Online Reputation Management Strategies for Higher Education

online reputation management for higher educationLast week, Fathom’s Jonathan Pogact presented a session at the Higher Education Web Professionals (HighEdWeb) Association’s annual conference titled “Must-Know Strategies for Protecting Your School’s Reputation Online.” For everyone who couldn’t be there, I’m sharing some of his strategies here.

In higher education, reputation online can impact leads, enrollments, starts, retention and alumni relations. It’s important to take an active role in managing your online reputation by getting in front of any possible information that could impact the perception people have about your brand when they search for you online.

Develop a Response Strategy

The first step is to develop responses to possible problems or complaints ahead of time. Colleges and universities should respond to things quickly, so being prepared is mission critical.

If you’re not sure where to start, try talking to your admissions and alumni departments. Chances are that they have heard most of the complaints, questions and more. Be sure to ask about the positive things people say as well. You’ll want to say, “Thank you,” when people say something nice! Take the information you’ve gathered and write sample responses to the common things people ask or say about your school. Now you have a response library to use whenever necessary.

You should respond when:

  • The mention is likely to get a lot of visibility because the author or publisher has high authority online.
  • The mention could change the perception of someone forming an opinion about your school.
  • You can help answer a question about your school by responding to the mention.
  • The mention is positive and you want to say, “Thank you!”

You should NOT respond when:

  • The comment or post comes from a troll. Don’t feed the trolls.
  • The mention is fueled by rage or satire (note: it’s best to block or ignore someone with a mouth like a sailor).
  • Responding could get you into legal trouble.

Utilize Social Media

Maintaining a presence on social media allows you to participate in and influence conversations about your school. A thoughtful, sincere response on social media can convert skeptics, squash potentially viral negative stories and create brand evangelists (in this case school spirit). Additionally, these profiles are likely to rank for branded searches, which can keep negative articles or results from coming into view.

Monitor Conversations

Listening is a major part of online reputation management. You can’t respond or be proactive if you don’t know what people are saying and who is saying what. Free techniques include searching social networks such as Twitter and Google+ for brand mentions. You can set up Google Alerts to scan the Web for you, or you can use SocialMention to search.

There are also many paid tools that can help monitor conversations about your school online. Each has a range of pricing models. Some of those tools include Trackur, Sysomos, Radian6 and Meltwater.

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Check out Fathom’s 30-pg. Ultimate Guide to Marketing an Educational Institution with Social Media. It’s full of insightful interviews and illustrative case studies on using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for marketing a school.

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About Stephanie Pflaum

Stephanie Pflaum is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist for Fathom Education, a higher education marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. Stephanie specializes in higher education recruitment strategies that include SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing and Online Reputation. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Marketing and Statistics. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @StephPflaum.

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