At the end of the day, your reputation is all you have. Your business lives and dies by it and you need to nurture it like you would a child. A problem many companies face is allowing their online reputation to become the face of the business.
Every business in the world these days has an internet footprint. Entire forums, social media discussions, bulletin boards, and even YouTube channels can often be dedicated to a single business.
The kicker is that many of them are not run by the company.
Customers are very internet savvy so you need to be on the ball when you manage your online reputation.
Why is Online Reputation So Important?
Before we had the internet, all good and bad info about a business was relayed by word of mouth, the Better Business Bureau, and the media (either for promotions or if something went really wrong).
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, etc. represent the new word of mouth. Instead of one person telling another person, they now tell potentially thousands. You want your business to go viral in a positive way. Just one bad experience by a customer can make your ability to manage your online reputation an uphill battle.
But there is hope.
Get it Right From the Start
This is really all about brand awareness and customer service/retention. From the very beginning, you need processes for handling customer issues in place. Follow these processes immediately because there is no second chance to make a good first impression.
This includes having someone monitor your social media across multiple platforms. Then train all employees in how to handle customers online and off.
It is also crucial to tell employees that their personal social media presence reflects on the business. As they say, loose lips sink ships.
If you’re serious and want to manage your online reputation effectively, you need to be everywhere. Everyone uses Facebook and Twitter so that’s a no-brainer. But don’t stop at just those two because customers won’t. Join up and monitor Yelp! and other online/mobile review sites. Be visible on Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. Sign up to discussion forums that cover what your business does. Keep an eye toward the future for new social media outlets and make sure you have the staff to manage your reputation on those sites and create/maintain a real presence.
Respond Quickly and Kindly
The unavoidable fact of business is that people will talk about you – even if you don’t see it.
No one wants to hear that their company sucks and that an experience was horrible. Look what happened with Turing Pharmaceuticals. Its CEO hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. As a result, his reputation and his company’s have suffered, especially as his responses made things even worse because they were uncaring and out of touch.
If a PR problem does arise, respond as quickly as possible. Be friendly (regardless of how rude the customer may be), let them know you have heard what they said, and resolve the problem quickly with care and class.
You can never stop complaints but you can nullify them with quick action.
Be Cautiously Transparent
Everything you do can be found online by somebody else. So, it is better to be transparent and up front about everything. Customers feel better about a company that is transparent in the face of criticism and can own its mistakes.
Before checking and modifying your business’s transparency, understand how to manage your online reputation afterward. Look at the products you sell or the services you provide. Is there anything about them that could be controversial? Anything that could be overly criticized? Could competition exploit these?
Nestlé came under fire for poor environmental practices with its sourcing of water and, when it hit the media, Nestlé didn’t do enough. They lost a great deal as a result.
So, as you increase your transparency, be prepared for potential flak and manage your online reputation proactively by having the right responses ready.
Complaints vs Bombs
Should difficulties arise, your ability to manage your online reputation comes under one of two areas: complaints and bombs.
Complaints are made on social media all the time, and they need to be addressed quickly and efficiently. With skill and luck, they should not affect your company drastically.
Bombs, on the other hand, stay around forever in comment threads, website entries, and reviews on sites like Yelp!. These can scuttle a business and must be taken seriously. You respond to the majority in the same way as a complaint but others need to be looked at closely.
Whomever you choose to manage your online reputation needs to know the difference between a simple complaint and something that goes too far, like posting lies, misinformation or illegal content.
These days, executives are very noticeable. Gone are the times where they were faceless and “anonymous”. Manage your online reputation by staying aware of your executives’ social media presence. Obviously you cannot “control” them, but you can train them to manage and cultivate their online personas so as to reflect well on the company.
If you’re in any doubt, or don’t have the time or expertise to manage your online reputation, contact an experienced marketing team to audit your online reputation and image for you. The experts can suggest ways to not only look after your reputation but to proactively build your presence in a positive way.
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