Who's Watching Your Online Reputation?

By Kathleen A. Martin  |  Print this article Print

Business reputations often take years to develop, but can be undone with a single Tweet. Solution providers should engage with the same social media as their customers to both promote and defend their reputation.

There has been a lot of discussion about how businesses and individuals need to participate in social networks to get their messages out, but there is little discussion related to managing online reputation.

Vehicles such as Angies List, Facebook and YouTube are prime locations for your customers to share their positive or negative experiences related to your company. There are also thousands of blogs that are sharing information with customers every day on what they liked or disliked about their experiences with businesses.

If you are still not convinced that your online presence is important consider that women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites as a source of information (64 percent), advice and recommendations (43 percent) and opinion-sharing (55 percent), according to a recent 2009 Women and Social Media study.

From somScore, the data figures for video views from November 2008 finds more and more people are watching videos—about 146 million or 77 percent of the U.S. Internet audience. This is up over one-third year over year.

Your customers are online and not just looking at your Web site and Facebook page for information about your company. What took you years to develop in local reputation can be brought down in a day with negative commentary. Therefore, it pays to protect your brand where ever consumers are offered a degree of interaction.

It’s important that either you have an employee who conducts comprehensive online reputation management to ensure that your brand attributes are protected across all social channels. Another option is to hire an outside company to regularly monitor for negative commentary and, if any is found, combat it by researching the situation, discerning if any action is required, and then engage the problem.

A good response will provide facts and ask for corrections if required. This is where your company blog or those of your employees and customers can be invaluable. Opening the conversation to as many sides as possible and broadening the discussion.

Some key areas to consider when dealing with your online reputation management:

Do not get defensive: Even if your customer is not correct in what they wrote, you cannot criticize them. You need to reach out, listen, try to understand their perspective and then work to resolve their concerns. How you handle a situation is often more important that the actions that caused or resolved the situation. In the social networking world, style counts.

The best defense is a well executed offense: You do not wait for a virus to attack your network, so why would you wait for negative postings to protect your online reputation? Begin with your customer service. It is always easier to work with a happy customer than it is to negate and unhappy one. Proactive postings on a regular basis through blogs, Twitter, and other social mediums can go a long way. Don’t forget to share good news as it happens as well. When appropriate a shared press release between you and a customer goes a long way to bolstering your reputation in the marketplace.

Hire an objective source: It is hard to be objective when it comes to your own brand and reputation. Just as it is difficult to evaluate your own work, it is challenging at best to understand outside perceptions of your business. Many outside companies assist with keeping your business top of mind with existing and potential customers.

You do not need to invest millions, or even thousands of dollars in your online reputation management, but you do need to pay attention to what is being said about your business. An investment of just a few thousand dollars can go a long way to building and protecting your brand and business.

Kathleen Martin is the special projects coordinator for Channel Insider.