Entrepreneurs: Why Online Reputation Management Matters

If you’re working hard to build a business, you may think that you can’t afford to pay attention to your online presence or reputation. Actually, the truth is that if you’re working hard to build a business you can’t afford to not pay attention to your online presence and reputation. After all, we currently live in a world where consumers are more than likely to run an online search for a business prior to making a choice about whether or not to enter into a relationship with that business. Reputation building is therefore absolutely critical to the success of any business, whether they are just starting up, working to grow, or stabilized after many years.

The Importance of Online Reputation Management 

Waiting for your online reputation to be a mess before taking action to resolve it is waiting too long. You will build more strength and power for your business by taking control of your online reputation from the very beginning, so that you can determine just how it is shaped. Imagine a consumer goes searching for your business online and all they find is a series of small-time review sites with little to no reviews, or even worse, poor reviews. It’s safe to assume that they won’t waste any more of their time considering your business, and will move on to look for something else somewhere else. This means that without even having interacted with the consumer for a second, your business has already lost a potential conversion. Even if this only occurs once a week you can see how it can quickly add up over the course of several months or a year. Research has even suggested that businesses can lose about twenty percent of business when potential consumers find a negative article about them online, a little more than forty percent of business when potential consumers find two negative articles about them online and just around sixty percent of business when potential consumers find three negative articles about them online. So what can you do? Consider the following online reputation management tips:

  • Find out what you’re dealing with. Running a Google search on your business can give you a very good idea of how your online reputation currently looks. You should take a look at the first few pages of search results, and at least the first page of images that come up so you understand what irrelevant and negative content you will need to handle.
  • Clean up your search results. You may find that some of the content that comes up in your Google search are unflattering photos and inappropriate or embarrassing status updates on social media. This is a good time to go ahead and delete them.
  • Create a website. If you don’t already have a website, now is the time to create one. If you do have a website but it’s tired and outdated, it may be time to have it professionally updated. The goal is to give consumers a place to go to get the best information about your business straight from the source. This website should have an easy-to-find URL (such as your business’ name), an About Us page, a regularly updated blog, a call-to-action and easy to see contact information.
  • Set up social media accounts. Social media provides an excellent way for a business to interact with current and potential consumers, and it can also help to ensure that more of the top search engine results can focus on those sites you control and maintain.
  • Find out what your target audience truly needs and wants. You can spend tons of time, money and effort on promoting your business and its products or services and wonder why you are not getting the traffic and conversions you expect. However, if you take the time to find out what your target audience truly needs and wants, you may be able to restructure your content marketing strategy so that it effectively reaches out to and engages consumers, leading to conversions.
  • Manage your online reviews. Relying upon third party review sites for effective reviews about your business is risky, especially since this will lead consumers to the third party site instead of your website. Manage your own online reviews and draw consumers to your door.

Effective online reputation management can make a great deal of difference in the success of a business. Those businesses that are aggressive about establishing and improving their online reputation are highly rewarded for their efforts.

Technological Advancements Profoundly Impacting Online Reputation Management

It is virtually impossible for any business to exist today without some sort of online reputation. Even those businesses that fail to maintain an online presence are affected by the fact that most consumers are willing and even eager to speak about them online–through social media, review websites and more. A business that actively maintains an online presence and works hard to protect their online reputation with various management tools or through the help of a dedicated online reputation specialist is better able to present consumers with the business image they desire. That said, online reputation management is far more than knowing how to fix your online reputation should something go awry. It is also about understanding how online reputation threats can occur, and what tools you can use to protect against them. Perhaps even more importantly, it is about understanding the impact that technological advancements have on your online reputation and how to properly manage it with this in mind.

How Technological Advancements Affect Online Reputation Management

Understanding what must be done to effectively protect one’s online reputation is not as simple as learning a series of rules and then simply adhering to them. This is due to the fact that those things that can damage or improve your online reputation are constantly changing and evolving–which is why online reputation management must be constantly changing and evolving as well. One of the biggest sources of changes and evolution is various technological advancements, which can be a great asset when used properly and a great detriment when ignored.

