Question: We’ve been seeing a lot of bad PR in the news about companies failing to respond to negative messages in social media. How can we be prepared in case this ever happens to our company?
How to Manage Your Reputation Online
by Judy Schramm, CEO, ProResource, Inc.
This is one of the biggest concerns most professionals and executives have about engaging in social media: “What if people say something bad about us?” How can you be prepared for when someone posts a degrading message on your company’s Facebook wall or an unfavorable tweet about your services?
The reality is that people are going to talk about you regardless. The comments and conversations are happening all around you — whether you choose to pay attention or not. Ignoring social media does not make them go away. In fact, it makes the problem worse. Instead, you need a way to deal with the occasional bad comment in a constructive and productive way.
You need reputation management.
Reputation management is the process of tracking what people say about you and your business online and responding effectively so what is said reflects well on you.
The term “reputation management” originally comes from public relations, but with the rise of social media, it has taken on a new meaning — crafting your image online. Since most people will do a quick Google search on anyone before they do business — or even meet — with them, it’s critical that you manage your online reputation and do it the right way.
So what can you do to ensure that your reputation is well-managed?
Find out what people are saying
The simplest approach is to regularly do ego surfing — running a search on your company’s name to see what the results show. Given the number of social media platforms and communities, it makes sense to use tools to make the monitoring process more efficient. Some of these tools — such as Google Alerts — are free. Others require a low monthly or yearly subscription but are often worth the expense.
One such service is Mention (https://en.mention.net/). You can create an alert for your company, your brand, yourself, the type of service you offer, your competitors, key prospects and partners. Then it takes you to a dashboard that displays your mentions based on the specific keywords and phrases you’ve selected. Mentions come from various websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress. Having all of this information in one place is useful as you get real-time tracking on what people are thinking, saying and feeling about you and your brand.
When you see a comment about you or your company, respond as quickly as possible, even if all you can say is that you will look into it. A quick, helpful response defuses most issues. People see that you’re paying attention and that you care — and that reflects well on you and your company.
If there are a lot of messages, a good rule of thumb is to try to respond to both positive and negative messages, in about the same ratio as they are being posted. Even if you have a lot of negative messages and only a few positive, acknowledge the positive ones too. That lets everyone see that even in a crisis you have fans and supporters. This is especially important when messages are tweeted to you directly, posted or messaged to you on Facebook, or commented on in your blog.
The objective is to build deeper relationships with your strongest supporters and seek to understand if there’s a way you can please your toughest critics. Always keep in mind that the Internet stores every comment, status update and response. Google can recall information past and present from almost anywhere, so whatever you put out there can potentially stay forever. While this sounds intimidating, if you always represent your brand in a positive light, share good content consistently and keep it professional, you can boost your reputation significantly.
When there’s a problem
Inevitably, an issue will arise from time to time — no one goes through life without the occasional problem — but what you do to manage the situation has a huge impact on how others perceive your company.
If you are using monitoring tools, you will have the earliest possible notice and can respond quickly.
Many times people just want to be acknowledged and have someone listen to their problem. By responding, they feel heard and cared about, which often leads to opportunities that aid in reinforcing your company’s image.
Always do what you can and make reasonable attempts to alleviate a customer’s pain. Use your public posts to let everyone else see that you’re trying to make things better. Don’t respond in anger if you can possibly avoid it. Be patient, helpful, thorough and competent. Remember that other people are watching how you handle this situation, and based on how you react, they will make decisions about whether to do business with you.
As a last fundamental guideline in responding to issues when they arise, be as transparent as possible. People appreciate honesty, and if you’re able to address their issue and explain what you’re doing to resolve it, you have a good chance of enhancing your company’s image.
Handle negative reviews
The simplest way to handle a negative review is to push it down in the list by adding more positive reviews. Ask clients, partners and friends to add their own reviews. It’s understandable that you might be reluctant to draw any more attention to the review. However, don’t let that stop you from taking action. Start by asking people who you know will unreservedly recommend you.
You can also make an effort to add new content, more information, photos and updates. All of this information will push older news further down on the page.
A good, proactive approach is to regularly ask happy clients to post reviews. If you do that consistently, the good reviews will outweigh any negative ones.
Get more positive reviews
A good way to get more positive reviews is to ask for a review during the post-engagement process. This forges deeper relationships with your clients and leads to more referrals — the more positive comments you already have, the easier it is for people to feel comfortable giving you a new one.
A thank-you is always meaningful, so when people mention you, be sure to reply. This encourages the person who published the review and reminds others who are reading it that they have given your product or service a recommendation.
Don’t be afraid to approach your regular customers and social media connections to post a review about you. Satisfied customers are usually happy to oblige. In addition, if there are specific websites where you want to gain more reviews, include those links on your website and in your email communications. When you make writing a review as easy as clicking a button, it can make a huge difference.
Reputation management can bridge the gap between how others perceive you, your company and your brand and how you want them to perceive it. Reputation management is a continual process of maintaining and improving the way the world sees you — one that helps you build a larger and stronger business.
About the author
Judy Schramm is the CEO of ProResource, a company that specializes in making introductions and generating leads through LinkedIn. She has more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of marketing and public relations. She can be reached at email@example.com or through her LinkedIn profile.