“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” - Warren Buffett -
An online reputations can be made and broken very quickly – and by anyone. This fundamental branding fact applies whether an entity is considered almost religiously, as in the case of Google, or if we are talking about a personal brand. Not managing a brand online, can have swift and life changing consequences.
My company, XVIO, works with many clients in dealing with their online reputation. Amazingly, unless there is a crisis most people simply do not pay attention to their online reputation. The old adage; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure” ends up meaning less expensive too, when it comes to reputation management. It’s not unusual for companies to spend tens of thousands of dollars more to clean up a problem that may never have happened if they sufficiently managed their online brand from Day 1.
Let me suggest taking these steps to play offense rather than defense:
Get Proactive with Reputation – Claim your everything! Domains, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as any other relevant sites you can think of. Search is becoming more and more “social-centric”, and the social sites you control (as well as your corporate site or blog) should rank higher than any negative (or potential negative) article. Remember, anyone can write anything – true or untrue – on a site like Ripoffreport and your net worth can be affected.
Build Content and Post frequently– Lots of people don’t want their life made public on social circuits, and that’s completely understandable. However, you can still have your profiles and post on topics that are relevant to your business and not your personal life.
I’m not suggesting to post your family pics – you can keep your private life to yourself. Instead, post about your golf handicap, your favorite TV show, your favorite cup of coffee, or any other topic that you would be happy to talk about with a stranger. It’s just important that your name is out there first, so if you or your business has some dirt hit the presses, it will not be the first search result that’s listed under your name.
Respect Your Customers - Unless you are a 6 Diamond and 3 Michelin Star restaurant, or a 5 thousand dollar-a-night-table-minimum club that boasts celebrity clientele, the reviews people leave about your establishment WILL be taken seriously. So, if someone complains about something – fix it. Yes, some people will take advantage of the situation, but trust me; you will still save thousands of dollars in the long run. What it costs to clean up relatively minor complaints is astronomical in comparison to what it costs you in lost business due to poor or even less favorable reviews than your competition . According to a recent study, a half a star difference on Yelp will result in 19% less reservations. Do the math, what does 19% fewer reservations mean for your business?
Address Bad Reviews –Over 60% of customers that were dissatisfied, when their complaints were addressed, actually go back and write much more positive reviews. Refunds and client incentives are a part of you doing business and it will not only save money long-term, but make you even more money than you initially realize.
Learn from the Good and the Bad – Reviews will give you insights to your business and unless you are a one-man show, knowing what your employees are doing when you’re not watching is very important. Reviews are an excellent way for the boss to keep an eye on your business, even if you are on a business trip half-way around the world. Business owners should take full advantage of this feedback, and encourage all customers to inform the business about their experience. However, be very careful when asking your clients to review your business, as incentivized reviews can actually harm your reputation and get filtered.
Today, customers are increasingly relying on online reviews, as they are one of the most effective word-of-mouth marketing and reputation-building tools for small businesses. The frequency and most recent of positive reviews is a good indicator of a business’s reputation, and the number of satisfied customers is a critical metric as you look to grow your business.
Offline-to-Online – Make sure you have a lot of reminders in your establishment that will remind customers to check-in/like/pin, which essentially allows the customer to grant you permission to communicate with them. After they “like” you on Facebook, they will be less likely to leave a bad review, and instead actually contact you personally to resolve it. Relationships matter.