Marketing & Growth

Protecting Your Online Reputation

By Rieva Lesonsky

What’s the first thing you do when you want to learn about a new client, find out about a new competitor, get the background on a potential new hire or research a purchase? You go online, of course. Heck, today we go online before we go out to lunch. In fact a survey taken last year by BrightLocal shows 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from people they actually know.

So of course, you know potential customers are checking out your company before they’ll do business with you. If you’re looking for investment capital or a loan, you can bet they’re checking your online profile out as well. Obviously, it’s imperative for you to manage your online reputation.

But how? The sheer number of social networks, opinionated bloggers and review and rating websites that make it easy for consumers to praise—or bash a business, make it hard to keep track of what people are saying and writing about your company.

Luckily, there are several ways to stay on top of what’s being said about your business. The most basic way is to set up a Google Alert. Create an alert on your name, your business name, and the products you make or sell, and Google scours the web for mentions and sends you an email as often as you like when these names are mentioned. You can also set up an alert for your industry to keep up on trends; if you want to keep tabs on your competition, set up alerts for their business’s name as well.

But in today’s information-centric world, Google Alerts are likely not enough. There are a number of companies that monitor your online reputation. Here are a few sites to look at:

  • Social Mention searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos and more.
  • Rankur, which offers tools for online reputation management, social media listening and news clipping
  • Viralheat, which provides social monitoring, analytics and content marketing in one intuitive interface
  • 48ers, which searches multiple social media sites at once.

There are plenty of other social monitoring tools. Digital Information World posted a useful infographic listing more than 20 social media monitoring tools that’s well worth checking out.

You can’t afford to ignore what’s being said about you on review and ratings sites, such as Yelp. It’s smart to respond to what customers are posting there, the good and the bad. Reply with a “thank you” to the positive posters and with an “I’m sorry you had a bad experience” to the negative ones. The key is not to get involved in an online battle with unsatisfied customers and answer them with facts and not emotions. Be respectful and ask what you can do to make it right and then take the conversation offline. Every business is going to have its naysayers, so don’t take the bad reviews personally. And if you see a lot of similar complaints, treat them as free market research and remedy whatever is bothering your customers.

Providing excellent customer service is more important than ever, since one customer’s bad experience can go viral very quickly. Make sure your customers can easily contact you with problems or complaints, so they don’t need to take it online to get a response from you. Make sure your email address and phone number are easy to find on your website.

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