Online Reputation Management: It’s time to take it seriously

Imagine this scenario: You are a Restaurant Manager and in the last two months you notice a sudden drop in sales and your customer size starts decreasing. You start wondering what the reason for all this could be. One day you decide to do a Google search on your restaurant and stumble upon a highly negative review about your restaurant. You can’t believe your eyes … someone complaining about the long wait times, staff that behaves rudely, and food that made some customers sick. How would this make you feel? You realize that your Online Reputation has been severely attacked.  What should you do?

You know very few people have ever had a bad experience at your restaurant – and if they did, you made it right.  But one lady in particular chose to air her grievances online vs. directly with you, the owner.

What can we learn from this case?

A business nowadays needs to take Online Reputation Management very seriously and monitor carefully what people are saying online about them. Maintaining a polished image online at all times should be the ultimate goal. Time has passed where just the physical presence matters. Having your offline and online Reputation in sync is important in maintaining your credibility.

Unfortunately, many businesses begin thinking of Online Reputation Management when it’s too late and when a crisis has already seriously affected their business. As a consequence, loss of profits, loss of Reputation and loss of clients are the result. They look at it as a tool for damage control, instead of thinking how to prevent negative content being published online in the first place. However, it can become very difficult for a company to keep everything under control, and we all know how effective videos are nowadays. They can go viral within few hours and a company’s image can be torn to pieces on a global scale, for which it might have taken years for the company to build in the first place!

So how can a company achieve a great online Reputation?

These are 10 steps that you can take for your own business to achieve a solid online Reputation:

  1. First of all, be clear about what your company wants to achieve with its Online Reputation Management efforts and then plan an effective strategy.
  2. Google your own company and see what can already be found online.
  3. Make sure that you have a website which follows the most crucial search engine optimization practices (SEO).
  4. If you have not already done it, set up social media accounts on Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram etc. and get 100 % completed profiles. Check on a daily basis the interactions, comments and messages with your audience. Replying quickly and responsibly is key. The motto is to engage, engage and engage.
  5. Choose a great profile picture and avoid using your corporate logo. People still want to connect with real people.
  6. Write a good bio and use keywords that make you more searchable.
  7. Create a blog which can be used as an additional tool to show your knowledge, expertise, experience, etc. Keep it regularly updated and listen / reply to your audience’s comments.
  8. Create noteworthy news which can be forwarded to, and covered by the media.
  9. Use online reputation monitoring tools like Google Alerts. There are many other additional resources which you can monitor the online chatter.  All of them have different features. It’s your challenge to find out what is most suitable to your specific business. You must take advantage of this opportunity to listen to what your audience (buyers and not-buyers) are talking about.
  10. Know when to bring in an expert to fix a problem. Usually there are two ways to sort this problem out: 1) either by getting the negative content entirely removed, or 2) by creating so much positive content that the negative content (text, video, images etc.) will be pushed down on the Google ranking list. Since 92 % of internet visitors don’t look beyond the first search page on Google, the task consists in decreasing its visibility on the first few search pages.

Having a well-planned Online Reputation Management system in place is of paramount importance. This can help you to build a more powerful business. It will also make you more resilient to viral attacks. Don’t forget that managing your online Reputation correctly can help your business in other areas as well, e.g. extending your brand reach positively, increasing your sales and accessing important market research via social media networks and blogs. Always remember Warren Buffett’s words “It can take 20 years to build a Reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently!”

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