Reputation management has undergone major changes in the past 5 years. It still means exactly the same thing it always has; it’s anything you do to ensure that your company’s reputation is the best it can be. What has changed is the arena in which you have to operate.
Social media has given consumers many ways to give instant feedback about businesses, resulting in an explosion of reviews, ratings, comments, complaints and recommendations online. Before this change, it was comparatively easy to keep up with your company’s reputation. Even disgruntled customers didn’t have much impact because their influence was limited to family and friends that they might (or might not) share their frustrations with.
Today nearly every consumer has a smartphone in his or her hand and can vent immediately about bad customer service, missed appointments, unfriendly service reps, problems with products, pricing, and much more. In some cases, they’ve tweeted their frustration or posted it on Facebook or left a comment on Foursquare before they even leave your business.
Being aware of what’s being said online about your business is reputation monitoring. It’s the first step. What you do about it is reputation management.
As with any activity online, there are businesses selling their services to help you manage your business reputation. If you decide to outsource your reputation management efforts, remember that if they’re promising something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Removing negative reviews, comments or posts
You can’t remove negative reviews from Google, Facebook, Foursquare or Twitter. The only exception to that (other than legal action) is if you have your own Facebook page and someone posts something negative on your page, since it’s your page, you can remove it. But should you? It’s usually better to respond in a helpful way and try to resolve the issue rather than deleting a post.
If customers have left a negative review about your business somewhere online, don’t be defensive and don’t ignore it. Apologize and offer to investigate and resolve the issue offline. Give your name and phone number. Ask for the opportunity to make things right. When others see that you responded quickly in a positive way and made an effort to resolve the problem, it only helps your efforts.
If the negative content is anonymous, and you have no way of contacting the person, you can leave a generic message with your contact info, encouraging people to let you know if they have any questions or complaints.
Dealing with negative results that show up in Google
When you search for your business name in Google, and links with negative information are in the top 10 or 20 results, it’s frustrating. But Google will not remove those links. One option is to make sure that there is positive content about you online and help it rank higher than the negative content.
- Claim your social media accounts and keep them active: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Local, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. These will begin to rank for your business name and can help push the negative links off the page.
- Add pages to your website like “my business name complaints”, “my business name customer service”, “my business name reviews” etc. If you create a page for each of these and give people a way to leave feedback, you will be moving the discussion to your own website while you begin ranking for these phrases.
- Claim your business listings in free online directories like Superpages.com and make sure the information on there is current and accurate. Often these directories show up prominently in the search results, so being included there is very beneficial.
- Make it easy for your customers to post positive reviews about you.
If someone is bent on defaming you or your business online, you’ll need to pull in some legal help, but for most of the negativism out there, you should be able to handle your reputation management effectively without going to court. Responding quickly and genuinely can help defuse an angry commenter and shows everyone that you are serious about fixing the problem. That helps turn a negative into a positive for your business.