If you have run a brick-and-mortar store before, you know just how damaging one customer’s negative experience can be to your reputation in the neighborhood. Infamy carries an impact several orders of magnitude larger on the internet.
You are no longer dealing with the perception of the hundreds or thousands of people living in your area. It’s now about the millions of people online who may come across the complaint. That’s why online reputation management is so vital. We look at the three ways of protecting your brand on the internet.
1. Great Content
First impressions last. One of the most effective ways of increasing your credibility online is by creating high quality content. Customers are no longer impressed by catchy slogans alone. Increased competition means consumers want to see the business put some effort into the content of their website as this is an early sign that the owner is committed to outstanding work.
Great content is about being persuasive without becoming overly salesy. It’s about positioning yourself as an authority without sounding preachy. While the ultimate goal of content is conversion, the best web pages communicate in a subtle, understated way.
One way to achieve great, convincing content is by partnering with a business that’s not in competition with you. They can promote your stuff as you do theirs. For instance, an outdoor gear company could partner with an adventure travel business.
Your website should have a blog where you can share tangible, actionable ideas and solutions with readers. Provide a mechanism for feedback so you know what readers think about each piece.
All content you create on the website and elsewhere should be part of a well thought out sales funnel. Each write-up should gently nudge the reader further along the conversion process.
2. Social Media
Social media brought meaning to the phrase ‘going viral’. With Facebook having edges past 2 billion active users and other platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat and Telegram boasting hundreds of millions, social media can no longer be ignored. The reputation of many businesses has been shattered at the altar of social networking sites.
The first step to making social media work for you is regular activity. Having an account on Facebook or Instagram won’t matter much to your customers if you are not using it. That said, posting regularly is one thing while posting consistently is another. Develop a schedule and queue your updates for specific times each day. You can use social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social for this.
Consistent posting is not enough. You have to take it to the next level: Engage. Your social media followers will quickly notice if your updates are robotic. A human touch is always more attractive than a rigid, aloof approach. It’s social media after all. Respond to questions and solicit feedback. Be professional but stay approachable.
3. Online Reviews
In the past, many businesses viewed online reviews with contempt. Some saw reviews as the work of haters with little tangible impact. For a while, businesses could ignore this aspect of reputation management. That changed when Google started to give reviews prominence in search results. Now, small businesses that want to protect their brand must pay attention to what people are saying on the web.
Managing online reviews is the most complex and abstract aspect of online reputation management. Unlike website content and your social media accounts, you have less control of online reviews. It can still be done though. For starters, make sure you are offering a solid product. There’s no redemption for a deeply flawed item. If you notice a surge of negative reviews, it may be time to examine if there’s an aspect of your business or product that needs to change.
Next, encourage customers who’ve had a positive experience with your product to leave a review. Finally, address the negative reviews by contacting the disaffected customer. Find out what the problem was and work toward resolving it.
The internet’s growth is a result of its ability to not only make vast information available but to also ensure that such information is spread rapidly. Whereas this has been a major positive for small businesses, it also means bad news travels faster than ever before. As an entrepreneur, keeping tabs on your business’ online reputation is paramount.