Minding the store
What is the number one challenge of any professional today? Being everywhere at all times. Answering the phone, tending the store or clients, rushing to pick up this or that, getting email at all hours, checking in to Twitter, remembering Facebook, and the like. It can be daunting to keep up today. This presents a challenge as consumers are researching companies’ reputations online, so the question is – as you mind the store, are consumers finding you online in a light you’d like to be presented?
Cliff Stein of Reputation Changer tells AGBeat, “If you’re a small business owner, your online reputation is the most important asset you’ve got. It’s more than just your business card—it’s the very source of your credibility, the thing that makes people willing to do business with you in the first place. All it takes is a single bad review or negative Google listing to destroy that reputation; the most costly online reputation errors, however, are likely the ones you’re making yourself!”
Reputation Changer is a reputation management company that combats bad reviews and outranks the negatives with positive for its clientele of small businesses, celebrities, universities, politicians and average Joes, so they see a lot of mistakes made online every day that could be circumvented simply by people knowing what mistakes to avoid.
Top 10 reputation management mistakes
Stein outlines below the top 10 reputation management mistakes that small business owners make – probably without even realizing it.
- Failing to control the message about your brand. When it comes to your company, or even your industry, you never want to be in a position where other people are writing the narrative. That’s why this is Job #1. If there’s a major happening at your company—whether good or bad—you want to be right there on the forefront, delivering press releases and putting your own spin on things.
- Responding in anger to negative reviews. In fact, responding to reviews, on sites like Yelp.com in particular, is something you might just avoid altogether. A response only lends validity, and draws attention, to the negative review; what you really want to do is suppress it with all that positive content we mentioned before.
- Forgetting to monitor your online reputation properly. Reputation defense always comes back to monitoring—because if you don’t know what people are saying about you on the Web, how can you even begin to defend yourself properly? Setting up Google alerts, and periodically combing the social networks, should be high on your reputation management to-do list.
- Letting other people snatch up the prime online real estate. If a rival company or disgruntled employee wants to attack your online reputation—and if they’re really smart and cunning about it—they’re going to snatch up exact-match domain names for your small business. (If your company is called Nashville Emporium, those domains would include nashvilleemporium.com, org, and .net, for instance.) Don’t let them do it. Buy those domain names yourself, even if you don’t plan to use them right away.
- Staying out of social media. If you’re looking to shore up goodwill and positive press for your small business, regular activity on Facebook and Twitter is utterly essential.
- Letting just anyone manage your social media. Having said #3… it’s also important that small business owners be careful about exactly who is using their social media accounts. Once something is out there on the Internet, there’s no way to fully reel it back in or undo the damage—so either impose strict policies about what can and cannot be said on Facebook and Twitter, or just do it yourself. Social media updating should not be a job for the summer intern.
- Letting just anyone ghostwrite your business blog. Having a blog is a great way to showcase a more personal side of your company. The passion you have for your industry isn’t going to shine through if you’ve got a ghostwriter handling it, though. Make sure this is something you do yourself!
- Neglecting to publish content about your small business. The best way to ward off online attacks or negative reviews is to build a wall of positive press—a wall built out of strong, compelling content, published to your website as well as social media accounts.
- Failing to pump up your business with positive reviews. Having phony reviews written on your behalf is something that will likely come back to bite you, but there’s nothing wrong with asking your best clients to pen a quick five-star rave of your products and services.
- Getting into controversy. This may almost go without saying, but… if you’re a small business owner, then your own persona is a big part of your brand’s online reputation. Using your Facebook page or Twitter account to sound off about politics or religion is probably a poor idea!
As you assess the web as part of your marketing strategy, make sure these 10 mistakes are solved, because you don’t want you to be the reason you have a bad reputation online!