Managing your online reputation is an important component of online public relations. In this day and age your potential customers will probably decide to ‘Google’ your name or company when deciding whether to buy from you or use your services or not. While this is great news for consumers who can now make informed decisions about who they may or may not choose to do business with, it can be a nightmare for some businesses.
Why? Because image is everything! So every business (or individual) needs to monitor and manage their reputation. All you need is just one dissatisfied customer, determined to tell the world what they think of you and your business and who posts their comments on all of the review sites and your reputation could be ruined. In some cases, they might not even be genuine customers. It may be your competitors instead, using underhanded tactics to give you and your business a bad name.
For these reasons, all businesses, no matter how big or small, need to protect their image on the internet by monitoring, managing and improving their online reputation. If not, potential customers searching for your company will see these negatives and choose to buy their products or services elsewhere – from your competitors.
These tips should help you take control of your brand identity:
1. Find out exactly what people are saying about you:
Some businesses try to pretend the internet doesn’t exist. They bury their heads and don’t even try to find out what people are writing about them. Don’t make the same mistake. The only way you can manage your online reputation is to find out what is being said about your business. It might not all be flattering, but it’s important to know what’s being said about you online. Unless you know what’s out there, you can’t respond to what others have to say. But there is an upside – if you find people giving you positive reviews, you can publicise it.
So bite the bullet and ‘Google’ your name and the name of your business. Look at the results that appear. In most cases you will find a lot of excellent reviews and some negative ones. Don’t worry if you do have some negative comments as this happens to virtually every single business and retailer online so you are not alone. It is not necessarily the negative reviews that could put potential customers off from doing business with you but how you handle these negative comments. If you handle them right you can still come out smelling of roses and look very professional. However, if you handle them badly, you could lose new customers in their droves.
2. Respond to the negative reviews in a professional manner:
No matter whether you think the negative comments are justified or not, you must be utterly professional in your reply. Always remember: You are may be writing to the person leaving the negative review, but your comments will be read by thousands of other potential customers who will be very interested to see how you handle the complaint.
If you launch an attack on the person who left the negative comment by branding them a liar, rant at them for taking their complaint public rather than coming to you with it first, all you are going to do is add fuel to the fire and potential customers are going to avoid you like the plague. It will also add credibility to the person who left the complaint, even if it wasn’t true.
The best way to handle situations like this is:
- Be very professional
- Show care and concern for the fact that they did not have a positive experience.
- Apologize for the service they received.
- Accept the mistake and put down in writing the steps that you have taken to fix the problem to ensure that it never happens again.
- Invite them back to do business with you again so that they can see for themselves that you listened to them and do care that they were disappointed with your service.
Can you see how taking this course of action not only wins over the person who left the review but it also reassures all of your other potential customers that you are good to do business with.
3. Never ignore negative reviews:
Ignoring the comments altogether is not a good course to take, and can be just as harmful to your reputation as responding to negative reviews with abusive messages.
Disregarding even one negative review will seriously harm your business. Most people, when reading a negative review, will not take the time to carefully consider whether you or the customer is in the right, and by not addressing the adverse comments, you seem to be confirming them to be true. More often than not, that one negative review will create enough doubt or uncertainty to send your potential customers into the arms of your competitors instead.
It is so important to have a set game plan of how to deal with online complaints. It is much smarter and more effective option is to learn how to effectively reply to negative reviews (see tip above).
4. Invite the Customer to Amend Their Review
If you are able to resolve your customer’s issue and have shown them you want them back as a customer, the next step is to encourage them to return back to the site to remove their negative review, or at least amend it with a follow-up message describing how, with your help, the problem was resolved.
This may require some incentives on your part, but clearing up a negative review is definitely worth any immediate costs. If the customer refuses or is unable to change or remove their review, then follow up with your own summary of the events in a factual way, taking care not to anger or infuriate the customer into responding further and so drag you into an online war of words.
For example you could politely explain that as a business owner these things are unfortunate but they do happen and that the customer received a full refund or whatever action you took to address the issue.
This public display of customer service will go a long way in overcoming any damage done by the initial review and will win you more customers in the long run.
5. Encourage Positive Reviews from Satisfied Customers
An excellent way to manage your online reputation is to encourage your many satisfied customers to leave a positive review at the site hosting the bad one. Again you many need to offer some incentives. This does not mean paying people to leave positive reviews but there are some subtle ways to encourage your customers to leave honest reviews to crowd out the bad ones.
It’s worth remembering you don’t have to wait for a bad review to start motivating happy customers to leave positive comments. In fact, being proactive about this can prevent one negative review from having a drastic effect on your business. So make a habit of encouraging all of your happy customers to leave positive comment. You will be surprised just how many will simply because you ask them to.
It can be more difficult to get customers to post positive reviews rather than negative ones, even if you offer the most exceptional service in the world. So take the initiative and try to steer them towards sites that will offer you the most benefits. Depending on the type of business you are or the service that you provide, look at identifying who your customers tend to be, (e.g. tourists, locals, foodies, professionals, homemakers, etc.). Then choose a review site that best fits your niche and invite customers to leave feedback there.
The whole purpose is to try and control as much of the online conversation about your business as possible. By directing customers to a business-friendly review site (one that allows owners to reply to complaints or even offers some kind of reputation-management program) you’ll be able to limit the impact any bad review will have.
6. Never leave fake positive reviews for your own business.
As tempting or as easy as this may seem to write your own fake reviews there are many ways you can get caught doing this. Once your reviews have been exposed it will be much more damaging to your business’s reputation than a few negative reviews.