Consider first how advancements in technology have actually opened the door to more business-consumer interactions. With various social media platforms and other online forums, consumers are able to easily reach out to and connect with a business. They like to express how they feel about a business or brand, as well as their products and services. They like when a business consults them about new products or services and truly seems to care about their feedback and opinion. Social media allows for a much more personal communication to exist between a business and consumer when the business responds to consumer questions, concerns and comments, and herein lies an amazing opportunity to boost their image. Even where a consumer has something unflattering or downright critical to say about a business, the business can still turn the situation to their advantage by responding promptly and professionally, indicating their care for the consumer and their interest in setting things right. If a business ignores this avenue, however, and fails to maintain a social media presence or fails to communicate with consumers through social media, it can be very detrimental to their reputation.

Consumers today expect to be able to find businesses online easily, and get in “behind the scenes” of these businesses through social media platforms. It is not at all unusual for them to respond harshly and critically if a business fails to step up and create and maintain this desirable online presence. Since many more consumers interact with businesses online today, rather than through brick and mortar establishments, they expect and demand this type of human connection, and with the technology to support it businesses must step up and fill the need.

The Bottom Line

Some businesses may pride themselves in establishing more personal connections with consumers by forming in-person relationships. They may feel that by shying away from a strong online presence they are somehow preserving the idea that online connections are less genuine or fulfilling, and therefore they are making a unique name for themselves. Unfortunately, while some consumers may understand and support this general idea, the vast majority of consumers today will be irritated by the lack of a strong online presence for the business. They are more likely to view it as a mark of the business’ isolation from, rather than connection with, consumers, and they are unlikely to hold anything back when telling others about it. It is therefore in a business’ best interests to stay abreast of technological advancements as regards online reputation management, and connect with consumers in the way that current consumers most desire.

Why Companies Are Instituting Employee Reputation Management

In today’s tech-savvy world, more and more companies are quickly realizing just how critical online reputation management is. Just one single disparaging review of a company, their products or their services can quickly escalate into an extremely damaging public relations nightmare that takes a considerable amount of time, money and effort to resolve, even if the review is proven to be entirely false. Effective online reputation management can work hard to protect a company against things that have the potential to threaten their reputation and can resolve situations quickly when they arise. Since there are many possible ways a company’s online reputation can be affected by their employees, companies now believe that effective online reputation management also includes employee reputation management.

The Importance of Employee Reputation Management

The very nature of online news and social media sites means that information of a sensational nature can, and often does, go viral in record time. This means that even while a company must work very hard to protect their online reputation from disparaging news and remarks that are made about them online, they must also consider the damaging effects that can be caused by their employees’ actions and remarks.

It is no secret that employees are the face of their company, and that their decisions, actions and remarks can affect how others view the company. This is why companies perform background checks on applicants prior to hiring them–they cannot afford to be associated with an individual who has broken accepted social codes. But what happens if an individual has been hired and then decides, does or says something that reflects poorly upon the company? One poorly thought-out Facebook post has the potential to be just as damaging to a company’s reputation as a customer’s disparaging review–and sometimes even more so–as it was made by someone who represents the company. This is why employee reputation management has become so very important.

Understanding Employee Reputation Management

In addition to normal hiring procedures that include running general background checks to determine the presence of any criminal history, some companies are now running social media background checks on potential employees. This can help them to understand the individual’s general social habits as well as what they post to social media about, so as to better understand how the individual may reflect upon the company once hired. For example, if an individual is particularly outspoken about highly controversial political issues, has been badmouthing their boss, colleagues or clients or criticizing their employer in the past, this may present a big problem for a company that is considering hiring the individual. After all, what is to say that the individual won’t be doing the same thing in the near future?

Once an individual has passed these background checks, companies can ensure employee reputation management by establishing policies for employees to adhere to. These policies normally outline how employees are expected to conduct themselves on social media platforms so as not to reflect poorly upon the company. Sometimes they even outline the disciplinary actions the company may take should an employee violate the policies. Companies aren’t just trying to prevent their employees from making disparaging remarks or expressing personal views that could possibly be viewed by others as company views, they are very concerned about employees who will either deliberately or innocently misuse confidential company information, so policies will often cover this as well.

Essentially, a company must help their employees to understand that their actions online can have a big impact on how members of the public view the company, and that nothing they post online in any forum is posted in a vacuum that is guaranteed to be private. In other words, each employee’s reputation is closely linked to their company’s reputation, and they must understand their responsibility in protecting both.

