The phrase, “It’s a small world” has really taken on new meaning in the digital age. Thanks to the Internet and social media, online posts can go global almost immediately and informational searches can produce expert advice in a couple of clicks. Truth be told, today, more of us seek recommendations for products and services online than taking the time to pursue opinions from friends, family, or co-workers. It’s just easier and faster.
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites enable anyone and everyone to become known, build relationships across the world, and critique. What might seem like a gold mine for businesses looking to spread the word about their services and connect with clients in near real time … can turn ugly just as quickly.
What happens when your company or firm gets a negative online review? How do you repair the good reputation and brand you’ve worked so hard to establish? Even if you think your position inside your firm or company isn’t directly involved in company-related reputation activities, you can show quite a bit of initiative and demonstrate your leadership skills by taking an active role in bringing this to management’s attention and/or participating in providing a solution.
Make Every Opinion Count—in a Good Way
Like it or not, happy and not-so-happy clients and customers enjoy unprecedented power to voice their opinions about your company or practice. According to a survey by Nielsen of more than 25,000 Internet consumers, 70% of respondents said they trust the opinions of virtual strangers.
Websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Citysearch, and Angie’s List offer the ability to post anonymous opinions and comments about businesses—including accounting and tax-prep practices. It doesn’t matter how large or small your company is or where you are located. If the Internet is available, then reviews about your business might exist. In other words, your business has most likely developed an online reputation without even knowing it.
To find out what people are saying, search for your business on Google and Bing. If a search produces unflattering information, you probably won’t be able to get it removed, but you can work to bury it with positive content. However, be sure to educate the team on the “when” and “how” of reputation management.
For example, Yelp allows you to respond directly to clients or others who posted a bad experience. Just remember that when you respond, you are talking as much to a potential clients and customers who may read the review as you are to the one who initially posted the negative comment.
Sometimes, postings that shouldn’t be a big deal, despite their nature, gain traction and “me too” responses. These situations need to be addressed—and addressed fast. Staying quiet simply because you don’t think the post is serious enough to warrant a response is almost certain to fan the fire to spread beyond Yelp and onto other sites. The best way to contain a negative is to handle it at its source. If something is gaining legs, get in on the conversation and help calm it down.
Even if you feel a complaint is unwarranted, you will want to handle it with some finesse. Keep your content upbeat and avoid being accusatory or appearing as if you’re on the defensive. If the dialogue is rather unsettling, you may wish to take the conversation offline.
Whatever you do, try to rectify the issue. Although it might seem intrusive, contact the person by phone or email if you feel the timing and situation are right, and seek to reach some common ground. Don’t be insulted if your calls or emails aren’t returned. Remember, vocal customers may update their opinion of your company or firm if given a reason and the chance to do so. Learn from the experience and treat it as an opportunity to improve and grow your business.
A Glowing Offense is the Best Defense
The best way to combat a poor review is to get lots of good reviews. Get in the habit of asking your most valued client and customers to post favorable reviews of your services, business knowledge, and other areas. You might even need to suggest various ways to do this by asking them to comment about, for example, how you helped solve a problem. If you work inside a company, find out if your company participates in the local Best Places to Work competition or something similar to this effort. You can spearhead this activity if no one else is handling it.
You can also set up professional profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to overshadow unflattering information. Search engines usually rank these links high, so positive comments will appear before negative ones, while updated information typically moves to the head of the search line. Make a point to update your content often as part of your strategy to manage your online reputation. It will be time well spent!
You may not be able to prevent your business from having an online reputation, but you can defend it against an unwanted online reputation. Let the technology work in your favor. By understanding the importance of forging and managing a good reputation as an element of online marketing, you will improve your business’s bottom line.