You might be thinking that you don’t have to do anything to protect your online reputation. Perhaps you’re thinking, who would want to do anything against a charitable organization? You would be mistaken. Criminals and trolls don’t pick favorites, and unfortunately, any person or group can be fair game.
Nonprofits Can Be a Prime Target
In the “wild west” of the digital world and social media, plenty of people and organizations have gotten their emails, websites and social networks hacked by people who are looking to cause havoc or worse, steal. If your site is hacked, for instance, you can find yourself in a situation where people are donating to your charity, only the funds are not going to your nonprofit but into the pockets of criminals. The same can occur if you’re social media accounts are hacked.
You can also find yourself on the “wrong” side of an issue, and let’s face it, in today’s world no one can please everyone and trolls would love the chance to make it rain negativity on your organization if they feel like it.
Therefore, it’s always a smart thing to think about online reputation management.
An Ounce of Prevention
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, although some nonprofits, particularly the smaller ones with limited resources and bandwidth prefer to have a limited online presence, this is not the approach you should be taking.
Your organization does, in fact, have to have an active website, mobile, digital and social media presence because, in the digital age, that’s how you get supporters and engage. However, you have to be proactive about the risks that are involved, just as you would with your own bank account and personal accounts. I’m sure you take precautions with respect to your personal finances and social media accounts. The same is true for your nonprofit’s digital presence.
Search Engine Results for Your Organization
Any online reputation management begins by searching for yourself on the big search engines, especially Google and then Bing. Search for your nonprofit’s name and don’t stop at seeing the results of the first page. Go deeper into the weeds by searching to see if there’s anything adverse in the first five pages of the search results. You should also look at Google News and see if you missed anything that might have been written as a news item.
If you happen to find negative items, you need to make a note of them. See the source, and take note of the URL since you will probably be returning to those pages. Depending on the type of source, you can ask third-party sites to correct any erroneous information, however, depending on the source, you may have success or not.
Audit Your Social Media Accounts
The next places you’ll want to review carefully are all of your social networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. If you see there are negative posts that may have been done by someone else, you can delete them. If you have comments or shares that are evidently from dissatisfied people (e.g., donors, ex-staff), the rule is to address it professionally and then take it offline as quickly as possible. Remember, you always want to remain positive, even if you’re dealing with a negative situation. If you’re dealing with trolls, then you can choose to briefly reply that you respectfully disagree or choose not to engage at all since trolls are looking to get a rise from you.
If you find yourself in a situation where there’s something about you on a search engine search or social media, you can also look at paid services such as Reputation Defender, or tools such as Trackur or Rankur. However, depending on the issue, you may end up spending a lot of money for incomplete results because nothing is ever really “erased” from the internet and search engines in our country are loathe to delete information. Each situation is different.
You or someone on your team should be regularly monitoring the digital information about your organization on the Internet and also on social media. Make sure, always, to have information at the ready should you need to challenge a third party platform about something they have in their system that is simply flat-out incorrect or even abusive. Read the “Terms of Service” for all platforms, including social media, so you can challenge things should it come to that concerning your online reputation.