Top 5 Services Offered by Online Reputation Management Companies

Establishing an online presence is certainly an important part of making your business visible, but managing your online reputation is critical to ensuring your business is visible in a favorable light. A good online reputation can help your business to strengthen and grow, while a poor online reputation can cause it to remain stagnant at best, and suffer damaging effects at worst.

Managing your online reputation consists of far more than simply keeping your website fresh and up-to-date, and while it may seem like a simple process, it is far better to be thorough than overlook something that has the potential to cause great and lasting harm. It is for this, and many other reasons, that many businesses choose to hire an online reputation management company.

Online Reputation Management Company Services

The goal of any online reputation management company is, of course, to help a business establish and maintain a strong online reputation which will help them to grow. While each online reputation management company can offer a different variety of services, there are five main services that are normally offered:

  1. Push down negative search engine results. When a consumer searches for information regarding your brand, products or services, the results they are confronted with on the very first page can have a big impact on their decision. For example, if they are immediately confronted by negative results, regardless of where they have come from, they will likely choose to avoid your brand. This can seem incredibly unfair, and it is, but it can happen when negative results rate highly. One of the top services provided by online reputation management companies is therefore to push negative search engine results down off the first page, or even off the first few pages, where it won’t do as much damage.
  2. Defend positive search engine results. Consumers often begin online searches very broadly, usually with generic terms, and then refine them as they go along. Part of the reason for this is that they may not actually know for sure what it is they want, but as they learn more through positive search engine results, they may dig into a specific brand to learn more. If they encounter problems along the way, they will often abandon one type of search and take up another one instead, which is why it is important to defend positive search engine results that garner positive attention.
  3. Remove false and defamatory results. False and defamatory content in search engine results can have an enormous effect on how consumers view that brand, especially if it shows up high in the search results. Considering that one recent study indicated that nearly forty-five percent of consumers changed their mind about doing business with a specific brand based on negative search results, it is definitely in a company’s best interests to have false and defamatory content removed entirely.
  4. Improve online reviews. Most consumers choose to read online reviews before deciding whether or not to partake of a business’ products or services, regardless of how appealing the business’ description of these products or services may be. In fact, many consumers place the same amount of trust in online reviews as they do in personal recommendations. Businesses that seek to build and maintain a strong online reputation must therefore manage and improve their online review process so they can benefit enormously from their reviews.
  5. Monitor and improve the business’ social media reputation. It’s no mistake that social media has grown steadily in popularity, and that many individuals invest a great amount of their time in visiting and contributing to social media websites. A business needs to both take advantage of this trend, and protect their image, by monitoring and improving their social media reputation. After all, it only takes one social media post that goes viral to completely destroy the image a brand has worked hard to establish and grow.

When it comes to a business’ online reputation, the time and effort invested in building and strengthening this reputation will always bring about a great return on investment. While it may seem that many of the above areas can be well-managed in-house, it can bring about great peace of mind to hire an online reputation management company and allow experienced professionals to build your online reputation stronger and faster than you had even hoped.

Why Brick and Mortar Businesses Need Online Reputation Management

Regardless of whether they have any online presence, there is no doubt that a business works very hard to establish a good reputation and a strong relationship with their clientele. They may sell a few of their specialty products or services through other retail website channels, or they may simply rely upon their current clients or customers and the power of word-of-mouth to continue to grow and stabilize their business. If they are well established and highly profitable, it may seem pointless to maintain an online reputation, but the truth is that online reputation management can do far more good for a business than simply help them expand their clientele.

The Importance of Online Reputation Management

In today’s tech-based world, a business does not need to have an online presence in order to have an online reputation. First of all, many consumers will run online searches for needed and wanted products and services, and may not even recognize that a business exists if it doesn’t have a firm online presence established. Furthermore, even without its own online presence a business is bound to receive reviews, which they are powerless to do anything about if they don’t manage their online reputation. For many consumers, this lack of online presence can easily be translated into a lack of proper customer care, as the business is likely unaware of what consumers are saying about them–much less doing anything about it.

With online reputation management, businesses can ensure that consumers receive accurate information about their products or services. They can provide their clients or customers with stellar customer service–monitoring and responding to reviews and requests as necessary, and they can even provide helpful tips and information through a regularly updated blog. This could actually decrease the amount of work the business has to do to resolve consumer questions over the phone, because the majority of this information will be readily accessible on their website, providing consumers with the exact information about the business that they’re searching for.

