The 10 Commandments of Online Reputation Management
In the process of helping thousands of companies and individuals restore their online reputations we have learned valuable lessons. It is indeed much easier to help restore your reputation if you or your business carefully evaluate your past behavior with the public and people surrounding you to determine what went wrong. Acknowledging past mistakes makes it easier to craft a superior online reputation.
Public perception of your brand or your name can make or break you. In many cases we have worked with businesses and individuals to restore their public image that was badly tarnished by little mistakes that went viral. never underestimate the power of pissed off customers, ex-friends and acquaintances. We have asked our Online Reputation Managers and in-house public relations experts to compile a list of the best advice they can give a company or an individual on how to avoid having a bad or negative online reputation to share with you:
1. Earn Respect and Trust
Tough times make strong men. It is in tough times where a person or a business can show the strength it takes to overcome bad situations. Every Tough time is an opportunity to gain trust, respect and a pristine reputation. Ask yourself a simple question: What makes people trust others or businesses? When you keep a promise even though you could've gotten away with breaking it earns you trust. When you say the truth in a situation where it was easier to lie, you gain trust.
When dealing with customers or people in your day-to-day activities, being kind, useful, and welling to change earns you respect and trust. Acting respectfully, listening well and not making excuses will make others trust you. Trust earns you respect. Respect is the main building block of your online reputation.
2. Remain Transparent at all costs
For many people being transparent feels risky. People and business leaders are afraid of loosing friends and customers by giving them information that might not portray them or their brands in the best possible light. If a person is not transparent with his family and friends, he will not be transparent in the workplace. If a company is not transparent with its employees, how could they be transparent with their customers? Research after research suggests that customers want a business to be transparent.
Being transparent in your personal life or as a brand is a sign of courage. Courage leads to respect and trust. The first commandment of Online Reputation is earning respect, courage will do just that. Remaining transparent will set you up for success and will make you more efficient.
Business transparency or lack of it in the case of Volkswagen for instance, made them top the charts in 2016 as the least engaging brand. The emissions scandal has taken a toll on their reputation. Remain transparent at all costs, gain trust and respect and you will have a great reputation online or offline.
3. Monitor your Online Reputation Constantly
Keeping track of what is being said about you or your business online is essential to apprehend those who are attempting to damage your online reputation. We established that people go online and gossip and share their opinions about individuals, brands, products and services. Catching them in the act shows how proactive you are. It takes courage to address wrong doing and it earns you respect in the eyes of customers and associates alike. Most people hate remorse, and therefore they check the online reputation of businesses and individuals before doing business with them.
According to Review Trackers online Reviews Survey, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to their online negative reviews within 7 days. Online Reputation Management Statistics and Facts.
When responding to negative online reviews you must be polite, patient and address the problem with honor. There is nothing wrong with admitting that your business made a mistake. Again, it takes courage to be transparent and it will help you gain respect and trust. Courage, transparency, respect and trust equal a great online reputation. According to Marketing Charts, 70% of customers changed their opinions about a brand after the company replied to a negative online review. Addressing negative, whether true or false, online reviews and content is at the core of any Online Reputation Repair Strategy.
Another aspect of monitoring your online reputation is generating business opportunities. People go on social media not only to complain about businesses but to ask peers and friends about products and services. If you monitor your online reputation on social media you will be able to spot such questions and by interacting with potential buyers, your company will look good and it will increase your business chances of landing more customers.
4. Address Online Criticism
Facing up to online customer criticism is in itself an art that few companies master. In our age, one unhappy customer has the power of thousands of people. Whether the online criticism you are facing online is true or simply out of spite, there are proven tactics that will help your organization handle such situations to save your reputation and come out as a winner.
If you notice, each reputation management commandment leads to the other. Naturally, when faced with criticism people become hostile. This is exactly what you do not want to do. If you come across as hostile, people will think you don't give a damn about them, and you will entice them to further taint your company's reputation. The same goes for your personal reputation amongst people. So how to handle online criticism?
First you need to read what is being criticized, be patient and think deeply before you or your public relations employees respond. Second, you need to be radically transparent about the truth and what you believe. Responding to criticism with facts and adding some humor usually does wonders to your online reputation. The quickest way to have a bad and damaged online reputation as a person or a company is ignoring online accusations or pointing out that the poster is simply wrong.
The third advice we have for you when faced with online criticism is to try and attempt to turn the table. Sometimes you can turn the criticism into your advantage. Try to take advantage of social media and other online criticism to restate unique selling propositions about your product or service.
5. React Quickly
By now, you should have grasped the importance of reacting quickly, proactively and politely to online negative content hurting your online reputation. Even if you are not yet prepared to intelligently respond to negative reviews or complaints, a quick response addressing the fact that you or your company are aware of the situation is a great first step to preserve your reputation.
According to Get Five Stars 2016 survey, 16% of customers expect a business to respond to complaints and respond to negative reviews in 1-3 hours! The longer you take to respond to online complaints the more your audience will think you do not care. If you give the impression that your company does not care about customers, the more fierce they will become. Fierce and disgruntled customers will damage your online reputation in a heart beat. After all, if they believe you do not care about your own reputation, why should they?
6. Have no Mercy on False Attackers
The previous online reputation commandments might give you the impression that you have to remain peaceful and not attack back. Well, sometimes you have to fight back illegal behavior. If you determine that the accusations are false, misleading or illegal, you need to think hard about what strategy to follow. If you can back up your point of view with facts, you must fight illegal accusations.
Many people will cross the line over and over if they are not confronted and stopped. If a certain illegal attack is hurting your business, threaten to sue, and if not stopped, sue!
7. Own your First Page of Google Results
When people search for your name or brand on search engines, the first page of search engine results matters the most. It is estimated that over 75% of search engine visitors do not go beyond the first page of Google. By controlling the content on the first page of Google search results you control 75% of your online reputation.
The impression that a search engine visitor gets by visiting the content on the first page of results forms what they think about you or your brand. Ensuring that only positive search results make it to the first page when searching for your name is a tactic worth it's weight in gold. It is no wonder that most Online Reputation Management Companies are expensive.
8. Understand your disparagements
A disparagement is when people are talking negatively about you or your brand or belittling some of your work. When you are faced with such detractors by legitimate attackers you must stop and learn. After all, they could be right. We all make mistakes and being courageous and owning up to your own or your business's wrong or misguided actions will earn you respect and help damage-control any online reputation crisis.
9. Learn from your Mistakes
Again, we established earlier that we all make mistakes. It is a human nature to make mistakes as no one is perfect. Remember the saying " Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me"? If you make a mistake, addressing it and learning how to not repeat it will go a long way in re-building and repairing your online reputation.
10. Ask for Help
Most small businesses and average people with online reputation issues actually fail at repairing it. When you are unable to repair your online reputation yourself, ask for help from a professional.