Despite anyone’s best efforts, businesses are bound to take a hit online. Be it through an unhappy customer voicing their discontent or an unscrupulous competitor trying to drag your brand through the mud. When this happens to your business, you need to have a plan to mitigate the damage and deal with bad press. However, instead of waiting for such things to happen, you should take the necessary steps to manage your business’ online reputation in a proactive manner. By doing preventative maintenance, you will protect your online reputation and minimize the need for extreme steps when you eventually face bad publicity.
Some individuals confuse online reputation issues with crisis management – the latter is a reactive strategy. Reputation management, on the other hand, is a proactive measure. Here are the best steps to take when doing proactive online reputation management:
1. Optimize your digital territory most online business directories – such as manta.com – allow business owners to claim their business listings and update their information free of charge. To do this, just search your business name on popular search engines such as Google, and go through the first few pages. When your business name pops up in a directory, click on it and ensure that the information is correct. This will prevent unscrupulous individuals from filling out wrong information. Moreover, it will eliminate confusion for potential customers who are searching for your business. Filling out your information on directories will also help your local search results as search engines will be more confident in providing your information.
If your business has won any awards, you should not hesitate to add this to your blog and website. Look for articles that mention your business in a positive light and link them to your site Update your blog frequently with fresh, helpful content and optimize your website by incorporating your company’s Facebook, Linkedln, Twitter, and Google+ profiles. You may not be able to take all the top spots in search engine results, but at least you will have a spot on the first page.
2. Monitor and manage your online presence You need to monitor your brand by keeping tabs on what people are saying about your business, products, and employees; this will keep you from being caught off guard by a reputation crisis. When you monitor your business, you will be able to recognize potential problems before they occur and identify potential troublemakers who have an interest in sullying your business. At the very least, you should set up Google Alert on your phone or computer. This way, you will know when any mention of your brand crops up on Google. You can also use other tracking tools such as Hootsuite, which monitors your social media channels or Talkwalker Alerts, which tracks the engagement levels and performance of your brand mentions.
Potential customers will also put you under the microscope. Therefore, you should not only focus on your company’s image but yours as well Do you have embarrassing pictures online that will paint a bad picture of you and consequently your company? If they are on your personal social media pages, you need to take them down. No matter how professional your website looks, if customers see pictures of you doing a keg stand, they will assume you are unprofessional. Present yourself the way you want future customers to see you
3. Engage According to studies, internet users rarely move past the first few search result pages. When doing online reputation management, you need to remember this fact. Engage your potential customers by interacting with them on social media – this can help in reducing negative reviews thus helping your website to move up on search results. For instance, you can write helpful tidbits on your social media pages and encourage people to respond. When existing or potential customers respond to your post, their friends will be able to see the interaction and learn about your brand.
Do not expect everyone to give you a positive review. Would you trust a brand that gets only positive reviews? If something looks too good to be true, it probably is – authentic feedback always has some negative responses. Negative responses are not necessarily bad, because they can help you to improve your brand. When in doubt, remember that potential customers want to know that you care about their experience and feedback.
4. Respond to customer feedback No matter how proactive you are, you cannot stop bad reviews from cropping up online. The basic rule is to never respond in a scornful manner regardless of the issue. Instead of engaging in a drawn out argument with a disgruntled customer, try to take the conversation offline. Calm the customer down as best as you can and ask them what the problem is If you can help them, make sure that they are satisfied with the solution. However, if the customer is bent on ruining your reputation, go into crisis management mode. The best-case scenario is that a person who initially reported a bad experience will come back and report that the issue has been corrected.
You also need to respond to positive feedback by thanking your customers for taking the time to give a review. Everything you write will help others to form an opinion of your brand, so the goal is to make sure that potential customers receive helpful and timely responses to their feedback. Ensure that your customers get the experience that they expect based on your advertisements.
Following the above steps will help in lowering a prospective customer’s perceived risk of doing business with you This increases the strength of your brand. Online reputation management is an unending process that requires commitment and professionalism. Many businesses enlist the help of digital marketing companies to manage their reputations. Nevertheless, if you can manage your own reputation, then you need to have a plan in case you take a hit. Damage control needs to be your contingency plan; not your only plan. Instead of waiting for disaster to strike, you should nip it in the bud with preemptive reputation management.