How Your Business is Perceived Online Will Affect Sales – Here’s How to Manage Your Online Reputation
It’s easy to think your company’s “online reputation” involves only your website and social media networks, like Facebook. But it goes WAY beyond that. Those are the places you see and likely monitor on a regular basis. What about all those other places where people might talk about you? We’re talking lesser known review sites, status updates by people who aren’t fans of your Facebook page, and blog posts by people you’ve never heard of. Do you monitor these? When’s the last time you did a vanity search in Google on your company’s name (and some of its key players)? What are your employees saying during their down time? This post isn’t meant to alarm you. Instead, it’s going to arm you with easy ways to keep tabs on what people are saying and how to manage your online reputation.
1. Set up Google Alerts. We love this free and easy-to-use tool from Google. You can monitor your company’s name, the names of key players, and different brands of products/services. Any time these phrases are mentioned online, you’ll receive an alert via email. The beauty of this? It gives you back control: you can post comments (when appropriate) to articles, reach out to happy or unhappy customers, share positive news with your fan base, and get ahead of any negative stuff. Google Alerts also eliminates the need to do regular “vanity searches” on your name or your company name in Google.
2. Have a plan in place for managing negative content. No one likes reading something negative about their company (or themselves), but the truth is not everyone is going to love you, your business, or what you do. The key is being aware of what’s being said and then managing how you and your organization respond to the negative comments:
- Decide who will monitor this information and whose job it will be to manage anything that’s negative. Will it be someone in-house, or will you outsource to a PR or crisis management firm?
- Agree on the “types” of content you want to respond to. For example, will you respond to every negative tweet, even for people with fewer than, say, 200 followers?
- How will you respond? Will you do so publicly (e.g. through the comment thread of a blog post) or offline? Note: we recommend dealing with most of these offline. It’s OK to leave a comment or tweet that says something along the lines of “Let us make this right. We’re reaching out to you.” But then leave the nitty gritty for offline discussions. If the person who complained wants to then post an update via Twitter, blog, Yelp, whatever, he or she can.
3. Know the difference between libelous content and negative content. Most content will fall into the “negative” category (as much as you don’t like it), but, on occasion, you may have grounds for legal action. You’ll need to consult an attorney to know for sure. When in doubt, it can’t hurt to check.
4. Pick your battles. You can’t win them all, nor should you try. If someone does a search on your company and nothing negative comes up for pages and pages, that might be a problem, too, because, after all, no person or entity is perfect, and people know this. When people perform searches, they’re looking for honest information, not sanitized information that’s all squeaky clean. In fact, a negative blog post that also includes an “UPDATE” addendum that goes on to explain how your company reached out and fixed the issue will go a long way in showing people that you’re a class-act and professional.
5. Don’t forget your employees. Ah, your employees. They would never, ever say anything negative about your company or say something that reflects poorly on your company, right? Guess again. Employees are human. Some will make mistakes (like tweeting from a company Twitter account when they think they’re tweeting from their own personal profile). And some might not “go quietly” when they get laid off. Suddenly, your online reputation has just soured, and it’s thanks to the people you thought had your back. So what can you do? First, it can really help to have some sort of social media policy for your employees. It does not need to be pages long or full of legalese. But it should clearly state what’s OK and not OK. Second, you should have a process in place for changing ALL social media passwords when an employee is fired, let go, or leaves on his or her own and you should have a repository for all of this info (and a way to disseminate the new info to employees who need access).
6. Have a plan in place for promoting the good stuff. If you haven’t been monitoring your online reputation, you might be surprised what surfaces to the top when you do a Google search on your company name. The best way to combat what comes up in the top of search engines is to make sure you’re doing a good job producing positive content: adding fresh customer testimonials; issuing press releases online about new products/services, innovations, or new customers (note: these releases aren’t necessarily to garner press, but rather to promote the positive); issuing case studies; and so forth.
What strategies do you use for managing your company’s online reputation? Share in the comments.