Try to realize that negative reviews are not the end of the world. In fact if you deal with the situation correctly, you can turn the situation around and come away with a positive boost to your business.
Customers don’t expect a business to be perfect. However, what they do expect is for a company to take responsibility for its occasional shortcomings and show that it cares about its customers and is willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy. If they see that you are a responsible business owner who genuinely tries to take good care of your customers you will win lots of new clients.
7. It’s Time to Get Social
By creating social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest etc. you can manage your online reputation even easier. By being active on the social networking platforms there is less room for other, potentially negative, pages to gain visibility. If a negative news story should emerge, you can react to it quickly; get your point of view across so that people searching for the story will see your side before things get out of control.
You can use the same idea by creating accounts on YouTube, HubPages, Blogger, WordPress, Squidoo and other sites. It is important not to spread yourself too thinly, but the more Social Media accounts you can comfortably handle, the more opportunities you will have to increase your visibility, and the more control you can exercise over your reputation management. This increased online presence will enable you to engage and interact with your followers and fans which will eventually build trust and loyalty with clients new and old.
8. Join Industry Specific forums
There are literally thousands of discussion forums on the internet so there is bound to be one specific to your industry. If there is, then you should seriously consider joining. It is a terrific way to reach out to a brand new audience who previously might not have heard of you or your business. You can also build a solid online reputation by offering great tips and advice and generally becoming a respected authority within your niche or industry.
9. Use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Management
An essential way to build a good reputation online and have a strong presence on the Internet is make sure that your website and social media sites are optimised for the search engines. What does this means for your business? It makes your website more search engine friendly, so your site will be ranked higher in the search engines results AND your customers can find you much more quickly.
SEO tactics can also be used to rank other pages that are not on your website too. For example, if you have written an informative guest post on a well-respected industry blog or discussion forum, getting this to rank can be even more effective than getting your own social media profiles to rank and will give your instant credibility when potential customers search for your name or company.
You could take this one step further, using SEO to rank any positive press that you have received. If one of your products has received a glowing review in the national press, for example, use SEO to help this page to rank highly. This can present a very positive image of your brand even if you have negative reviews elsewhere and will win you over many more new clients.
10. Dominate the first pages by paying to rank higher
PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. It is a very popular and effective way of advertising online.
If someone makes damaging statements about you or your firm online, you can use PPC (Pay per click) advertising to kill two birds with one stone. PPC can accomplish two things at the same time: Not only will it promote your services and get you high visibility in the search engines, but it also has the added advantage of being able to counteract the effects of the negative messaging. PPC is excellent as it allows you to create hyper-targeted ad campaigns. You can target your ad’s messaging to a particular online reputation issue.
With a PPC campaign, a business simply agrees to pay a certain amount of money everytime a prospect clicks on an ad related to a particular keyword or keyword phrase. For example if you were a florist you would use the name of your town and the word florist as one of your keyword phrases in a PPC campaign. That means when somebody local searches for florists in their local town your firm’s advert will pop up as a featured or sponsored advertisement. This allows the person searching for the florist to click on your link and make the order.
PPC can be a very powerful tool to counteract any negative statement. It combines public relations and advertising, and is effective in getting a lot more sales.
11. Communicate through photos and videos
When you think of companies like Virgin and Apple which people come to mind? You immediately think of Richard Branson and the late Steve Jobs. Their images and personality are instantly linked to their companies and you could do the same with your company. People like to know who they are doing business with so why not add photographs and videos of you, your business and your employees. Give your company a face your clients can relate to and get to know. It has far more impact on the relationship that you have with your customers than an anonymous website. If you tag your pictures with keywords and your company name they will even have an effect on your search engine ranking and improve your branding.
12. Think Before You Post:
Unless you want to stir up controversy and make situations worse, it’s important to watch what you say and be careful what you post. Anything you say can and will be used against you when it comes to social media. It is very frustrating when you read a comment about your business that is either unfair or even a downright lie, but before you post anything you need to think about the impact your words are going to have. What will your comments look like to everybody else reading what you have written? Will it damage your reputation even further in the long run?
If you need to, write down what you want to say, leave it for an hour or even overnight and then re-read it. You might find that once you have calmed down you have changed your mind and decide to reword what you want to say. Never, ever publish anything that is going to cast you or your business in a negative light. Your aim is to protect your reputation and that means doing all you can to improve your company’s image online.
Above all….Stay on top of things.
It’s very important not to get lazy about monitoring your reputation. We recommend regularly checking for information that could potentially harm your online reputation. Take advantage of automatic monitoring tools such as Google Alerts. This way you’ll stay informed about what is being said so you can be proactive and limit the damage done.
Some local businesses realize the importance of doing this but are too busy running their companies. They find they don’t have the time to monitor their online reputation enough. Or they find it hard to remain professional and not get too emotional when leaving replies to negative comments because they are so passionate about their business.
Protecting a brand image is the most important thing a company can do. You probably have worked hard for years, if not decades, building your brand so you don’t want to let negative remarks or reviews about your company hurt your bottom line.
We Can Protect Your Online Reputation
We can help create a positive buzz around your brand. By using our experience with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques we can shape the results of the first few pages of the search engine results.
You can rest assured we are quick and efficient at getting the results you and your business needs. Not all reputation management jobs are the same. While one company may have two negative mentions to push down another may have six or seven.
If you are concerned about your reputation online please get in contact with us today so we can discuss your situation and better understand your needs. You will be glad that you did.