Reputation is a funny old thing. A good reputation takes time and effort to build, especially in business. It’s something that’s built over months and years, rather than weeks or days.
However, if something goes wrong, all of that good standing can be lost in an instant.
Huge companies employ whole teams of people to manage public opinion so they can weather most PR storms pretty well. But for smaller organisations with fewer resources at their disposal, a single negative review or an individual, poorly thought out Facebook post can be completely devastating.
So let’s take a look at 10 free ways to keep your company in everyone’s good books online.
1. Create a Plan for Reputation Management
Before you jump into action, take the time to assess your current image online. Which review sites do your competitors use? How do your average scores compare to theirs? How do others in your industry project themselves on social media? How does your company compare to others in your niche overall?
Next, establish some SMART goals you would like to achieve with your social and review presence. Aim for specific targets wherever possible, for example, “500 Twitter followers by 31st July” or “10 ‘5*’ reviews on Yell.com by Christmas”. Also, keep your goals realistic – a micro-business with 5 employees just isn’t going to achieve the same kind of engagement numbers as a large multinational.
2. Monitor All Mentions of Your Company
Monitoring tagged mentions on social media is relatively easy – you receive a notification every time you’re tagged. But how do you deal with untagged mentions – and mentions elsewhere online?
A free tool called IFTTT (If This Then That) makes light work of untagged social mentions. You can use it to create “applets” which are online actions that trigger once given criteria have been fulfilled. When you hook up your social accounts to IFTTT, you can set up an applet to email you every time someone mentions a key phrase – this can be your company name or a related keyword. I can personally confirm that this works well with Twitter.
Mentions away from social media are just as easy to keep an eye on. Google Alerts is a free tool that’s available to anyone with a Google account. You state which keywords you want to keep an eye on (such as your company name) and Alerts will send you a daily or weekly email digest of new Google search results that match those keywords.
3. Set Up Systems to Encourage New Reviews
Consider your average customer experience from beginning to end. Are you prompting every single customer to leave a review online? If not, then put a system in place that politely asks every single customer to post a review once your work together is concluded. If you can automate this process in some way, then do it! If you aren’t able to automate it, then try to make it a habit so it becomes second nature.
4. Keep an Eye on Competitors’ Reputation Management Practices
In business, it’s always a good idea to watch your competition. You need to be mindful of new developments that may give them an edge over you, but it’s also a good idea to observe how they approach relationship management.
Take a look at your competitors’ social and review feeds to see where they’re most active. How do they deal with customer interaction, reviews, and critiques? You’re not looking to copy anybody’s approach here, but make a note of where they excel and where you feel they fall short. If you’re able to outdo them in some aspect of reputation management, seize the opportunity!
5. Encourage Interaction
Our increasingly social web provides ample opportunities for real, meaningful interaction. So embrace it! Aim to build relationships over social media by getting to know your followers, by engaging with influencers, and by fostering a sense of community around your brand.
If you build a particularly devoted following on social media, why not ask them to share pictures of your product or service in action through a branded hashtag? Encouraging “user-generated content” like this helps spread the word about your business without any effort or expense to you, whilst instilling a sense of belonging to a larger community – all centred around your brand.
6. Be Generous with Helpful Information
Sometimes, reputation management and content marketing overlap. The branded content you share over social (such as blogs, images, videos, infographics, etc.) also has a part to play in your reputation. If your content doesn’t share valuable insight and advice or is poorly produced, this will portray you in a negative light.
With content, sharing is caring. Obviously, you don’t want to tell readers how to do your job, but you do want to share genuine insight and give them some sort of useful “take-home message” wherever possible. If grammar, spelling, or presentation aren’t your strong suit, have a trusted friend or colleague review your content before it goes live.
7. Don’t Censor Negative Opinions
Never try to censor negative opinions of your company or blatantly try to detract attention from them. Certainly, don’t ignore them – they won’t go away!
Respond to negative reviews directly, but with politeness and empathy. Acknowledge their complaint, apologise, and offer up real solutions as to how you’re going to help put things right. If it’s appropriate, offer up something as an “olive branch” like money off their next order or a free item on their next visit. This encourages them not to cut ties with your company, providing you with an opportunity to redeem yourself.
Further Reading: Turning Negative Reviews into Positive Experiences
8. Respond to All Reviews – Everywhere
When someone leaves you a review on a site like Yell, TripAdvisor, or Google, always take the time to log in and respond – whether the review is positive or negative. Thank all reviewers for taking the time to share their thoughts and acknowledge that their feedback is listened to.
Sidenote: If you spend a lot of time hopping between social and review platforms to interact with your audience, then our paid Reputation Manager product may be worth a look.
9. Be an Even-Handed, Neutral Party
The internet is great, but it can be a very divisive and argumentative place at times. Never use your company’s social media presence to engage in heavy, divisive discussions about political or moral subjects. If it turns out that many of your prospects disagree with you on a particularly touchy subject, they may start running for the hills!
Also take care when commenting on a trending topic, hashtag, meme, or news item without carefully considering its full context. Large US brands Spaghetti O’s, AT&T, and Wendy’s have all fallen afoul of poor social media decisions – don’t get caught out! Screenshot functions mean that bad decisions ever truly go away.
10. Don’t Forget About SEO!
Being visible in search for relevant search terms also has a hand in painting your organisation in a good light. A website that ranks well organically shows that your company takes your online presence seriously.
Here’s today’s underrated SEO tip: list your business on all appropriate free listing sites – starting with Google My Business. Google draws from numerous listing sites across the web to verify the information it displays in the knowledge panel and map results, so ensure that all information is present and correct across all listings.
SEO is a vast and far-reaching topic that’s far too massive to get into here, but there are a few good places to start your journey:
- Use PageSpeed Insights to keep an eye on how fast your website runs
- Optimise your content for featured snippets wherever possible
- Maintain your site’s on-page optimisation and keyword research
- Keep your site regularly updated – blog posts are great for this.
It’s over to you – how do you currently manage your company’s reputation online? How would you like to improve your reputation management practices? Do you have any additional reputation management tips that we’ve not mentioned above? Let us know down in the comments!