A company’s online reputation, like most things worthwhile, can be difficult to build but fiendishly easy to shatter. The internet has given consumers a voice that is widespread and immediate, and one negative customer review, blog post, comment, or social media mention—if ignored or handled poorly—can be enough to besmirch your online business reputation.
If you’re serious about managing your company’s online reputation, then you need to avoid the following mistakes:
Ignoring Comments and Reviews
One of the benefits of having an online presence for your business is that it gives you a chance to build and nurture relationships with your customers. When customers take the time to leave feedback about your business, whether positive or negative, you need to respond. If you make no effort to engage your customers, their approval and trust is going to deteriorate and your reputation is going to suffer.
Responding Poorly to Negative Feedback
There are all kinds of reasons why people leave negative comments and reviews. Some may be trolls. Some may be your competitors. But some of them may be actual customers with legitimate complaints. It may be tempting to go head-to-head with an irate customer, but bear in mind that the complaint and your response will be seen by a lot of people. No matter how justified you feel you are, coming off as angry or defensive is only going to damage your reputation.
The best approach is to wait until you’ve calmed down before you respond. Apologize to the customer, and explain what steps you’re taking to correct the problem. Even if the issue is something that is beyond your control, simply acknowledging the complaint can go a long way towards rebuilding trust and mending your reputation.
Paying Customers to Review Your Business
Paying someone to write online reviews for your business isn’t just skeevy; if they don’t disclose that they are paid, it’s also illegal. According to the FTC Endorsement Guidelines, if a reviewer has been compensated by your business, then he or she must disclose it in the review. This includes offering folks cash, coupons, discounts, or free products in exchange for favorable reviews.
Because this has become such a widespread problem, a number of review sites are taking steps to put a stop to these fake reviews. In October 2012, Yelp began calling out businesses that they caught red-handed buying reviews. Talk about a devastating blow to your online reputation!
Posting Fake Reviews of Competitors
If you’re having trouble raising your own reputation, it may be tempting to knock your competitors down a peg or two by posting negative reviews on their sites. However, most review sites give businesses the option of flagging reviews that they deem inappropriate, which means your fake review would probably vanish in a fraction of the time it took to write it.
Even worse, this underhanded tactic could very well come back to bite your reputation. Just a couple of weeks ago, Samsung came under fire for hiring people to post positive reviews for their products while writing negative comments about their competitor, HTC.
Not Monitoring All of Your Accounts
If there was one centralized location where you could see what folks are saying about your business online, then reputation management would be a snap. And if a frog had wings… well, you know. Anyway, the point is that your customers are likely scattered all across the web, posting reviews on some sites, writing blog articles on others, and mentioning you on any number of social media platforms.
Monitoring your own sites is pretty simple. Make sure you check your Facebook, Google+, and Twitter feeds at least once a day. You should also check regularly on Google+ Local, Yelp, or any other review site where you have claimed your local listing. Finally, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you when your business name shows up on any websites you didn’t know about.
Getting Too Personal on Your Business Pages
It’s always a good idea to let some of your personality shine through on your business pages, if only to assure your customers that they’re dealing with a real person rather than a faceless, corporate entity. However, if you bring religion, politics, or any other controversial topics into the mix, you’re going to alienate some otherwise loyal customers. Before you post, tweet, or otherwise share your personal views on your business pages, ask yourself if it’s really relevant to your business and are you willing to risk the negative impact to your online reputation.
Building a positive online reputation for your business is a gradual and ongoing process. Be wary of any shortcuts or quick fixes, as these could very easily backfire and seriously damage your reputation and relationship with your customers.