Practice makes perfect: managing your online reputation

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Just a few years ago, managing my reputation meant making sure I was always looking good and not getting on anyone’s bad side. I knew what others thought of me through gossip, or face-to-face interactions and that was about it. Today, reputation management has taken on a much more significant role not just in personal relationships but in business relationships as well. The root of this growth is due mostly to websites in which customers can post reviews of people, businesses, or services, called review sites. More and more of these websites are popping up online every day and they are quickly becoming a serious concern for business owners.

The issue with these review sites is that businesses cannot “directly” manage the reviews that are submitted to their company pages. What many are saying is that they would like to delete the negative reviews on these pages because they feel that those will tarnish their reputation. However with the nature of the sites being free for all, only explicit or inappropriate comments are able to be deleted. Having attended seminars about reputation management and through personal research on the topic, the overall consensus is that there are two effective strategies for businesses to alleviate this concern.

First, they must encourage happy customers to submit reviews on these sites so that the negative reviews are pushed further down the page. This leaves the newer positive comments residing at the top of search results. The more positive reviews existing on the page, the less significance the negative reviews will have in new customers’ minds. Although the comments of unhappy customers will certainly cause a bit of stress, businesses must embrace the fact that those comments actually make the page appear more legitimate. Consumers have been using the internet long enough to know that there is always one disgruntled customer almost everywhere you go. With that knowledge they tend to distrust sites that are cluttered with sparkling reviews.   

Second, the best way to really maintain a positive online reputation is to respond to the complaints on the review site. There, businesses can offer an explanation for the complaint, offer this person a discount or free service, while also clearly making an effort to establish a close relationship with customers. So in a way, these complaints are actually providing a medium for discussion and giving the business a voice if they choose to participate. It is strongly encouraged to always address complaints in order to set the record straight for any new customers reading these reviews.

Although opening up to the public online may be a scary idea to most businesses, it can be a very positive asset for maintaining a positive reputation. In short, capitalizing on the happy customers and offering explanations or consolation services to those unhappy with your business are the two key strategies for maintaining a positive online reputation. It may be a difficult concept to grasp, but all reviews, whether good or bad, can only benefit in the long run if they are dealt with properly.

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