Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Nowhere does this ring truer than in the digital age, where one bad comment can go viral in a matter of minutes and doom your business to failure. Gone are the days when one unsatisfied customer would complain about your product or service to a handful of friends. Now, with one click, that customer can vent and rant to hundreds of their friends and contacts, who can then forward those unflattering comments to their circle of social acquaintances.
Dissatisfied customers can also post negative assessments of your company with online review sites. Although online reviews used to be limited to restaurants and other eating establishments, consumers are now rating on everyone from doctors to plumbers to mechanics.
According to the Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Search Engine Land, digital tools are being used throughout the purchasing process. The poll surveyed over 2,000 online consumers and discovered that 85% of them use the Internet to find local businesses.
In addition, 72% of consumers value online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In fact, 58% stated that reading personal customer reviews made them more likely to trust a local company.
But, your online reputation involves more than just customer reviews. What you do on your personal social media accounts helps to form your business reputation. Therefore, don’t post insensitive comments or crude jokes, and don’t upload pictures in which you are intoxicated and wearing a lampshade as a hat, or you’re half-nude and in a compromising position. As numerous politicians have discovered, the public does not separate your private life from your business life.
And, while each person is entitled to his or her belief, you should weigh your desire to express your opinion versus your desire to have a successful business. Foregoing controversial political and religious topics can help you avoid becoming the target of a widespread social media-based boycott.
So How Can You Monitor Your Online Reputation?
In light of these facts, it is important for you to proactively monitor your online reputation. Yelp, an online review site, recommends that companies tactfully respond to reviews – as opposed to ignoring them. They also advise businesses to remember the basics: providing good customer service.
However, reviews aren’t the only area of concern. If no one can find you on the Internet, you don’t have an online reputation.
A significant number of consumers use digital tools to find local businesses, so make sure that search engines can easily find your company. If possible, use the name of your business as your domain name, and include relevant keywords and metatags on your website.
Create both a Facebook and a Twitter account (if you haven’t already), and monitor your Facebook fan page wall and your Twitter “@s.” Again, tactfully respond to negative comments, and try to rectify problems when possible. If your efforts prove successful, then ask the negative poster to consider removing their original comments.
Also, search for the name of your business on Google Alerts and also set up Twilert so you can be notified whenever your business is mentioned on Google or Twitter.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to supervise your online reputation, consider using a professional company. For example, doctors can use physician reputation management services to keep an eye on their online reps.
Ultimately, your online reputation has the potential to make or break your business, and it should be monitored accordingly.
About the Author: Terri Williams is a business book summary writer and also writes articles on business topics such as communication, leadership, management, and marketing.