The Important Role Review Monitoring Plays in Reputation Management

When a consumer is looking for a reputable company, they are likely to search online for reviews before making a decision and a purchase. It follows, then, that if a company has poor or even mediocre online reviews, they are likely losing potential new business on a fairly regular basis. This difficult realization can be compounded by the fact that some online reviews are false, while others could potentially be prevented or resolved through fast, caring responses. This is why review monitoring is so critical to online reputation management, it can help a business protect and grow their reputation.

How to Monitor Reviews

Once you understand the importance of reviewing monitoring, you may wonder how to undertake this huge task. After all, consumers don’t only post reviews directly to a business’ website, but also to a wide range of other sites as well. Following are some tips for effectively monitoring reviews:

● Find where your business is listed online. You can often find these sites by running a search for “your business name + reviews”. It’s important to be thorough, so look through the first three pages of results and note down all sites that mention your business. Also consider any social media sites where your business has a profile or is mentioned.

● Find out where your business currently ranks on various sites. For each site that mentions your business, note down how many reviews you have and what your overall ranking is.

● Determine, based on the number of sites and the number of reviews, how often you need to monitor them. If there are only a few sites and not a lot of reviews, checking once a month may be sufficient. However, if there are quite a few reviews spread across quite a few sites, you may need to check several times a week.

● Start checking reviews and responding as necessary. Once you know what is being said about your business, you can work on improving your reputation by responding appropriately.

How One Image Could Define Your Online Reputation

In today’s tech-savvy world, establishing and maintaining a good online reputation is vitally important to one’s success. After all, when individuals are looking for answers or solutions to their various questions and problems in life, they are likely to turn to the internet. A good online reputation can establish one’s business high on search engine results, and can convince readers that they are worth taking a closer look at. So how can images affect one’s online reputation?

Managing an Online Reputation

It’s become increasingly well-known that providing regularly updated, unique and valuable content is critical to establishing and maintaining a good online reputation. This content can establish trust between a business and their future clients, and it definitely includes the images associated with one’s business that are posted on both business and social media sites.

Search engine results often include images, sometimes displayed prominently near the top of the page. Unfortunately, if the images that turn up are negative in nature, they can have a detrimental effect on one’s online reputation, and unfortunately, they can be fairly difficult–or even impossible–to remove. Social media sites often list terms of service that specifically state that while they don’t have ownership of any of the content published therein, they yet have the right to use any published content for their own purposes. This obviously includes images–which essentially means that a single image published once can be shared and spread among others, becoming somewhat immortal and popping up elsewhere at random points in time. Obviously, this means that if a business posts an image that they later determine does not convey an appropriate message, they may very well discover that removing it from their website and social media sites does not actually cause it to completely disappear from search engine results.

In short, it is very important that one never publishes any images online unless they are absolutely positive that the image conveys the message that one is comfortable having all present and future clients see.

What the Election Showed Us About the Importance of Reputation Management

Regardless of one’s personal political views, there is no denying the fact that the recent presidential election was a highly charged event, in its entirety, for every single American citizen. And while the outcome of the election may have generated every possible emotion in the population from elation to hope to confusion to anger to despair, it is a cinch to assume that most everyone in the population would agree entirely on the point that neither candidate had what one would consider to be a really good reputation. In fact, in the aftermath of the election, many are trying to evaluate just where the candidates may have messed up–and a lot of the focus is on points that affected their reputation. Unfortunately, this may have significantly hurt both of them–albeit in different ways–and opened our eyes even more to the importance of reputation management.

Just as can occur for presidential candidates, a company’s digital footprint has the potential to come back and haunt them in the future, damaging or even destroying their reputation. Threats to one’s reputation can include poor customer reviews, negative stories about the company, legal problems, and more. If not appropriately, honestly and rapidly addressed and handled, the company can suffer the consequences of these things. As damaging as bad publicity can be, it does not have to destroy or even significantly harm a business. By promoting a lot of positive content regarding the business, receiving an abundance of customer reviews and addressing any product or service issues, or complaints, openly and professionally, one can successfully maintain their online reputation.

