Over the weekend, a friend asked me what actions I'd use in checking my company's online presence and reputation. And although I'm sure you'll think of more , I came up with this short list.
I'd secure my URL to protect my name and I'd make sure my company was in the top ten listed in Google search. To see if yours is indexed on Google (or Yahoo or MSN) you can type in the search box - site: your domain name.com. For instance, with my site, I typed in site: marionguthrie.com. The reason why is that your company's site should be built and indexed to accommodate high search rankings otherwise you won't appear as credible to your prospects and peers. This will give you a starting point, a "you are here" perspective. Then to raise your search ranking, before you utilize the talents of a consultant, check out Wikipedia, skim through Peter Kent's Search Engine Optimization for Dummies and give me a shout.
Next I'd set up a Google Alert for my company. Simple enough to do and it will tell you what is being said about you (as well as companies or people with similar names), where your reputation stands and insights into flaws in your service or delivery that should be corrected. If your customers are complaining, this alert will help you find out.
Just like having a corporate brochure or a business card, I'd create a company presence on LinkedIn so that interested prospects could look up your company and find a description and a mission statement. Also, depending on your offering, you might consider establishing a group for clients so that when they use your service, they are encouraged to join that group and post your company's logo on their personal site. Within that group you (and they) will be able to post questions and responses (for example, on your service and how they are using it successfully) which will encourage customer dialog and build credibility with prospects. Build your own profile on LinkedIn and join a group so you can see how this works.
If you're thinking about putting your company on Facebook, I'd be cautious as it has a non-professional feel. Let's face it rock stars and families use Facebook to stay in touch and build fans. Coke uses it because 2 loyal fans decided to start a group which was sanctioned, much later, by the company. If I was a cereal, a baby product, an automobile or a movie, I'd probably be on Facebook but especially as a service business I'd be careful because I want you to believe that I'm intelligent and serious about helping you make money. Check out what some of your competitors are doing.... are they on Facebook?
Most importantly, don't think first about the technology -- think first about your target customers. Do you know who your new business prospect is and where they're looking, reading, and interacting? Once you have this nailed down, the rest (objectives, strategy and tactics) will come naturally and you won't be, for example, on Twitter just for the sake of being on Twitter. If you use it, it will be a technology tactic that is part of an overall business and identity development strategy.