Word of mouse through blogs, forums and social networking sites is becoming increasing important in consumer decision making so how do you manage your online reputation when everyone’s a critic? Follow these ten tips to control and guide what is being said about your company online.
Monitor your reputation
One of the simplest and easiest ways to track what is being said about your company in cyberspace is to use Google Alerts. With this free service, you can search either all of Google’s properties, or you can specify that only news, blogs, web, video, or groups are searched. You can sign up for alerts results to be emailed to you either as it happens, once a day, or once a week.
Encourage open communication
Having a company blog will encourage open communication between your customers and your company. A company blog is a platform in which you can encourage feedback from your customers and address any concerns, criticisms or comments about your product and/or services. In addition, by creating social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook, you can also control the brand message you want to communicate about your company and encourage two-way communication.
It is important to be transparent in all your dealings with customers. Customers appreciate honest feedback and full disclosure if a problem needs to be addressed whether it is a complaint, a scathing review or a product recall. When a video of a Dell laptop exploding went viral, Dell’s Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca responded to the public relations crisis straight away and posted the video online. Dell won respect from their customers in regards to their rapid response, honesty and transparency.
Answer your critics
When negative feedback has been given, it is important to address your critics and respond to them in a meaningful manner where they feel their concerns have been listened to and further action will be taken. An irate Cotton On customer emailed the company about inappropriate clothing logos and was not happy with the response she received so she emailed ex Cosmo Editor turned blogger Mia Freedman. Mia followed up with a post on her blog Mama Mia.
The blog post made major TV news and radio bulletins and featured on all news websites and Cotton On was forced to withdraw the new clothing line from sale within two days. If the customer’s concerns had been addressed at store level, it may not have escalated and given Cotton On such bad publicity. At the time of publication, Mia Freedman’s blog post is still featured at number three in Australian and US Google searches when using the keyword phrase ‘Cotton On’.*
Remove negative feedback at the source
If a social networking site, blog or online news source has posted inaccurate information about your company, ask them to remove the offending blog post or publish a retraction. You can also ask blog owner if you can write a guest blog post on the website addressing any concerns the blogger may have and outline the actions you have taken to resolve the problem. Alternatively, post a comment on the blog with a link to your own company blog addressing the situation.
Respond quickly and proactively
It is important to respond quickly to any potential controversial mentions of your company to fan the flames before they get any bigger. In cases where there has been a negative review of your company posted, ask your valued customers to write a positive and glowing review of your company to try and deflect a bad review.
Susan Moskwa, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst says “to reduce its [bad publicity] visibility in the search results by proactively publishing useful, positive information about yourself or your business. If you can get stuff that you want people to see to outperform the stuff you don’t want them to see, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of harm that that negative or embarrassing content can do to your reputation.”
Manage your reputation through Google SEO
Google SEO is allowing ways for you to manage your online reputation such as Google Local Business Centre Listings. The local listings are becoming increasingly more important as the map and the first seven listings appear before the organic SEO listings start.
The local listings allow you to include reviews and testimonials for your listing which can help improve your listing, it promotes believability, credibility, and a sense of security for new customers and negates any negative comments about your company which will appear below the Google Local Business Centre Listing.
Susan Moskwa also suggests creating a Google Profile to manage your reputation and control the information you want about your company in Google searches.
Establish yourself as an expert
Establish yourself as an expert in your field by writing regular company blog updates but also writing guest blogs for related blogs in your industry, publishing articles in trade magazines and speaking at industry conferences and events. Make sure the articles include a link back to your company’s websites. Writing great content both on your website and guest blogging will work twofold to enhance your online reputation and increase your link profile.
Control the message
There should be one person or team (depending on how large your company is) assigned to answer all enquiries, respond to feedback or post on social media networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. You should be communicating the same brand message across all platforms and mediums and only the nominated representative(s) should be speaking on behalf of the company. This job will usually be done by a public relations or marketing team.
Step away from the keyboard
When you have read an unfavourable comment on a blog or a read an unfair blog post damming your company or your product, it is easy to rise to anger and write a scathing or sarcastic comment back. Don’t. Step away from your keyboard and pace around your office until you have calmed down and you can write a response without any emotional undertone and address the blogger in a calm, controlled manner.
Following these tips will help you to manage your online reputation and to a certain extent control information online or help negate any negative publicity about your company. In today’s world, a businesses’ reputation can be damaged in 140 characters or less on Twitter so make sure you get the thumbs up from your customers.
* At the time of publication.