The Internet has opened up a world of possibilities for consumers and businesses alike. Although it’s given companies a wider customer base and more convenient ways to offer their services, the very nature of the Internet makes it difficult to avoid bad publicity when it pops up on the Web, especially on social networks, blogs, forums and review sites.
Online reputation management has become an integral part of today’s business models, and it can require a great deal of time and effort. Whether you handle this in-house or outsource to a third-party company, being proactive about your online reputation will pay off greatly for your public image, whether your business is large or small. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Reputation management is more than just Googling yourself. Of course, it doesn’t hurt at all to see what kind of content is circulating about your brand, and searching for yourself on Google gives you an opportunity to at least be aware of any complaints or concerns people might have. But there are other easy ways to keep tabs on your buzz, such as setting up Google Alerts that will let you know when your name appears in new Web content. It’s a good idea to take it further, however, and actively distribute positive content to counteract the negative. Frequently publishing articles, press releases and blog posts is a great way to build positive links and demonstrate industry expertise. Doing so will (hopefully) bury any bad press that might be visible in search engine results. And of course, setting up and maintaining social networking profiles can give you a good image boost, especially if you show transparency and actively interact with your customers.
- The Internet can make or break your image. Much like in Sin City, what happens on the Web more or less stays on the Web. And with the Internet being the first source most consumers go to when looking for a product or service, any negative mentions of your company can have lasting effects depending on how much bad press is out there. Again, it’s important to monitor any dialogue about your business and proactively publish content that shows you care about your service. You can’t get rid of all the bad commentary, but it’s better to try offsetting it than letting it run wild.
- Reputation management is an easy way to interact with your customers and scope out the field. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are great tools for connecting with consumers and researching your field. Using these tools to respond directly to complaints as soon as possible can go a long way in improving your brand image (just ask Comcast). Similarly, responding to consumer issues that people post on blogs or review sites can further demonstrate your willingness to improve your customer service, regardless of the problem. And of course, just by reading these conversations, you can easily get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in relation to your services. You can even beat your competition to the punch by discovering untapped needs that no one has met yet.