8/27/17 • Five Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(8/27/17) BELMONT, N.C. – Before the internet’s existence, managing your business’s reputation was easy. You offered a quality product and good service, and when people had a problem, you took care of it, either over the phone or in person. But these days, people can leave reviews about your business multiple places online. For many of us, it’s daunting to think about how to tackle critique in a digital environment.

What’s the best course of action for managing your online reputation? We’ve got a few tips to help keep your business’s reputation spotless – or to repair that reputation if it’s been blemished:

  • Identify and remove negative content. New research on customer search habits and how it affects spending has an interesting story to tell. According to researchers at Moz, an SEO consulting company, entrepreneurs who have negative commentary on the first page of their search results risk losing 22 percent of their business. Those numbers get considerably higher if a business has more than one negative result. But those researchers also suggest that most people, even if they say otherwise, rarely look beyond the first page of search results when researching a business and almost never beyond page two. What does that mean? It means that it’s imperative to deal with negative reviews. You can, of course, consult the review sites themselves to attempt to get them removed, but often times, that’s not successful. In many cases, the best way do it is to use your customer service skills to appeal to the person who wrote it and ask them to take it down. A kind word and, if warranted, an offer to offset losses goes a long way to assuaging most people. If that doesn’t work, you can then work on the alternative: burying those negative reviews with positive content.
  • Never engage in an online argument. This point seems like a no-brainer, but in our fast-paced, quick-tempered online world, it’s easy to let this slip. The best way to avoid negativity is to refuse to engage with anyone in a hostile or argumentative way, either inside or outside of your business. The last thing you want is to have a video of you yelling at an employee go viral or to have screenshots of an exchange with a customer make their way online. Those kinds of exchanges are virtually impossible to erase once they’re out there and hundreds of thousands of people have seen them. So take your hands off the keyboard and step away from that controversial Facebook post. Make a blanket business promise to yourself: you won’t return negativity with negativity, period.
  • Make a name for your business and yourself. Many entrepreneurs spend so much time cultivating business relationships and connections that they sometimes forget that they have a life and interests separate from their business. But it’s important that you, as a business owner, establish a name – or a personal brand – for yourself in addition to asserting one for your business. If people are interested in your business and the product or service that you offer, they’re going to look you up, and you want to make a good impression. Make sure that when you’re reserving all of the names for your business on social media that you do the same for yourself. Have a public-facing profile that matches your business philosophy and aesthetic so that when people look you up, they’ll see professionalism and consistency across the board.
  • Push your own positive presence. The best way to push positive content higher in search results is to ask people who are satisfied with your services to write reviews about their experiences. In time, that positive content will outweigh the negative. But what can you do without depending on others? First, promote your own links. Share your own social media sites and your website – in other words, make sure to tweet about your Facebook page, share your website on Facebook periodically, and so forth. This helps to tell search engines like Google that there’s a relationship between these accounts and your website. As Ryan Stewart at Webris notes, it creates a “natural association” digitally between those sites over time. Additionally, make sure that you are generating new website content regularly. The easiest way to do that is to start a blog. If you can write one post per week that discusses your business philosophy and addresses issues or concerns, you’ll find that customers are getting to know you better, and you’re producing more content that will drive negative material down the page in search results. Not sure what to write about? Take a look at other business websites that you like, and use them as inspiration.
  • Finally, listen. Much of what’s been discussed here is a mix between offense and defense when it comes to online reputation management. But sometimes the most important thing you can do for your business is to really listen to what a customer is telling you and use that information to see if there are places where you need to improve. That is often difficult to do as a business owner. So many of us put our hearts into our work, and negative feedback can feel like a personal attack. But sometimes that feedback has a grain of truth. An important part of the improvement process is to listen to what’s being said and figure out a way to improve moving forward.

Although that first negative review may make you fume or leave you in tears, don’t let it make you feel helpless. With these tips, you’ve got a great chance of repairing – and perhaps even improving – your online reputation.

Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/2gKUXSp.