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Perception is reality -- and in today's digital landscape, a negative reputation can be the kiss of death for any business or brand. That's why online reputation management is such a burgeoning -- and increasingly important -- field. As online search inquiries and review sites come to dictate a business' bottom line, more and more, it becomes imperative for companies to play a more active role in guarding their online reputation.
The question is how -- or rather, how can companies guard their online reputation as effectively and efficiently as possible? Manually Googling your business name, day after day, may be somewhat effective, but who has time for it? There are better strategies that companies can implement, and we have listed five of them below.
Automate Your Monitoring
The first step is to ensure that your reputation monitoring is fully automated. The obvious solution here is to set up Google or Bing Alerts for your brand name, as well as any branded products that you have, the names of your chief executives, and more. You'll receive updates in your e-mail inbox whenever these terms are invoked on the Web, allowing you to keep an accurate and up-to-date assessment of your company's online portrayal.
Google and Bing Alerts are effective, but not necessarily perfect or comprehensive -- which leads to our next point.
Use an Array of Reputation Monitoring Tools
There are plenty of other online tools -- most of them free -- that you can use to monitor your company's online reputation. A few that are especially noteworthy include:
Offer Your Customers Chances to Vent
No matter how vigorously you monitor your online reputation, there may come a day on which your company is hit with a negative review, which can provide disastrous to your online reputation -- and your bottom line. One way to avoid this is to provide your customers with more constructive ways to vent. Tech support forums and easily-accessible contact forms, where your customers can submit their inquiries or their concerns, may help funnel some of their frustrations or their dissatisfaction away from sites like Yelp.com.
Encourage Positive Reviews
Another key approach is to be proactive in asking clients to leave reviews on your online review profiles -- like Yelp, Urban Spoon, or whatever else. You can't really stop negative reviews from cropping up, but you can suppress them and minimize their impact by surrounding yourself with positive reviews. Reach out to your best, most loyal customers and ask them to give their two cents.
Respond to Negatives
Finally, what happens when your online reputation monitoring endeavors reveal a negative comment or review? The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and compose yourself, never responding in anger or in haste. From there, offer a humble and sincere response to anyone who has a legitimate beef with your business, offering to make things right for that customer. If the negative review is simply defamatory, however -- the work of a cyber-bully -- you may be better off simply ignoring it. Any response you offer is only going to fan the flames, and make things worse.