As a business owner, you know how important your reputation is. When it comes to growing your customer base, your company needs the support of a solid track-record and glowing reviews from existing customers. Word of mouth is key! In the beginning, you’ll likely depend on referrals. And even as your business grows, this will continue to be a common method for finding new customers.
So what happens when someone speaks negatively about you online? Whether the attack is rooted in reality or not, no business wants to be associated with negative mentions online! Below we’ve gathered three of the most effective ways to create a barrier between your company and online attacks to keep the reputation of your business intact.
Build a strong foundation
If you haven’t already built up a strong online brand for your company, now is the time. And if you’ve already established a presence online, now is the time to optimize and improve on it. If your company’s online presence is currently pretty slim, start by building a foundation of trusted properties and profiles that all businesses should have. This includes (at minimum):
- A company website
- Google plus/ business page
- Other relevant review sites & social networks
Make sure to claim and optimize your company’s page on review sites and industry forums as this is where people go when researching other people’s experiences with your company. When it comes to creating the properties listed above make sure to:
- Use a consistent name/handle for your business
- Include links to where people can find your company online
- Include updated information about your business (Hours, location, description of products/services, etc)
- Contact information for customer service
- Contact information for sales, press, marketing, etc
- Highlight positive press and testimonials
Your company’s online properties should link back to each other in a way that makes sense to the user, and strategically addresses how the properties are currently ranking in search results. They should be updated regularly with valuable, informative and engaging content. When someone looks up your company online, they should be met with results that explain what your company does, its track record, examples of thought leadership and demonstrated organic engagement on social media.
You should also do the same thing properties you use for your personal brand. This will give you additional channels that you can use to promote your business as well as address any negative mentions online.
By designating time to build out your company’s foundational properties online, you ensure that people won’t just see a negative review, but a whole lot of information that naturally counters that one damaging comment.
Seek and promote positive reviews of your company online
When dealing specifically with a negative comment or mention of your company online, you must make a point to bring in other examples of the customer experience. Even if your company website and social media profiles are flawless in terms of the original content you publish, it won’t mean much if no one outside of your company validates your credibility.
Be proactive about bringing in positive reviews and mentions online and then promoting them. The rules will vary by platform in terms of the “right” way to ask customers to share positive feedback publicly. Make sure that you adhere to these rules, but don’t let that discourage you from encouraging customers to share their feedback. Paid feedback is a pretty obvious thing to stay away from, so just stick to asking loyal customers to share what it is that makes them keep coming back!
You can also ask for testimonials from customers that you can feature on your website. It’s best to use testimonials that include the customers’ full names so that site visitors can authenticate that the testimonials are real! If you come across great anonymous testimonials, however, feel free to post those as well.
By using customer feedback on your company’s web properties, you reduce the impact of other negative mentions and protect your company from future attacks.
Respond appropriately to legitimate negative claims
Whether a negative mention about your company appears on a forum, a review site, or on a personal blog – it can sting. In many cases, people take joy in trolling people and companies online because they’re bored or unhappy. Those are the comments that are worth ignoring – nothing you say will change their mind, instead, this will just provoke.
However, there are some sincere comments, that while negative, require your attention as the business owner. If you see reasonable feedback, don’t run from it. Instead, use this as an opportunity to flip your customer’s experience from a negative to a positive.
Think about it, if numerous customers say that there are no staff on the floor to help them, maybe you need to consider hiring more employees. Whatever the case may be, apologize for the customer’s experience, thank them for their feedback and explain how you are correcting the situation (if appropriate). This shows that your company really cares about improving the customer experience.
Remember, if negative comments are nonsense or clearly spitefully, be disciplined in not responding. Your foundational web properties filled with positive content, mentions, and reviews will do the talking for you.
Negative mentions online are unnerving as a small business owner. That’s why we suggest that you build a strong foundation, seek and promote positive reviews, and respond appropriately to legitimate negative claims as a small business owner.