Along with the many wonderful benefits of the digital age comes a fairly significant drawback: every single thing your business does or fails to do, can become widespread knowledge in a matter of minutes–affecting your reputation. Information about what your business is doing or not doing can have a marked impact on how consumers, potential consumers, investors, and others view your business, which can affect their decisions and your bottom line. This includes unpredictable events and crises, false or incomplete news stories and even intentional, targeted attacks by your competitors, things over which you truly have no control. It is therefore critical that you maintain control of your reputation through reputation management.
Online Reputation Management
While reputation management is succinctly defined as managing a business’ reputation, it can be broken down more thoroughly into these categories:
- Building a reputation. Where a business is just getting started, it is very important to build a strong, positive reputation. A business that fails to do this can suffer mightily when others attempt to fill the vacuum with information that is incorrect, incomplete or downright dishonest.
- Maintaining a reputation. Building a strong, positive reputation is a good start, but one cannot then neglect their business’ reputation and hope that it will remain in good shape. A reputation must be actively maintained through various actions that are designed to help spread more positive news and fight against the potential of negative news.
- Repairing a reputation. If a business has suffered a bad reputation for any reason it is necessary to repair their reputation so they do not continue to experience negative effects as a result.
Obviously, reputation management is not a fast action, but rather a time-consuming process that takes time. Reputation management is also not a one-size-fits-all proposition, as just as businesses develop different reputations, so too must they handle their reputation differently and specific to their needs. The strategies employed in reputation management may take three months to begin yielding steady results, but all energies expended are very worthwhile.
Some of the strategies used for reputation management include:
- Maintaining a blog. A blog is an important way for businesses to speak to consumers in a very personal way, rather than allowing other sources to essentially translate for them. To attract and hold reader attention, a blog should be updated regularly–at least once a week if not more often.
- Establishing directory listings. Unless a user just happens to type a business’ exact web address into the search bar, they are unlikely to find it easily. That is unless it is listed in directories with optimized keywords.
- Publishing positive reviews. Consumers today are wary of doing business with just anyone, and often turn to independent, third-party reviews in order to ascertain whether a business is truly trustworthy and reliable. Businesses should, therefore, encourage consumers to write honest reviews about their positive experience with the business. This does mean, of course, that some consumers may write about a less-than-positive experience, but this can also work to the business’ advantage. First, such a review makes the business seem more real (only positive reviews can seem suspicious) and also it provides the business with an opportunity to openly show off their excellent customer service as they reach out to resolve the issues.
- Participating in social networking. Social network platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace allow businesses to connect with consumers in a very real and interactive way. This can help consumers to identify with the business and start up a relationship with that business.
- Creating online publicity. Articles, links, and banners are all ways for a business to better reach out to potential new customers.
- Monitoring references to the business. What if a malicious individual posted something negative about a business to social media? Unless they specifically addressed their post to the business, how would the business even know about it? Unfortunately, even if the claims made in the post were clearly ludicrous and falsified, it could go viral and markedly impact the business’ reputation before they even know it’s happened. However, if one is monitoring the Internet for any references to their business (starting with something as simple as running Google searches on their business name every so often) they can become aware of these types of situations early on, and can then address them rapidly before they spread out of control.
With the ease of accessing all manner of information through the internet today, the fact is that consumers have come to expect total transparency from any and all businesses, no matter how large or small they are. They may not expect businesses to be absolutely perfect, but they certainly expect them to admit their mistakes and work to resolve them in good faith. With proper reputation management strategies, businesses can provide consumers with the honest, transparent communication they need and want in order to feel comfortable working with that business.
For more information about reputation management services, contact Web Content Development today.