"Eventually somebody will write something unpleasant about your business. You better have a plan."
Reputation management in the age of the internet is essential. These days, public brand sentiment is a game changer in how people shop. This is a reality that every entrepreneur must come to terms with.
The task of managing an online reputation is not an easy one, nor is it a one-size-fits-all process. Here are four things that many entrepreneurs get wrong about managing their online reputation.
1. Underestimating the value of consistency.
Managing an online reputation is not something that can be done in an afternoon or over the weekend. For as long as your business is operating, shaping and maintaining an online reputation is a job that never ends.
In the startup stage, consistently interacting with people online, responding to reviews, and creating thought leadership content won’t require a significant time commitment. However, once business picks up, maintaining consistency will start to become harder and harder. If you are spending between one and two hours per day staying on top of your online reputation, it is probably time to consider bringing on a specialist, at least on a part-time basis.
2. Assuming star ratings are all that matter.
Customer reviews are an essential ingredient to an online reputation. A big part of the process is simply getting customers to review your product, service, and overall experience.
Consumers these days have more options than ever before. People can now be extremely picky in terms of how and where they spend their money. They look to online reviews to get an unbiased third-party opinion of a brand, product, or service.
As you develop a strategy to gather reviews, you need to design prompts that give people the whole picture of what it is like to do business with you.
3. Negative sentiment should be left alone.
No one likes getting negative reviews. However, negative reviews are not the grim reaper. The way you react to bad sentiment says “WAY” more about your business than the review itself. Regardless of how painful it is to read bad reviews, you need to bite the bullet and try to respond in a positive way. If you play your cards right, you can turn this into a positive and gain a loyal customer.
Responding to negative reviews requires a certain touch.
First and foremost, you do not want to respond right away. The last thing you want is to respond while emotions are high. Second, try your best to empathize. Ultimately, your brand reputation depends on your ability to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and meet their needs. Lastly, do your best to try and take the conversation offline. The initial public response should be cordial, but then encourage the bulk of the interaction with the nitty-gritty details to take place in private.
4. Thinking there is a 'quick-fix' for reputation issues.
An online reputation can always take a bad turn.
“A reputation is something that can take 30 years to build, yet be completely destroyed in 30 seconds.”
In the age of social media and constant connectedness, we see crises happen all the time. If this unfortunate event happens to you, the key is to not let panic set in, as this leads to rash decisions.
In the old days of the internet, many companies assumed they could combat poor sentiment by forging their own positive reviews or paying professional writers to write long, detailed praises on major review platforms. While this certainly worked for a hot second, review sites wised up to these devious tactics. Trying to sidestep the process of gaining authentic reviews can get you into serious trouble.
Additionally, the simple fact that people today are bombarded with insane amounts of brand messaging every day, most consumers have gotten pretty good at spotting bunkum. Resorting to sketchiness to try and mend a damaged reputation can often times put you even deeper in the hole.
When you are in difficulty, you need to accept that there is no quick solution. Getting people back on your side is a long process that often times requires deep-seated change. The most important thing you can do is critically listen to what people are saying and make a conscious effort to usher in a fundamental transformation.
One last word
The task of managing your online reputation will be around as long as your business’s doors are open. Not everything is going to be peaches and cream. You are going to hit bumps in the road and need to know how to handle it.
Michel Ouellette, ll.l, ll.m
Business Transition & Reputation Management
Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert,
a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.
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