Every business, whether it is based in the brick-and-mortar world or the world of binary and pixels, has an online reputation. This reputation is what will make or break your future profitability. With that in mind, do you know what is being said about you online?
An online reputation is made up of many things. It is made up of the reviews people post about you. It is made up of the interactions you have with people via public and private means. Even your own website and social media profiles play a role in your online reputation.
Truth be told, your online reputation is not always something over which you have complete control. It is, however, something that you can manage…if you know what you’re doing.
Step One: Your Public Face
Put your best foot forward all of the time. You never know who is watching or what they might be thinking or about to say regarding what they’ve observed. Gone are the days of having “off” time. This doesn’t mean that you have to always be professional every second of every day. It does, however, mean that while you are in public, you present yourself as well as possible. Be polite, be positive, and be as presentable as possible.
Make sure you do this online as well. Work to make sure that everything you publish, whether it is a blog post, an article, copy for your website, or even a tweet or Facebook status update, is pleasant and constructive and moves the conversation forward in a good way.
Step Two: Address Rumors Quickly
As soon as you find that someone is smearing your name, address the problem. Talk about the meat of the rumor, whether or not it is true, and provide evidence to back up your side. You might be tempted to link to and drag the rumor starter (and spreader)’s name through the mud, but don’t give in to this temptation. Simply talk about the rumor itself and prove it wrong. You don’t have to mention the person who started it or spread it at all. In fact, it’s better if you don’t.
Step Three: Take Criticism Seriously
You already know that you should be encouraging people to send their feedback in to you. This means accepting that not everything they say is going to be positive or complimentary. This does not mean, though, that you should only take the good and blow off the bad. Look at everything equally. Even negative criticism might be true. Ask yourself whether the criticizer has a point and whether there is anything you can do to improve whatever it is that was found lacking. If there is, do it. If there isn’t, explain why.
Each of these steps requires you to be on top of the things that are being said and posted about you online. It is easier to maintain a good reputation than it is to repair a bad one.
This is where the monitoring systems and services out there can be a godsend. They track the Internet, looking for mentions of your name, your business and even your competitors, if you like. They tell you immediately when something pings on their radar so that you can address it. These services are rarely free, but they are definitely worth the expense and are often cheaper than hiring a full-time employee to do this in-house.
It might all seem frivolous now—but just wait until that reputation you’ve worked so hard to build starts paying off in profits. Then you’ll be glad that you took the time to learn about all of this stuff!