For most of us, it’s a pretty difficult to conceive how we’d manage our personal lives and all the things we do, without email, Google, social media and the abundance of data we have at our fingertips when we need it, 24/7.
When you go a step further and imagine trying to run your business without the internet, it’s nearly unthinkable. And like our own profiles, which exist at once both on and off the web, our business reputations are cultivated in the real world, but sustained online.
And just as it matters to uphold a good reputation offline, the same is true of your online profile. Online reputation management is particularly critical because nowhere is your business more visible than on the internet. From social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, to company websites and Google Maps – which now offers company listings and reviews – the internet has the potential to be a pathway to success, but if it’s not managed properly, it can also cause a mountain of hassle.
As a small business owner, one of the most common problems is bad publicity. We rely on word of mouth (whether on or offline) for good reviews, especially when starting out. When a customer has a problem, we work hard to resolve it to maintain our good reputation. But thanks to the powers of the internet, now those conversations can be taken to a sometimes embarrassingly public level, showing up unexpectedly on Twitter, as a Google review, or on your blog. Preparing yourself for such an eventuality is the key to being caught unaware when a bad review, or worse, happens.
Online reputation management
There are some simple steps to take to protect yourself, and the good news is that it doesn’t need to involve hiring a PR firm or spending endless hours doing your own PR. Once set up, you can manage your online reputation in as little as 15 minutes per week. Here are our four top tips for how to do online reputation management right efficiently and effectively.
Tip 1: Have a social media strategy
We can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be proactive in building your business reputation. It doesn’t need to be complex, and it doesn’t need to be time consuming. Have something great to say or expertise to share? PR Pitch a blog to an external site, or identify influential blogs in your industry and ask if you can write a guest post.
Get your name out and build your brand and profile by sponsoring small events that are likely to have receive local coverage, and promote these partnerships. Create a Twitter account and get tweeting. If negative reviews happen, a solid profile will ensure that they’re not the only thing that show up. Organic works best, so don’t over plan and see what works and what doesn’t.
Tip 2: Monitor your social media accounts regularly
If you want to make the social media monitoring experience as painless as possible, you can change account settings on Facebook or Twitter so you’ll receive a message anytime you receive a direct message or are mentioned in a tweet. You can also use free or low cost services to manage all your accounts in one place. Our two favorites are Crowdbooster and Hootsuite.
Tip 3: Set up a Google Alert for your business
Google Alerts are a brilliant way to see what the world thinks about you without any of the hassle of actually trawling the internet to find out.
Set up an alert for your business name and Google do the hard work for you. You’ll be emailed all results at a frequency of your choosing. We recommend daily or as-it-happens updates, particularly if you have a lower online profile, to make sure you catch things immediately.
Tip 4: Investigate bad reviews and set them to rights
We’ve all been there – a frustrated customer or someone just having a bad day has left a bad review. It happens.
Don’t take it too personally, and try to get the conversation offline as soon as possible. Ask the customer to contact you, or ask them how you can get in touch. If you have their details, reach out. Investigate their query and resolve the problem. When the issue has been set to right, follow up online.
The internet may be a brave new world, but following these tips will increase your confidence about your online reputation. Better still, the 15 minutes a week you spend monitoring your profile on the internet will make you more PR-savvy at the same time – helping you and your business.
Don’t forget to check out our 4 steps to getting started on Twitter if you are new to it, or our post on personal branding if you are a freelancer, job seeker or solopreneur going online. Coming soon – more about social media tools to help you manage your marketing.