Beware the Online Presence You Don’t Create
My high school years, like the high school years of many, were plagued with gossip.
As adults, the problem doesn’t go away. And with the evolution of online communication, we have more than just a nosy neighbor to worry about. People are talking about your business on Facebook, Yelp, Linked In, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and blogs. Even if you don’t have profiles set up on those sites, even if you don’t know what those sites are, you have a presence there because that’s where people are talking, giving recommendations and writing reviews. An important part of brand image management is working towards maintaining positive reputations amongst online conversations.
Of course, the best way to maintain a good online reputation and positive brand image is to provide an excellent customer experience. Go above and beyond to make sure the needs of your clients are met in ways that exceed their expectations. People interact with tons of business every day, so as a business owner you have to create an exceptional experience that stands out in their minds and motivates them to share it with their online community.
Yet no matter how wonderful your company is, mistakes will happen. You’ll mess up an order, your cashier will have a bad day and snap at a customer and you’ll have a miscommunication that looses a client. When that happens, inevitably someone is going to yap about it online.
Whether someone is complimenting or bashing you, you need to be aware of what is being said and take the proper action.
Make it a habit of tuning into digital conversations to see what is being said about your brand. Regularly check the profiles you have set up, but also check the ones you have not. For example, even if you aren’t active on Twitter, you can easily create a profile, type in your company name in the search bar, and see if any tweets mention your company. You can also set up Google Alerts so that you receive an email whenever an article, blog post or video mentions your company. Your company may be listed on Yelp or Google without your knowledge. Check these sites, claim those listings, ensure the accuracy of the information and monitor the reviews that are left.
Also, monitor niche sites related to your industry. My husband works in the restaurant industry and recently found a site that allows restaurant employees to share their experiences working at specific restaurants. Many of the companies on the site had horrible reviews. His company had none. That is not because it is the perfect place to work, but because his restaurant closely monitors things that are being said about them on a variety of channels, including niche sites.
Be aware of the places people are talking and constantly review and monitor the conversation.
Respond to as many interactions as possible. If someone asks a question, answer it. If they give you a compliment, thank them. Take things a step further and give them a reward or ask a follow up question about their experience. If they voice a complaint, address it. It might be tempting to delete it so that nobody else sees it, but that can end up damaging your brand reputation and give the impression that you are covering things up. If the complaint was based on a misunderstanding, try to clarify the situation. If it’s a complaint about a company policy, apologize for the inconvenience and explain why the policy is in place. If your company made a mistake, apologize and offer to make it right. You may or may not appease the offended, but onlookers will appreciate your willingness to quickly address problems and work with clients to find fixes.
After you respond verbally, you need to take action within your company. If you received a good review, let your employees know. It’s a great way to encourage them towards producing more great work. If you received a complaint, evaluate the situation and take whatever internal action is needed to fix the problem and/or avoid the same mistake being made in the future. In today’s business world, customers do more business with brands they trust, and they trust brands that accept their input and make changes accordingly.
What to do about the crazies?
I once posted a video about my dislike for a specific pop singer. Granted, my video was not the nicest or best work I’ve ever produced, but it was really just a silly rant that was meant to be funny. The backlash I received was insane. No one had a legitimate complaint or constructive criticism for me. They all cussed me out, called me gross and told me to die. They had absolutely nothing helpful to add to the conversation.
These people are often referred to as “trolls.” They spend hours on the internet leaving nasty comments with no facts to back them up. There are several different ways to handle them, and I suggest sitting down with others in your company and making a universal policy on how to handle troll or spam comments. You can simply delete them or respond with a quick response saying those types of comments are not welcome. Many sites will allow you to flag these comments as inappropriate and then block those users, which I highly recommend doing. Whatever you do, don’t fight crazy with crazy. Don’t cuss back at them, call them names or try to rationalize them. Whatever your response, your goal should be to stop communication with these people as quickly and quietly as possible.