Not long ago, reputations were formed through direct experiences, word-of-mouth, and paid advertising. But since the emergence of the internet and social media, a person or business’ reputation can change as fast as someone can hit ‘send’. On one hand, society’s constant connectivity can be very beneficial, as it allows people to reach large audiences faster than ever before. But just as easily it can bring a company to new heights, the speed and scope of the internet can run even the best reputations into the ground with one wrong misstep. Here are a few tips to avoid ending up on the negative side of online reviews.
“Google” yourself. A business can’t manage its reputation effectively without understanding the status of its online perception. That understanding begins with a simple search on any and all search engines, social media platforms, customer review sites, and user forums. A simple Google search won’t suffice with such an abundance of online outlets that can directly affect a business’ reputation, so thorough research is critical.
Monitor online reviews. We’ve all heard the cliche, “The customer is always right”, which is, to a certain extent, true. It’s especially true with services such as Yelp!, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, and many others, where customers can describe their positive or negative experiences with businesses behind the safety of their devices without an uncomfortable, personal confrontation with owners, managers, or employees. One bad review can have a snowball effect, and before long, acquiring customers can seem impossible. That said, there will always be an unsatisfied customer, justified or not. Monitoring review sites allow a business to understand which aspect(s) of their product or service needs improving. In addition, if they have the ability to do so, business should reply to as many reviews as possible. It demonstrates pro-activity, a touch of personal care for each customer, and a desire to satisfy customer needs.
Maintain an active social media presence. In most cases, a business can’t reach its full potential without a social media presence. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter offer excellent opportunities to interact with and advertise to customers at little to no cost. In addition, social media is often an accurate indication of current and upcoming trends among customers, so businesses can stay updated with their customers’ needs and adjust business strategies accordingly.
Keep it professional. Unless a business has an established focus on a specific political or social cause, it’s usually prudent to separate such opinions and stances from the business environment. Also, business’ should carefully consider the context of any created content available to the public. One offensive tweet or distasteful Facebook post can disrupt customer approval ratings, or even permanently ruin a business’ reputation. These are just a few initial steps any business can take to harness the power of the internet to maintain or improve their online reputation. A good reputation has to be earned. It requires constant focus tobuild, and even more discipline to maintain. Ultimately, a company’s strategies and tactics can only take their reputation so far. Demonstrating excellent service and maximizing satisfaction will inspire customers to express their positive experiences to others and generate invaluable word-of-mouth no amount of marketing dollars can buy.