A strong online presence is crucial in every industry, but managing your reputation in this vast space presents a major challenge. A poor reputation can drive a small company out of business, and the source of the conflict may not even be a factual complaint. Never underestimate the potential impact of an online reputation problem. Use these smart tactics to manage your reputation proactively and minimize the fallout of negative search results.
Carefully Manage Executives’ Reputations
Your business reputation isn’t exclusive to the company itself. The reputation of top executives will naturally bleed into that of the entire organization. High-level employees in your company should maintain a strong online presence as thought leaders in your field.
A well-rounded LinkedIn profile makes it easy for potential investors or partners to learn more about the faces that are behind your brand. Executives who submit LinkedIn articles about their industry insights or maintain a professional blog on a relevant topic will build a reputation as an expert in the area and quickly become a sought-after personality, which will reflect positively on your brand.
Develop and Maintain an Online Marketing Strategy
Proactive reputation management is all about smart, organized marketing. A social media presence can help you promote a positive brand image, but Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites are only effective when they’re properly maintained. Your social media accounts are an important touch point where you can interact personally and publicly with your customers.
Develop a marketing calendar for your social media posts so you’re regularly putting your products and services in front of customers. In addition to preparing your own original posts, you also need to respond to comments and tweets from your followers. A quick response can provide a great deal of damage control, but it’s crucial that your social media managers maintain a polite and professional tone, no matter how inflammatory the customer’s comments are. Remember that these interactions are public, leaving a visible record of how you interact with customers and solve their problems.
Know What People Are Saying
Your online reputation can change dramatically in just a day. The online world moves shockingly fast, and search results that were overwhelmingly positive last week might be dismal now. Make sure at least one person on your marketing team is keeping a close eye on what people are saying. This includes bloggers, news reporters, and Twitter users. In the online space, you don’t need credentials or expertise to get heard, so you can’t afford to disregard the average consumer.
Address Major Criticism Publicly
You can’t stop customers from posting negative comments, complaints, or even entire blogs about your company. Arguing with these posters will only exacerbate the problem, and ignoring it isn’t much better. Instead, operate with a refreshing degree of transparency. Take ownership of your shortcomings and develop a public plan for addressing them. Take complaints as constructive criticism even if they’re not worded that way. If you’ve genuinely made an error, admit it and repair the damage.
Let your customers know what you’re doing to improve on the situation. This will keep a large degree of your reputation management in your own hands rather than those of the media. Get involved in the conversation so you can help steer its direction.
Promote Positive Content
The first page or two of search engine results that appear when a customer searches for your name will have the biggest impact on your professional reputation. You can help ensure these pages feature positive content by actively publishing and promoting these types of blogs and articles. Maintaining your own company blog with smart SEO strategies is essential, but a well-rounded strategy will also include content published on other sites. You can accomplish this by submitting press releases and working with bloggers.
Identify the top bloggers in your industry and offer them free samples, executive interviews, or company tours. In return, the bloggers will post their honest opinion of your company, products, and services. While you can’t control exactly what they’ll say, you do maintain some control over the conversation simply by providing a quality experience to these writers.
Fight Illegal Content
While everyone maintains freedom of speech online, there are some types of negative publicity that are actually illegal. This includes defamatory language and false information. You can fight these legally to have the information removed. Many review sites have a process in place for disputing false information. If a customer has a legitimate complaint, there’s little you can do. However, you can fight reviews that include obvious falsities.
Managing your online reputation isn’t a one-time task. It takes continued diligence and a willingness to interact openly with the public. Done right, these activities will help you minimize negative publications and promote the positive aspects of your business.