Your 2017 Guide To Managing Your Online Reputation

Is there anything more important than your online reputation? Do you have a strategy in place for maintaining a spotless reputation?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo entrepreneur or the CEO of a multinational corporation, it’s important to devote the necessary number of resources to online reputation management.

With each passing year, companies are facing new challenges in regards to reputation management. The steps that you took in the past won’t generate the same results in today’s day and age. You need to keep up with the times.

With this in mind, it’s time to discuss the best ways to manage your reputation in 2017. Let’s get started!

  1. Know Your Current Reputation

Maybe you’ll like what you find and maybe you won’t. Either way, you need to know where things stand in regards to your current online reputation.

Make it top priority to review the Internet for any mention of your company. From Google to Yelp, from Facebook to Twitter, you need to know what other people are saying about your company.

If you like what you see, you should stick with the plan that has gotten you this far.

If you uncover a few problem areas, it’s time to reassess your approach and put a heavy focus on reputation management.

  1. Take Action

One of the biggest problems in regards to online reputation management is an unwillingness to take action.

With so many important details to focus on – from sales and marketing to hiring the right employees – it’s easy to put this task on the backburner.

According to Vendasta, “58% of executives believe that online reputation management should be addressed, but only 15% actually do anything about it.”

You understand just how important it is to maintain a strong online reputation, so don’t wait another day to take action.

  1. Create an Online Presence

Many companies neglect their online presence for one key reason: they don’t know where to start when it comes to building a strong reputation.

You need to create an online presence you can be proud of, which means getting involved with any and every platform that makes sense for your business.

So, if you’re a local service business, you’ll want to focus plenty of time on Yelp, Google My Business, and Facebook.

Once you have your “base” in place, you can build out each platform in the way that makes most sense for your business. From there, it all comes down to providing high quality information, satisfying customers, and generating as many positive online reviews as possible.

Facebook, for instance, has approximately 1.28 billion daily active users and 1.94 billion monthly active users.

You can use these people to spread the word about your company and boost your online reputation.

If you take the other approach, that Facebook doesn’t matter, it could backfire.

  1. Get Social

With approximately 70 percent of Americans using social media in some way, you can’t ignore this method of connecting with your audience and maintaining a strong online reputation.

There are companies that are constantly getting beat up on social media. Worse yet, they don’t do anything to stop this.

Conversely, there are others who have embraced the power of social media. They understand that this is one of the best ways to not only connect with customers and prospects, but to also manage their reputation.

When somebody has something good to say about your brand on social media, let them know how much you appreciate it.

When somebody has something bad to say, don’t let the problem fester. Reach out, find out what went wrong, and offer a solution. This is what reputation management is all about.

  1. Generate Positive Online Reviews

Above, we talked about two things:

  • Understanding the current state of your online reputation
  • Creating an online presence

Adding to these points, it’s good business to devote time and money to generating as many positive online reviews as possible.

When people say good things about your business, others will take notice. And when others take notice, they’re more likely to give you a try.

With 84 percent of people trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, there aren’t many things more important to your reputation than generating one positive review after the next.

While positive reviews make you feel warm and fuzzy, negative reviews have the opposite effect. These have a way of eating at you.

Once you understand the importance of reputation management, you’ll realize that any negative review can be turned into a positive one. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Respond to the review by asking for more information
  • Offer to connect with the customer outside of the review platform, such as via email
  • Work with the person to solve the problem, often by offering a refund or future discount
  • Ask that he or she edits the review to reflect your conversation and remedy

There is no guarantee that this will always work – especially in the event of a stubborn customer – but it’s the right approach to take with any negative online review.

With a large number of consumers influenced by online reviews, a bad reputation on review sites will do more than give your company a bad name. This can also drag down your bottom line.  

  1. Talk to Your Employees

Your online reputation is only as strong as your employees willingness to do the right thing and “stay within the lines.”

With small companies, it’s easy enough to personally communicate your message to each and every employee.

With larger companies, however, this isn’t always the case.

It’s important to talk with employees about what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and how each decision they make can have an impact on the company’s reputation.

Here’s an interesting passage shared by the Pew Research Center:

“27% of employed internet users now work for an employer that has policies about how they present themselves online—such as what they can post on blogs and websites or what information they can share about themselves.”

While an ironclad policy is important, there is more to online reputation management than telling employees what they’re permitted to do. You must also have a system in place for monitoring (more on this below), disciplining, and providing employees with resources for avoiding the same mistakes in the future.

  1. Offline Reputation is Important, too

In today’s world, online reputation management is the name of the game. While this is true, you don’t want to overlook the importance of your “offline” reputation.

Go back in time to the 1990’s and companies didn’t care about the internet. Their reputation came down to one thing and one thing only: the information people in their industry were sharing about their company.

