn’t simply provide you with a convenient way to reach your customers; it also allows those customers to reach out to you, while the whole world watches. That can be a scary proposition, unless you view it as your opportunity to establish your online reputation as a responsive, customer-centric social business.

Know Where You Stand

A great first step to online reputation management is conducting an online reputation audit. Google your name or the name of your clinic and you’ll quickly see where you stand. If you are nowhere to be found on page one results, or worse, if negative reviews or photographic evidence of your weekend shenanigans is what floods the results page, you have some work to do. The good news? Social media sites are high authority platforms when it comes to Google search, so optimizing your social profiles can help you clean up your image. Posting regularly helps, too. If you are a Google+ user, for instance, you’ll notice your latest G+ posts appear to the right of your search results when you Google your name or the name of your business. David Straight of just wrote about this very topic in a blog post earlier this week.

Capitalize on Opportunities

It’s not very likely that you will develop and maintain a reputation for being a flawless person or for having the perfect product. No one expects that. However, it’s far more common for professionals or businesses to develop bad reputations for responding poorly (or not at all) when things don’t go right. No bueno. Each customer interaction (or touchpoint, as some like to call it) is your and your practice’s opportunity to establish and reinforce your reputation as the awesomely responsive social business that you are. Consumers don’t always expect you to fix whatever is wrong immediately or to completely resolve a service issue in 140 characters or fewer. What they do expect is responsiveness. We all want to be heard and acknowledged, and we want to know our concerns are being taken seriously. Social media gives you the perfect platform to listen to your customers, respond in real time, and make a positive impression with each and every interaction.

Resist the Urge to Sell

This might seem counterintuitive at first glance, especially for small business owners who can barely carve out time to spend on social in the first place. It seems that you should maximize the time you do devote to social media, and thus, you should spend that time selling your product to your target audience. That’s half right. You do want to maximize your time and efforts on social media, but that doesn’t always mean selling. Know your platforms. Consider how you (as a social media user, not a marketer) engage on different social media sites. If you think it would be annoying or inappropriate for a brand to sell to you while you peruse pictures from your nephew’s fifth birthday party or while you try to keep up with the lives of your friends on the East Coast, then that’s how others will feel about your efforts to sell to them. One of the most important steps to a successful social media reputation management strategy is identifying the most effective platforms for your messaging. You don’t want to seem overly aggressive or solely interested in making a sale. And you don’t want to look like a noob either, so choose wisely when it comes to selecting which social media sites you spend the time on.

The bottom line is that it’s useful to think of your social media presence and your activities on social media platforms as reputation management, rather than sales or conventional marketing. Now, if you’re your own social media team, PR team, marketing team, and street team, just remember when to wear which hat, and you’ll do great!

So, what do you think? What is your practice’s social media strategy? Let me know in the comments below.

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