With the advent of social media came the realization that customers had a voice that could be heard by everyone. This can be good and bad. Today, customers are talking about your company in a number of places and unfortunately it’s not always good. Gone are the days when you could simply not worry about your online reputation, content that a Google search will only show those cool things you have done over the years that are being shared by you and you pals.
While doing the job you were hired to do is a good start, it does not come close to solving the problem when an irate customer (for their own reasons, real or imagined or, yes, made up) decides to go online and slime your business.
These days, checking and protecting your online reputation is as important as keeping your bank account and social media accounts safe and password protected. This is such a priorty that online reputation management should really be a standard operating procedure for all businesses.
Not sure where to start? Here’s how you do it:
1. Keep tabs on online review sites regularly
The number of places where someone can post negative comments (and yes, thankfully, positive ones too) is amazingly vast. Here’s a quick list of a few of the top sites…
- Angie’s List
- Google reviews
- Forums and message boards
And that is just for starters. For many businesses, reviews (both positive and negative) tend to lump together on just a couple of main sites. Usually, it is based on the industry and your own social media presence. For instance, if you are a service provider, checking Angie’s List should probably be a priority. If you tweet a lot, you will likely find the commentary about your business on Twitter.
2. Be prepared to take action
A survey published earlier in the year that said that something like 2/3 of customers who write negative online reviews about a product or business would likely do business with the company again if their complaint were properly resolved. Sweet, yes, but the real gem was this:
1/3 said they would go so far as to remove the negative review if their complaint were resolved satisfactorily. Do you see how powerful that last snippet is?
So it is your job to scour the Internet, find and root out those vocal, unhappy customers and make them happy. Discover what went wrong. Be willing to correct it, even if it’s not your fault. Be humble.
Fix it, and then ask nicely if they would remove the review. If they won’t, be sure to add your comment that you fixed the problem.
3. Use Google Alerts as a catchall
Clearly, all of this hunting and pecking and scouring and searching can take a lot of time, and that is where Google Alerts comes in. Through Google, you can create a keyword alert for your name or business. Then, anytime the search giant finds the keywords that are in the alert you created, it shoots you an email.
However, the system is not perfect. First of all, you need to figure out keywords that will match the potential complaints about your business. That isn’t always easy, especially as you don’t know ahead of time what sorts of complications cause consternation.
Additionally, sometimes Google Alerts don’t always work exactly right and alert you of all of the things that may actually be out there. A regular search using Google and Bing and your keywords is probably still in order, since not everything can be caught by this Alert system.
4. Hire a reputation management service
You don’t have to do this alone, and maybe you shouldn’t, given that your job is to grow your business and not to monitor the Internet for disgruntled customers. That is why there are a host of online reputation management companies out there that can help you – Reputation.com for instance.
The thing to realize is that these days, it’s not a diamond that is forever, but rather, a negative online review.
5. Be proactive about getting positive reviews
One other way to handle this issue is to get your happy customers to write positive reviews about your business. As these will be more recent than the old bad reviews, they may get found first in a search and that will counterbalance some of the power of any negative commentary.
What are your thoughts about reputation management? We’d love to hear you have to say in the comments section below!
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible. Steve is your host here at TheSelfEmployed.com.