Think about it this way: your online and offline reputation go together hand in hand. If people are saying bad things about your company offline, there’s a good chance this will eventually make its way to the internet.

While your online reputation definitely deserves the majority of your attention, you can’t neglect the offline world.

With more than 80 percent of Americans seeking a recommendation before making a purchase, it’s essential to consider the strength of your offline reputation. Remember this: not everyone goes online for a recommendation. There are still people who connect with their personal network before making a buying decision.

  1. Know Your Legal Rights

Consumers have the right to provide honest online reviews, but there are times when they cross the line such as by creating a fake review.

As unfortunate as it may be, there are people who want nothing more than to kill your business. They’ll move from one review site and forum to the next, talking down on your company and hoping to get others to follow suit.

You need to know your legal rights, your right to privacy, and how to take action if the time comes.

It’s easy to believe that a fake negative review will remain in place for all of eternity, but this isn’t necessarily true. Every review platform – including Facebook, Google, and Yelp – have a process for removing fake reviews.

For instance, here’s what Google has to say about this:

“If you find a review that you believe violates Google review policies, you can flag it for removal. The review will be assessed and possibly removed from your listing.”

With statistics showing that up to 15 percent of social media reviews are fake, monitoring reviews is imperative. By now, you know that every negative review can have an impact on your business. While there are times when you simply fall short of providing the best experience, you don’t have to deal with fake reviews dragging down your reputation.

  1. Monitoring is Key

Everyone loves my company. Customers never have anything bad to say. There’s no way anyone would talk poorly about my business.

Does any of this sound familiar? Believe it or not, there are business owners (among others) who feel this way.

If your brand’s online reputation is spotless, good for you. This is a big accomplishment and you should be proud.

However, if you simply believe this to be true, and have yet to back up your claim, you may be in for a surprise.

There are many facets of online reputation management, with monitoring sitting at the top of the priority list.

How will you know if your reputation is taking a hit if you don’t actively watch for this? How will you know which steps to take to avoid the same problems in the future if you don’t yet know what you’re dealing with?

From social media sites to review sites to national news outlets, you need to monitor the internet as a whole. If your brand is mentioned, you want to know why. Hopefully it’s a positive mention, but this isn’t always the case.

  1. Prepare for the Future

It’s always a good idea to focus on the here and now, as this will help you implement a strong reputation management strategy that you can trust and rely on. But just the same as anything in the business world, you need to look toward the future.

Five years ago there were companies that realized just how popular online reviews would become. There were also companies that ignored this trend, hoping that it would go away.

You should take time to prepare for the future, as this will allow you to stay ahead of the curve.

An example of this is the astonishing growth rate of Instagram. With the platform picking up its most recent 100 million users in just four months, it’s outpacing the competition.

Now’s the time to consider the impact Instagram could have on your online reputation in the future.

When you prepare for the future today, it’s easier to deal with anything and everything that comes your way in regards to your reputation.

Implement the Right Strategy

At this point, we’ve discussed some of the most important details in regards to online reputation management.

Now, let’s look at the things you can do to take your strategy to new heights.

First things first, you need to focus on the following:

  • Remove negative information as to boost your reputation
  • Replace negative information with positive information, thus strengthening your reputation

From there, you need to turn your attention to generating positive conversation about your company. Methods of doing so include:

  • Promote positive online reviews and press releases about your brand
  • Create fresh, positive news about your brand
  • Focus on user generated content, such as positive reviews on social media platforms

This isn’t a one-size fits all approach or something that you can implement in a single day. Instead, you must take a long-term outlook in order to achieve the greatest results.

The Benefits of Professional Help

Even if you consider yourself a reputation defender, it goes without saying that you have other responsibilities that are every bit as important.

This is why you should consider the benefits of a relationship with a professional reputation management firm.

A professional can do the following:

  • Provide you with a clear overview of your brand’s current reputation
  • Share both negative and positive information, allowing you to better understand how people view your company from the outside
  • Assign a dedicated team of professionals who share the sole responsibility of maintaining your positive reputation
  • Deal with any negative feedback as it arises, as opposed to letting it linger and grow
  • Answer your questions and address your concerns regarding reputation management

If online reputation management is important to you, it’s critical to stay personally involved to ensure that you always understand what’s happening and the impact it’s having on your business. By bringing a professional into the fold, you get the best of both worlds.

With this 2017 guide to managing your online reputation, you should now understand how to avoid trouble and boost the overall perception of your brand.

There’s no two ways about it: when you focus on online reputation management, your company will come out a winner in the end.

What’s your approach to reputation management? Have you focused on this in the past? Have you slacked off, thus leading to a variety of problems?