Your business’ online reputation is extremely important to your entire Web presence. Because reviews, comments, and mentions of your business online are so immediate and widespread, it’s vital to take all the necessary steps to make sure the reputation you have online is a glowing one. But, it takes more than just having some positive feedback on a few review sites. You also need to monitor and manage your presence across the Web for other factors that can have a negative impact on your business. To keep your online business reputation in check, be careful to avoid these common online reputation mistakes – or they could blow up in your face.
1. Failing to Monitor All Your Accounts
Consumers don’t leave reviews and comments about your business all on one site. In fact, people talk about your business all across the Web, from review sites and local listings to blogs and social media pages. So, it’s imperative to monitor all the pages where you have an official online presence for reviews, mentions, or comments about your business. Check your feeds on Facebook and Google+ as well as your @replies on Twitter at least once a day to make sure you’re not missing any critical feedback. In addition, monitor your reviews on listings and review sites like Google+ Local, Yelp, and other industry-specific sites. In addition, set up Google Alerts for your business name to ensure you’re not missing any conversations about your business across the Web on sites you may not be aware of.
2. Ignoring Comments & Reviews
Once you know where to look and have a routine down for monitoring your online reputation, you need to acknowledge and respond to conversations that impact your business in a timely manner. Failing to engage commentators online can have a negative impact on customer approval and trust. Did you know that 60% of consumers expect brands to respond to reviews and comments on social media? Even apologizing for something beyond your control, like a long wait for a table at your restaurant, can help you build trust and credibility to keep them coming back. But, don’t just respond to the negative reviews or complaints you see. You should also take time to thank consumers who give you positive feedback online or publicly share their comments with your fans and followers. For example, if a customer mentions your great customer service via a Tweet, retweet it and add a quick “thanks.” This can help you spread the word of your customer advocates and build your brand.
3. Responding to Negative Reviews with Anger
It’s true that not all negative reviews are valid – but sometimes your customers have legitimate complaints. Even if you suspect a negative review is the work of a troll or competitor, never take a defensive or competitive approach in how you respond. Instead, calmly introduce yourself, acknowledge the review or complaint, and apologize for the customer’s experience. Then, re-initiate trust with the customer by stating what steps you will take to correct the problem. And, if you feel it’s necessary, you can even offer a freebie or discount for the customer to encourage them to give your business another chance.
4. Sharing Personal Views On Your Business Pages
No matter what your beliefs on religious, political, or other controversial subjects, it’s best to keep your personal views out of your business’ online accounts. Your employees and customers may share the same values as you do, but that’s not always the case. So, be careful not to post something that may alienate people who are considering buying from you or otherwise loyal to your business, even if you feel strongly about a particular cause. Before you post something that may be considered controversial on your business accounts, determine whether or not it’s relevant to your business and what possible impact it could have on your audience and your online reputation. For instance, if you are a vet clinic, it’s unlikely that your audience would be upset about a post relating to supporting a particular animal shelter or rescue, but they may not want to see an endorsement for a political candidate.
5. Not Having a Social Media Policy for Employees
Even if your employees are not posting on behalf of your company, their actions online can still affect how customers or prospects view your business. For example, last year, Gamestop fired employees for posting photos of themselves “planking” in the store. Having a social media policy in place that defines acceptable employee behavior on social media can help you set expectations with your staff about what is and isn’t acceptable, helping you avoid potential issues. Social media policies can help protect not only your brand’s online reputation but also your legal responsibility for employee behavior online. So, put a policy in place to provide ground rules for employees on how to behave and explain what steps you will take should a violation occur. Here are a few tips for creating a social media policy for your business.
6. Paying for Customer Reviews
Paying for online reviews is a definite no-no. The FTC Endorsement Guidelines forbid paid endorsements for products or services without disclosure. In fact, if a reviewer has a formal connection with your business or if your business has compensated them in any way for the review, the reviewer must disclose that in their post, because this information can affect how readers perceive the authenticity of the review. Compensation includes anything from cash or a free product to a discount or coupon. To help you generate more authentic reviews, try asking happy or loyal customers who already rave about your business to leave you a review that are likely based solely on the excellent product or service you provide.
7. Posting Fake Reviews of Competitors
Another huge online reputation gaffe to avoid is posting fake reviews of your competitors on their pages to make them seem less credible. This underhanded tactic is not only ethically wrong, but these reviews can also be removed by the site if they are flagged as inappropriate. For instance, reviews posted to Google+ Local can be removed if the business flags them as inappropriate, spam, off-topic, or as presenting a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can include paying for reviews as well as misrepresenting your identity or affiliation with a particular business. Don’t stoop to the level of posting fake reviews of competitors online. Instead, focus on building your own positive reputation. If you suspect that negative reviews on your pages have been posted on your pages, you can flag reviews that you feel are false or inappropriate.
What online reputation management mistakes have you encountered? What steps are you taking to promote a positive reputation for your business online? Let us know in the comments!
Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and con
tent marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.