All businesses rely on the notion of having a positive reputation. Business owners the world over need to ensure that both their company and the people that act as the face of it have stellar reputations that will not hinder growth or damage sales. For individuals in the job market, online reputation is just as important, and in the days where employers check social media profiles as much as resumes, having negativity online in any way can hinder careers too. Reputation is more important than ever, and for entrepreneurs launching a new project, reputation management must begin long before the first sale is made.
It’s not just recruiters who are heading online to check people’s reputations. Consumers in the digital age have more power than they’ve ever had before, with information at their fingertips available 24/7. That’s been good news for brands, who can now connect, engage, and target their loyal audiences to increase sales and become increasingly intertwined with individual lives.
Unfortunately, the flip side is also true, and that intense connectivity can have dire repercussions should a company have a public mishap. That’s why it’s so important that you don’t ignore how your company, you, and your team members all appear on search engine results pages, rating pages, and social media. The first steps should be to:
- Search: Go to different search engines and do a search query for the name of your business. Take any notes of anything negative that pops up on Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. Remember to look for related keywords, your slogan or taglines, or misspelled versions of your business name.
- Get Specific: Next, you need to check your social media reputation, so perform name-checks on every social media platform, even those where you don’t have a presence. You should also check review websites and consumer protection and advocacy sites.
- Monitoring: Once you have a clearer picture of your brand’s reputation, you need to ensure that you don’t lose track of it. That will mean monitoring the internet for any mentions of your brand, your key figures, or your products. Set up Google Alerts for your keywords so that any online mentions are delivered straight to your inbox.
This should give you a good overview of where you stand in terms of reputation.
Addressing any Issues
Throughout your reputation checks, issues may have arisen that you now need to tackle. Negative reviews can be very damaging for a business, but it’s vital at this stage that you do not become despondent because of a large number of bad reviews. Remember, reviews tend to be left only when consumers feel strongly about a subject, and that means passions can run high. You can learn a lot about your business from negative reviews, as long as you’re willing to listen. However, if you’re getting bad reviews unjustifiably, you need to take action.
- Contacting Platforms: If you have found a vindictive review, then it’s always worth contacting the website that it appears on and asking for it to be removed. This can extend to personal online presence too. If a key member of your board has appeared on a shaming website, it can cause harm to your overall brand reputation too. There are some dark corners of the internet, and getting posts removed from sites like thedirty.com can be very challenging. However, it is possible to delete pages on thedirty.com as long as you have a clear reason. Focus on getting false information or spiteful reviews removed.
- Responding to Reviews: Your next step should be to respond to your reviews. It can sometimes be difficult to know how to respond to a negative review, but it’s something that you will need to plan for. It’s best to make your apologies public, because when future consumers are looking for your brand, then they might see that negative review but also your mature handling of it. That will show them that you have a level of commitment to your customer relationships.
It’s important that you take your reviews seriously. All businesses need to keep up to date with what is being said about them online and engage with their customers daily.
Drowning Out the Bad
At this stage, you should be in a much stronger position, but you now have to drown any lingering negativity by creating positive content and connecting with your audience. This can mean more work than you think because you will need to take it by stages. Your goals should include:
- Social Networking: You need to engage and connect with your audience, and that means going beyond Facebook and Instagram. There are multiple social platforms, and your target audience will always have their preferences. Make sure that you know where your customers spend the most time online and engage with them on those platforms. You need your customers to get to know your brand. Use your social posts to convey your brand culture and tone of voice, and avoid trying for the hard sell on products. This is about connectivity, not making a sale.
- Search Engine Control: Your next step is to create as much original, fresh content as possible. The goal is to use your keywords and positive SEO strategy to rank higher and higher on search engine results pages. This will have the effect of bumping down any negative mentions of your company to lower positions, preferably deep into multiple pages. Not many people go much further than page two of a Google search. You’re going to need to understand the importance of content marketing and create content that has value.
- Astroturfing: Fake reviews written by you or someone you know is known as astroturfing, and you should never do it. Not only will you cause serious potential reputation damage if you are caught out, but you might even get in trouble with the law.
Managing and taking more control over the reputation of your business is more important than ever. When a business can fail based on nothing more than a social media post or a customer complaint that goes viral, controlling the narrative is critical. Make sure that you have a clean slate by cleaning up your online presence, and taking the time to engage positively with your audience. Having a positive reputation is the key to brand growth, more profits, and a better future for your company.