As has been proven by Trump’s derogatory and inflammatory remarks and Clinton’s dishonesty regarding her email scandals, poor reputation management at any time can continue to cause problems long into the future, and therefore should be avoided and prevented against at all costs.

3 Tips to Ensure Your Online Reviews Match Your Quality of Service

Considering the amount of time, effort and hard work it takes to establish and maintain a successful business, it’s not surprising that most business owners wish they could receive only good reviews from customers, and in great abundance. However, no matter how hard you may try to prevent them from happening through providing excellent products and services, bad reviews do sometimes happen. The good news is that good reviews can help to negate the damaging effects of bad reviews, and if you focus your attention in the right place, you can ensure that online reviews actually match your high quality service.

How to Encourage Accurate Reviews

1. Closely monitor all online reviews regularly, and encourage satisfied customers to provide honest reviews. If you don’t know what your customers are saying about you, it becomes incredibly difficult to figure out where you are succeeding in business and where you are weak. Positive reviews can help to neutralize the damaging impact of negative reviews.
2. Find out exactly where customers feel you should improve your products or services, and work to create and deliver what is needed and wanted. Most customers have an opinion about a product or service, but they may not actually take the time to write an online review. However, these opinions do matter, so it is valuable to collect data through customer surveys immediately after product purchase or receipt of service. You can then address issues as they arise. One thing to bear in mind is that all feedback–including negative reviews–is constructive, if you are willing to listen and respond with genuine care and concern. Immediately addressing a negative review can rapidly turn a critic into an advocate who will be singing your praises to everyone they can.
3. Share customer stories, being sure to highlight the uniqueness of your products or services, and engage with your customers around these stories. Customers appreciate feeling like they are truly valuable, recognized, appreciated and heard. By sharing customer stories that demonstrate the value of your business you will not only connect more deeply with existing customers but also pull new customers into your business.

A business that is routinely engaged with their customers and has an absolute abundance of honest, positive online reviews cannot be harmed by a few bad reviews, especially if they immediately take action to address and resolve the problems outlined in the bad reviews.

Justine Sacco’s Reputation Incinerated in Seconds

In 2013, Justine Sacco was preparing to board a flight to visit family in South Africa over the holidays. As she was waiting by the gate during the final leg of her trip, she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She laughed as anyone else would laugh at their own jokes and carried on her way to being seated on the flight. Sacco boarded the flight and started to sleep since it was going to take 11 hours to reach her destination. After she reached her destination, she opened her phone to find multiple confusing texts, an old friend felt sorry for what she was going through and her best friend sent a message asking Sacco to call back immediately.

Sacco’s twitter feed became a slaughterhouse for Sacco’s reputation. Her tweet during the trip destroyed her name and the online community started to attack her with no hesitation. What made things worse is that she is the senior director of corporate communications at IAC, a public relations company. There were a few tweets asking people to post pictures of her when she landed at the Airport. A twitter user actually did go and take a picture of Sacco and post it on twitter stating she was trying to hide with her sunglasses.

Justine Sacco’s reputation was beyond destroyed, she was labelled as an inconsiderate idiot. The online community was not playing nice with her statements. Especially when people have anonymity, they never hold back.

This tweet exploded and ended up loosing her job and friends in the process. She almost lost her family back in Africa who are African National Congress supporters, the Nelson Mandela party; they were also longtime activists for racial equity. Justine Sacco gave out a public apology on what happened; however, it didn’t change the minds of her bosses. She was let go soon after the incident and especially being part of a PR firm, they couldn’t keep her on because it would have been suicidal for the company. Imagine a reputation management company forgave an employee for a public racial comment; it would be quite ironic.

The internet destroyed Sacco’s life and reputation that she built over time. Granted, she was the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Africa, but she did many things on her own and got that job by earning it instead of using her family ties to win it over.

Justine Sacco was later interviewed by someone from the New York Times. They wanted to hear her side of the story. When speaking with her, they realized that she did not believe those words to be literal. In fact, after meeting up with Sacco and talking for a whole day, she said that joke was a way for being sarcastic and commentating on the fact that Americans live in their own world or bubble while they ignore the rest of the planets problems. The major problem here is the fact that the readers took the message quite literally. Even so, that shouldn’t warrant anyone to share their damaging thoughts and beliefs in public.