In the real life business world, we all know the importance of maintaining a reputation and making connections. Exactly the same principle needs to apply to those who want to flourish in the online market. In the West, neglecting your reputation online can lead to huge losses of both money and business. Here are a few of the best ways that you can help your reputation and sustain the online work relationships that are so crucial to a successful business.
What exactly is an online reputation?
You need to think of an online reputation as the same thing as it is in the real world, just maintained through the internet. The two are not mutually exclusive; your online reputation can aid (or damage) your offline reputation, and vice-versa.
However one of the ways that your online reputation is perhaps more important is through the use of search engines. If you are like me, when you come across a website that offers good deals on products, I’ll quickly Google the website to see if it’s ranked highly by other customers. The same applies to you: if you are trying to make a business transaction online, and you have negative web pages associated with your name online, then your reputation will have been damaged. It is also true that the online world works at a much faster pace than the offline world. One day you might have the metaphorical plague, when the next you are the most desirable person in town. It’s much more likely, however, that once you have a few negative web pages associated with your name (which could be in the form of blogs or reviews) then you are likely to only fall deeper into the pit of negativity. If you have ever used Amazon or eBay you will be familiar with the concept; online retailers will do anything that they can to make sure that they get positive reviews. Exactly the same applies to your online reputation.
What are online public relations?
The purpose of online public relations is to, in much the same way that celebrities do, fight back against any negative articles which have been published about you. There are online websites that specialize in exactly this; they will monitor what is being said about you and your business online, and accordingly issue statements and email those who have published the pages to try and counter the negative associations with your name. Sometimes this comes in the form of the company commissioning articles which are designed to promote your company in a good light, or perhaps to attack those who were negative towards you. There is even the prospect that they can use legal action to have web pages which are defaming removed.
What role does social media have to play?
In the world where Facebook and Twitter consume our internet activity, social media can be a godsend to an online reputation. Rather than having people publish independent reviews, you might want to urge them to use your Facebook page or Twitter account to air grievances – if they are reported in a controlled medium which you can spin, your reputation will not suffer as much.
Social media interaction can be a way to show customers that are unhappy that you do care about them and their suffering. If you are shown on a Facebook post to have been useful and understanding, people who have similar problems in the future might be less likely to independently review you and rather take their issues to your Facebook page as well.
One option, which is perhaps a little less ethical, is to either delete or hide the comments from your public profile page so that negativity is not associated with your name. This has to be done carefully – if you purge the posts gradually, you will be fine, whereas if you cover up any negativity immediately you will only invoke the wrath of angry reviewers, ultimately leading to a backfire in public relations.
Don’t forget about the ability to improve public relations with your own website. Make sure that you have an email address which you are monitoring for disgruntled customers, as well as a telephone number for emergencies. This is a good way to prevent customers from seeking other websites to review their experience; if you can keep the negativity in-house, you can hope to control it.
Make sure you seem human
One of the most damaging things that companies do is to lose their human face. When responding to critical emails, make sure that you use your full name, rather than just “General Manager” or “Customer Service Team”. These generic titles will only serve to make your company seem robotic and uncaring. The greater the personal connection a customer feels with you, the more likely they are to be nicer in their review.
Bio: Kate Funk is an expert in teaching Finances and Marketing courses at Tutorsville. She coaches individuals in SEO and business networking skills.Author's Google+