In the modern world of business, reputations are fragile things. Whereas one upon a time, a business’s reputation would be built slowly through advertising and word of mouth; the twenty-first century reality is that reputation can be much more easily influenced both positively and unfortunately negatively.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of a business’s reputation online. Because of the possibilities for near-instant feedback that can be seen by other potential customers, the ability to control reputation has been lost.
The good news is that this does not have to be the case. In fact, it is possible to influence reputation in a whole new dynamic way.
To do this it is important to understand just how online reputation if formed and can be so easily changed.
How Online Reputations Are Formed
People have always talked. In the past, if someone received really good (or very poor) service they would tell their friends. The next time one of these people decided to buy a similar product or service, they would almost certainly (consciously or subconsciously) use this information to help formulate their choice. The same happens today, but with a highly significant difference. Whereas previously this discussion would have been within a very small group, the ability to post comments online means that anything up to millions of customers can read these comments.
This is why the control of online reputation is now being recognized as a vital tool in a business’s armoury to be used alongside social media, branding and targeted advertising.
So How Do You Manage Online Reputation?
- The golden rule when it comes to online reputation is that all businesses must form a dialogue with their customers/clients. Choosing to retain a distance with those who buy services/products is the quickest way to lose control of your reputation. Instead, make a point of responding to both positive and negative comments and don’t leave too great a time period between the original post and your response. By keeping on top of the situation, you are demonstrating that feedback is important and in doing so, you will avoid looking complacent and arrogant.
- Take part in online conversations. Never forget this fact: market leaders are in the thick of things. If there is a debate about a subject central to your industry, your customers will expect to see you contributing. It helps place you as a key player in the sector and also demonstrates that you have your finger on the pulse by showing your proactive approach. This will not only impress current customers, but will also be a great indicator for prospective customers who are wanting to discover the most dynamic business within a certain sector.
- Don’t leave monitoring your own online reputation to others. A successful business should always know how they are faring in the online environment and to this end should continuously monitor their performance. For very small businesses this may just be a case of keeping an eye on their forum/feedback. But for the majority, tools will be needed to keep on top of the task. Google Alerts and TweetBeep are two excellent resources that can help keep an eye on what is happening as well as helping to prompt interventions quickly if required.
- Remember that negative comments can standout even among a sea of positive feedback. If appropriate, respond immediately. This can help diffuse the situation and perhaps more importantly in the wider context, show that as a company you respond to concerns, as customers’ opinions are important.
- Finally, remember to use other blogs, forums and social media outlets to raise your company’s positive reputation. If something good has happened (positive feedback, new product) then post about it. This will help spread the word, especially as search engines will help increase your traffic.
Always keep in mind that online reputation can be easily influenced and can change rapidly. Keeping up-to-date will mean that you will ensure that you keep your positive reputation online.
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