Proactively managing your online reputation is vital in order to ensure a positive perception of your business. Negative comments can significantly impact your brand recognition, company image, and the public’s view of your business as a whole. Now that nearly all potential customers are online, you need to consider how you’re going to use online marketing to inspire customers to go to your business – rather than your competition. Here are five basic essentials to manage your online reputation:
1. Pay Attention
First and foremost, you must absolutely be paying attention to what is being said about your company online, both positive and negative. There are many tools available out there to help you do this on your own (like RSS feeds or Google Alerts), or you can lean on reputation management companies who specialize in this service. Information can be found on both standard and news searches, in social media, and in blog posts and forum threads.
Source: freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles
2. Adjust Accordingly
Whether your monitoring efforts reveal kudos or criticism, use this data as a guide for moving your business forward. Although attempting to address each individual comment may not be possible (though desirable), at least pay attention to the big picture. For example, comments from various sources that all focus on a common complaint is a good indication that you need to probably address that particular issue. Similarly, if you see that more than 90 percent of your online reviews are positive, you can feel confident that you’re doing something right.
3. Optimize Communications
Brand visibility can be a fickle friend. On the one hand, you’re easily recognizable. On the other, you’re more vulnerable because of this visibility. Optimizing your online presence and digital communications will maintain consistency across the most important channels. Keeping your communication channels open in order to make sure your PR and marketing departments are presenting the same image can help prevent internal inconsistencies.
4. Be Proactive
If negative commentary shows up, don’t sweep it under the rug. The best thing to do is to research the situation and find out if there is merit in the complaint. If so, be prepared to respond honestly and openly. And remember, there is a big difference between addressing a negative situation in an effective way and making things worse by reacting defensively or angrily. Stay calm and handle the situation the same way you would in person: address the customer’s concerns and then move forward.
5. Stay Involved
In order to maintain a positive online reputation, you have to maintain and nurture your online relationships. This means commenting on blogs or in forums, offering coupons or special offers available exclusively through social media platforms, and above all, making a sincere effort to connect with your audience. A few bad reviews from an unbiased source will matter much less if the majority of your online interactions and brand experiences from customers are glowingly positive.
By implementing and maintaining ongoing reputation management, you’ll be able to focus on ensuring that your services match the needs of your customer base – rather than feeling like you are in reactive mode. Although it can feel a bit overwhelming at first, responding openly and honestly to your critics will only benefit your company’s efforts in reputation management over the long term.
Written by David Kaufer
David Kaufer is Founding Partner and Chief Dynamic Office in Kaufer DMC. He’s also a huge Oregon Ducks & Microbrew nut, Dad of awesome 8 year-old twin boys, husband, and big Sustainability and Autism advocate.