Your reputation’s online, even if your business isn’t. Take control of how the online world views your business, and protect your bottom line.
Before the Internet connected the entire world, your business reputation was something that you built, not managed. Fallout from the customer complaints you couldn’t fix was of limited scope. Today, the Internet acts like a lens that magnifies every blemish, perceived insult and mistake—and then broadcasts it with a bullhorn.
Consumers turn to the Web to research practically everything before they buy, and one blistering review on Yelp can go viral and undo everything you’ve worked to achieve. Worse, its affects can haunt your bottom line for years. Managing your reputation is something you can’t afford to ignore.
Consider this. Blogs, forums and anonymous review sites can give consumers a strong voice, which is not a bad thing per se. But they can also attract commenters and reviewers who may be acting at the behest of your competitors. Unless you actively monitor and manage your business reputation, you clear the way for other people to step in and tell the story. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that the story won’t have a happy ending.
In an article on Small Business Computing, Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, offers small business owners advice on how to protect their online reputation.
Don’t Ignore the Internet
Online research is king, and small business owners simply don’t recognize its importance. Even a business that has nothing to do with the online world can find its reputation smeared across the Internet. Your business may not rely on the Internet, but your customers—and your competitors—go online. What are they saying about you?
The first step is to do a bit of online research yourself. Google both your name and your company’s name to see what comes up. Chances are you’ll be surprised at the results.
Know What You Can Control
When potential customers ask to know more about your business, it may seem sensible to refer them to online review sites. Don’t do it. Simply stated, you can’t control what people say about you on those sites. “A business will never buy a billboard and let others write on it,” says Zammuto.
A better course of action: focus on improving your ranking in Google search results. Post articles with informative, useful content that helps your customers. Share your expertise and make yourself a trusted resource for your customers. It may take a bit longer, but the results will be worth your effort.
Guard Your Own Reputation
You could pay a reputation management company, or you can save a bunch of money and use free tools and services to help you track your company’s reputation. Google Alerts, TweetBeep, Naymz, Social Mention, and MonitorThis are but a few examples.
If you choose to hire a rreputation management company, avoid any company that creates multiple Twitter accounts and microsites to flood the Web with good feedback and positive content about your company. Google frowns upon those dubious tactics, and you risk a precipitous fall to the bottom of the search results rankings.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.