From a bad Yelp review to securing endorsements on LinkedIn, online reputation management plays a major role in small business growth. Here are some strategies you can use to win the internet by turning the online tide to your advantage.
Don't Ignore Complaints
Negative comments and customer complaints never make great publicity, no matter how funny or tempting a snarky reply might be. Consider complaints an opportunity to turn a dissatisfied complainer into a repeat customer. Most unhappy people just want to be heard and treated like reasonable adults. Even if offering a refund alongside a smile and an apology puts your stomach in knots, consider it a small price to pay for the problems negative yelp reviews or reputation bomb websites can cause.
To that end, you or someone on your staff should devote time each day to reviewing websites where negative reviews lurk. These could include Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, job boards, Ripoff Report and Pissed Consumer. It also goes without saying that social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat should be carefully monitored for trolls.
Control the Online Conversation
Post valuable, updated content frequently. This could include how-to articles, pro tips or fun product updates. Whatever you do, add value. Although you can mix up longer posts with short comments and funny memes, make sure your followers benefit from reading your updates. Try offering freebies or discounts, or announcing secret product launches that only followers can get.
Avoid inflammatory topics and language, and respond promptly when customers comment, even if it’s just to express thanks. Want to encourage positive reviews and grow your following? Reward customers for commenting.
If Things Get Tough
Even the best-run businesses with active social media presences and large followings sometimes experience problems online. Learn to recognize illegal behavior and know what to do if your business’s reputation is the victim of a smear campaign.
If an online commenter makes false claims or uses defamatory or improper language with the intent of damaging your business, you have a few options. The first is to ask the hosting website to remove the information. Publishing a false claim is illegal. The next choice is to hire an SEO company. A well-planned digital marketing campaign can boost positive search engine results.
Americans love sincere apologies and comeback stories. If you’re already in a firestorm of online hate, you can make the best of it, and maybe even win a few admirers. Your best move is to acknowledge the problem, and quickly. Don’t ignore it in the false belief it will go away — ignoring online commenters often backfires, and blows the original problem out of proportion.
Make amends with a sincere apology and combine it with a strategy that will get customers coming back through the door. If possible, use the media to announce changes in policy or procedures to provide reassurance. Fight the tide by keeping your head and your attitude up. With excellent customer engagement practices, you’ll be well on your way to restoring your online reputation.