It is impossible to deny that reputation is everything when it comes to businesses. Your product or service could far exceed any of its contemporaries in quality, but it will likely not go very far without building a solid corpus of reviews, recommendations, and word of mouth in general. Proactive reputation management is the need of the hour since search engines have become excellent aggregators of information and put all the relevant information relating to your business front and center for visitors to evaluate. Testimonials and user-generated content from third party sources tend to rank high in the search results, especially if there is not enough authoritative content from the business itself. Public relations gaffes and negative word of mouth with or without merit can then quickly snowball into disastrous consequences for your budding local business, and you must be prepared for the same.
Be Present and Active Anywhere of Consequence
A social media strategy is a boon for marketing but also an absolute must for reputation management. At the very least, your company must have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you are in a niche you may also need to consider other platforms to stand out against the competition. You can further consider YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, and Pinterest if your product or service is visually-oriented or you would like to be as active as possible online. Business guru Michael Giannulis says that just being present isn’t enough either, you must curate your audience and engage with them since engagement scores are big factors in ranking the influence of a website and without them, your social presence might not edge out third-party posts.
Be Receptive to Feedback and Cordial in Your Responses
Online reviews and complaints are always going to be a thing, whether you like them or not. Some of it is genuinely constructive, highlighting flaws in your process that must be addressed. If you are closed to the possibility of it, you might be doing more harm to your business than good, losing out on new customers and even driving existing customers away. You must respond to criticism in a meaningful manner and consider it if you feel like it has merit.
If you mess up, you should admit your mistake and make a genuine apology. Be transparent, do not attempt to gaslight genuine victims of your actions and decisions, and try to do something good for them somehow.
Protect Your Own, Says Mike Giannulis
Have executives as well as employees maintain a presence on LinkedIn, and ensure the founders and top brass all have strong and flawless social presences. While many people wish to preserve their privacy by minimizing their online presence, this leaves too many avenues for attack and is not a viable argument when you are in a position of great power and visibility. People can search for them by name, and anything that comes up will be forever linked to your business. Maintaining their reputation is, therefore, just as important.
Online reputation management is the need of the hour for every business. You must commit to it from day one, since being in a position where you react to PR mishaps is not ideal and is hard to recover from. Your ORM efforts might cost you some time and effort to set up, but they will return rich dividends throughout the lifetime of your venture, and act as insurance against any bad actors or unfortunate events in the future.