Today the surrounding digital ecosystem can help or hurt the reputation of your business without you even being aware. How does your company and its people fare when examined objectively online? Consider these facts:
In one recent study, 97 % of business owners said that online reputation management was important
84% of people in one 2016 study claimed that they trust online reviews as much as they do a personal recommendation
70% of potential customers will take a pass on contacting you if there are four or more negative articles about your business in a Google search
Disgruntled employees. Unreasonably dissatisfied customers. Mischievous competitors. Through no fault of your own, online trolls can make your brand look bad and do damage that has a real financial impact to your business. Here are seven ways you can take control, starting today:
1. See where you stand right now.
How bad is the problem? Or maybe your online reputation is spectacular. How do you know? Take a day, preferably with multiple people working as a team, and audit your company’s online reputation on the whole. And don’t justify trouble spots; be honest and objective with yourself. Taking a long look at your brand online will help you understand and prioritize the issues at hand.
2. Engage when you’re clearly in the wrong.
Starting now, when someone throws down a disparaging comment online, and there’s some credibility to it, don’t stick your head in the sand. Respond quickly, own up to the problem and propose a clear next step to find a resolution.We’re talking about things like: “I ordered 400 units and got only 389, and my rep never got back with me.” Actual issues you can help fix.
3. That said, don’t feed the trolls
There’s a difference between feedback like: “I wasn’t happy with the quality of the product but nobody seemed to care” and a comment like “this company is clearly run by an inter-dimensional race of reptilians building a time machine in the parking garage.” Engage in productive conversations with comments like the first one. Don’t bother engaging haters who thrive on negativity and drama; you’ll just waste everyone’s time.
4. Flush out negative content and comments
You can get a lot of things removed from the internet if you set your mind to it. But sometimes you can’t erase trolls, negative reviews, unreasonable brand detractors or other content that negatively impacts your brand. And sometimes you can, but it’s just not worth the hassle. The alternative is to simply dilute negative content. The internet, and Google in particular, feeds on fresh, relevant content. Organizing the collection of 30 legitimate, positive and on-brand reviews will turn those three high-profile haters into outliers most people won’t even notice.
5. Make sure all of your platform profiles are up to date
Most people don’t associate this with online reputation management, but it matters. And it’s something easy you can do today. Find every social media platform, industry web directory, blog, review site or other place on which you have an online profile (you should have a list handy from Step 1). Then make sure you’re consistently telling the right story, sharing the right contact info, using the right logo and art, etc. A current, consistent story and experience definitely reflects on your overall reputation. Also do your best to keep social media accounts up to date if possible. If you find yourself struggling to keep up, maintain a presence on fewer platforms (but put out more and better content).
6. Strengthen your SEO game
Strategic, intentional search can help curate what customers, prospects and business partners see when they Google your business. And search optimization in all its many forms is a discipline all on its own. But it’s worth the effort to optimize your site, content, pages, media types, images, metadata, backlinks, UX and more. Most businesses already have an SEO program in place, so just know that your efforts are doing double duty—drawing more qualified customers and making you look good along the way.
7. Don’t forget your people, past and present
It’s also important to manage the online reputation of your team. These days, our digital imprints are everywhere. So shoring up each individual’s online reputation serves to help the company’s brand as well. And don’t forget to be responsive and thoughtful with respect to alumni networks such as Glassdoor, which serve as a marketplace for prospective employees. Make sure everyone works together over time to put your brand’s best foot forward online.
Managing an organization’s online reputation is a full-time job. But with long-term commitment, good habits and strong communication you can make sure that the things that make your organization truly great shine online.