Managing the Online Reputation for your Business
By: Garry Grant | February 26, 2014 | View: 11632
By: Garry Grant | February 26, 2014 | View: 11632
The Internet is a funny place. It has given us so much, from the free sharing of information to the ability to connect with people from all over with the simple click of a button. It can make you rich as well as get you a million friends without ever leaving your bed. But with great power comes great responsibility. And unfortunately, not everyone on the World Wide Web uses this power for good and decides to spread potentially hurtful information that could be of detriment to you and your brand. Heck, chances are, someone might be badmouthing you right this second… It’s just the way it goes. But all hope is not lost. Read on for some tips on managing the online reputation of your business.
Fully Own Each and Every One of Your Online Properties and Presences
Physically, you can’t be in two, three, or a hundred places at one time. But you can be consistent and “present” across all of your online properties. Do some research and find out each and every place your brand / company / business is being mentioned.
Monitor All Activity
If you aren’t aware of what people are saying about you, either good or bad, how will you be able to respond accordingly? Set up a few Google Alerts for the different names people could possibly use for your company. For instance, we use Alerts pointing to terms such as, “SEO Inc,” “SEOINC,” “Search Engine Optimization Incorporated,” SEO Incorporated,” etc. Google is good about delivering their alerts to you in real time, depending on how you set it up, so you can rest assured you’ll be able to respond accordingly to comments in time. This is sometimes a lot for the head of a company to take on, so if possible, hire a Brand Reputation manager to monitor activity across all sites.
Act. Do not React.
People will try to get your goat. Being online affords everyone the opportunity to post whatever they like with virtually no recourse. So what do you do when someone leaves a nasty comment about your business with an anonymous moniker? How do you respond? What do you say? Remember, preventative maintenance is key. Have a process in place before a PR disaster hits.
Not responding in a timely manner to online criticism can be seen as you simply not caring about the issue which reflects poorly and adds even more ire to the fire. However, responding rashly can be even worse.
“THIS COMPANY IS A SCAM,” might be something you’ll see from a “brave” anonymous person online. Responding with, “WHATEVER. YOU’RE A SCAM AND WERE A TERRIBLE EMPLOYEE / CLIENT / HUMAN BEING,” is NOT the way to handle the situation, even if every ounce of your being wants to scream that from a mountaintop.
Take a breath, read the review a couple of times, count to 10, and respond with a level head. Engaging in conversation is a slippery slope, as you can get yourself into a wormhole. Try to keep it general and gather any personal information you can from the negative reviewer. Offer to reach out with a phone call or in-person meeting. Even if the individual who left the review might not be responsive to this, others will see you actually made a strong attempt to “right the wrong,” and you will look more trustworthy to those reading up on you.
While we’re focusing a good deal on the negative, remember, there are people out there that love you! And it’s in your best interest to not neglect their feedback either. Thank those positive reviewers in real-time, too. It will only further cement you in their heads as a reputable company that cares.
Now we get in to the ever-so-murky waters of trolls and fake reviews. You’ll have to come to terms with the fact that some people on the Internet just exist to hate on everything. Fake reviews, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to handle. Best practice for obvious spam from Internet trolls? Respond with a bit of slight humor or a mere question about the review. If you can’t tell if the review is fake or not, treat it like a real one until you’re 100% sure it’s not. Follow the previously discussed measures to take to deal with the negative review.
Above all, act like a grownup. Don’t get drawn into grade-school squabbles of he said, she said and blame games. If a negative reviewer tries to get you going down a wormhole like this, back up, and realize it’s getting neither of you anywhere. Best to just move on.
Get Legal (If you have to)
While anyone can say anything about anyone anywhere online, there are still legal actions companies can take should things get wildly out of hand. Make sure you understand fully the policies and terms of service for all sites on which you are mentioned. You can always sue for slander. But remember, lawsuits cost bundles and can take a long time. Lawsuits pertaining to online issues, especially, are not an open and shut case. A LAWSUIT SHOULD BE YOUR LAST RESORT.
Don’t Fake It Until You Make It
Do not, we repeat, do not leave fake reviews anywhere for your company for the sole purpose of boosting your brand reputation. “Astroturfing,” or the act of employing fake reviews on one’s behalf, is very much frowned upon. This isn’t to say you can’t encourage and incentivize your employees to leave reviews when appropriate. Just make sure the reviews are legit, and there isn’t suddenly an influx of positive reviews from within the company when and if a bad review hits.
What it boils down to is this: People are going to leave negative comments anywhere they can online. These can come from dissatisfied customers, ex-employees, people that just don’t like you for some reason, and everywhere in between. Be prepared for these comments and have a good Brand Reputation team or firm intact and ready to handle any situation that might arrive. The best you can do is your best. Like the late comedian Mitch Hedberg said, “You can’t please all the people all the time, and last night, all those people were at my show.”