Perception is often far from reality. But when it comes to business, what you perceive is what you believe. It can be a crucial factor in keeping your old customers, or attracting new ones. The role of the Internet has covertly transformed from what it was a few decades ago. At that time, the buying audience was passive because there were few ways for them to express their views. That has changed, especially with the rise of social media. Today, businesses target a broader audience whom they engage with through social media. In addition to increasing their reach, this elevated activity has created a challenge for businesses as they have to deal with maintaining their reputation, and keeping it clean.
The current business world is such that user-generated content is crucial to the survival of any online business. To climb to the next level, consistent social media exchanges, recommendations, backlinks and referrals are essential. A bad reputation is often triggered by an unthinking individual who may seem harmless at first, but slowly turns into a landslide that plunges the reputation of your company to the depths.
Without safety procedures and regular surveillance systems in place, every online business is at risk of losing its innocence. The problem with a bad reputation is that it is hinged on trust and once lost, it’s very hard to get back. According to Kevin Harrington, who has had a role to play in the launch of more than 500 products, it is better to plan how you want your company or product to be viewed rather than leaving it at the mercy of reviewers, and hoping that they’ll be nice.
Online reputation is just as important as offline reputation, but misconceptions about the word abound. There are those who think online reputation is all about social media monitoring, while to others it encompasses public relations. There is a third group that has virtually no idea as to what it means, or how it affects their business.
One of the virtues expected of businesses is transparency. Being transparent has a broader definition than just keeping things unconcealed. It includes giving your employees the liberty to talk unfettered about a product or service in their company. It means creating a one-on-one channel for communicating with customers, allowing customers to post feedback on their website and blogs, and addressing criticism publicly rather than trying to hide it. Transparency can be summed up as staying open to criticism and feedback. Transparency, for any business, is like sailing in turbulent waters; but shying away from it carries far more risk.
It may interest you to know that online reputation goes beyond public relation and social media monitoring. It is a systematic approach geared towards phasing out issues that may arise to jeopardize your online reputation. Notwithstanding the importance of keeping a clean online reputation, many small and medium-sized companies fail to treat communication as the priority it should be - and so, they find themselves struggling over this concept with incorrect or inconsistent strategies.
A survey carried out in 2015 throws more light onto the importance of keeping a decent online reputation. The result revealed that 92 percent of consumers depend on online reviews when deciding on which local business to choose - this is a 4 percent rise from 2014. A three-star review is the least you would need to attract up to 87 percent of consumers who are in need of your product or service. The mostly communicated attributes on online reviews are expertise, reliability, professionalism, and value. Like a carving engraved on mountain tops, reviews - especially the bad ones - are hard to erase. Some never go away.
But all hope is not lost. Do not despair if you have already been a victim of bad reviews, because there is a way out. Whether you choose to manage your online reputation yourself or hand the duty to a reputation management company, there are tips to manage your reputation during the crisis that can be invaluable to your business.
One of the best approaches to reputation management is to have an in-house online marketing department, comprising of a team of professionals who are well grounded in the field of reputation management. However, when the in-house team is absent, the best thing to do would be to outsource the task to experts.
Susan Adams, wrote in her post on the “6 steps to managing your online reputation“ how reputation-building companies can hide your bad reputation from Google searches, while allowing the positive ones to float at the top of search results. According to Adams, most of those companies usually charge an annual fee starting at $5,000. This may be worth the price in the absence of an in-house team, especially for big companies and celebrities.
In recent years, many more reputation management companies have surfaced - Metal Rabbit Media, Reputation Changer, Reputation.com, Big Blue Robot, and so on. The rise in the number of reputation management companies has made the field competitive, and has forced down the price of hiring them. For example, Reputation.com charges $399 for individuals annually. Another trustworthy expert is The Reputation Management Company. They deal with harmful ratings, unwanted search results on Google, and bad reviews.
Searchers rarely go beyond the second page on Google searches. Therefore, the first page of Google search should contain the right information about your business, or others may take advantage of it to ruin your reputation. The author of Online Reputation Management for Dummies, Lori Randall Stradtman, made a mention of this as a “geek joke” when she said that best place to hide a dead body is on Google search’s third page.
Anyone can post on the web page of companies, and this gives room to people who deliberately target their competitors with bad reviews. Kevin Harrington recounted the story of how his friend - who owned a dieting website - discovered a series of negative reviews delivered on a third-party website. The trash-talk had spiraled into a substantial string by the time it was discovered. This prompted the social media director of the company to reach out to customers and beckoned them to write reviews about their experience. The response was an overwhelming tide of satisfaction which pushed down the negative reviews so far that a reader would have to scroll a long way to get to them.
One of the mistakes companies make is avoiding dealing with bad reviews. Some tend to be sarcastic in their reply, while others prefer not to reply at all. Both are disastrous ways of handling negative reviews. Bad reviews should be addressed with sincerity, in a way that promotes trust among customers or consumers of that product or service. Keeping an active social media account is very important, especially in this digital age. Companies should be smart enough to promote their brand by sharing the positive reviews that have been left on their social media pages. They can also set up incentives to encourage their customers to leave a review. Online reputation management is complex, and business specific - it cannot use the one-cap-fits-all approach every time. Consulting experts in the field can save you a lot of money and hard work.
Have you been a victim of bad reviews? How did you manage to salvage the situation? We would love to hear about your experiences, so be sure to share it with us in the comments section!