Managing your reputation was simpler before the internet. Now, when negative content about you or your brand appears, it stays. And it will turn up in search engine results when potential clients, bosses, customers, or colleagues look you up with their inquisitive Googling fingers.
So how do you hedge against damaging content that can jeopardize your reputation? The first and most important thing is to remember that avoiding bad reviews or damaging press is infinitely easier than repairing them. If you’re sincerely operating at peak levels, and you handle problems as they arise instead of letting them walk out the door, your battle is (mostly) already won.
Otherwise, you may be waking up to some crazy Yelp rants attached to your name. As luck would have it, Yelp is increasingly gaining its own reputation as a place for immature consumers to vent their powerless ire. Nevertheless, one negative Yelp review can still cost you, 30 customers.
And your online reputation is more than just Yelp. It’s how customers interact with your brand on social media, how they blog about you, or what they say on forums. It’s the articles that you appear in, which can make you look like experts in your field, or fools playing a novice game.
Learning to manage your reputation is fundamental. Here are a few different strategies to help you out.
The Punk Rock Approach
One gutsy strategy: make light of it. If you’ve got the brass, and your brand can handle it, do what Brooklyn’s Norbert’s Pizza does: post your negative reviews on social media for all your cool customers to laugh at. Who cares about Yelp, anyway?
Of course, that’s all good and well when you’re hawking greasy $2 slices to youthful partygoers in the middle of the night. But if you’re a pediatrician or a law firm, your livelihood depends on people seeing you as trustworthy and dependable.
If you’re an auto mechanic, the first thing users will want to know is that you’re honest. And even if you’re just a quiet used bookstore, you’ll still want to be taken seriously.
The Serious Business Approach
In these cases, the first step is not to ignore your internet presence. Like it or not, when you go into business, you have an online reputation. If you ignore that reputation, you become a target for haphazard rage mongers.
The best way to handle negative online reviews and entitled customer tantrums is to be the adult in the situation. Actively reply to all negative reviews in an effort to demonstrate that you are open and listening to customer concerns.
No matter how ludicrous the review, treat the customer with dignity and respect. This way, every negative review becomes an opportunity for Yelp readers to re-associate your company with dignity and respect. This is a great way to turn a negative review around into a chance to shine.
Never get involved in online arguments. If a Yelp review seems fake, flag it and give one collected reply, and move on. If a customer has constructive criticism that, if you’re being honest, you could actually benefit from, take their advice and thank them. Issue sincere apologies where appropriate, but don’t bother with insincere, fake ones like “we’re sorry you are chronically unsatisfiable.” Even if it’s true.
The Flushing Strategy
Reputation Management & Online Trending Expert Daniel Cohen of Even Yehuda, Israel suggests the following tactics:
•Manipulate everything you see on Google (i.e. suggestions, trends, & results, etc)
•Penetrate established online communities to seek targeted Geo audiences
•Increase friends/followers for social awareness and exposure.
•Automate human tasks by coding them into the software.
•How do you accomplish this? By flooding search engines and social networks with positive creative content about yourself, or alternatively the brand or service you’re promoting.
But, you might object, this would require an incredible number of forum, blog and bulletin board posts in order to work.
Cohen demonstrates in this video a unique ability to saturate tens of thousands of forums, blogs and message boards with custom articles and content using automated software.
According to experts, almost every law abiding citizen on earth is sharing their first and last names with convicted criminals.
Cohen claims “There could be doctors, lawyers, judges, movie producers, actors–positive people in society with this same name. But they are now plagued with negative results on Google for society to judge and jury them in the silence of their own minds.”
The flushing method is the superior of all reputation management approaches, but realistically, unless a senior ranking Google employee or Daniel Cohen personally assist, the chances of achieving overnight first page results is next to impossible.
The Relentlessly Optimistic Approach
This goes back to putting out the fire before it starts. Go the extra mile with every interaction. Build up a small army of engaged social media followers. Make e-friends by blogging about other businesses that matter to you, trading guest blog posts, or collaborating on some special cross-pollinating discounts and deals.
This kind of enthusiasm is infectious, and it wins you friends both in your customer base and amongst other businesses. Then in the event of some negative press or a lousy review, you have plenty of support to voice for the positivity of your brand.
Whatever strategy or combination works best for you, don’t be passive about it! You are growing a reputation whether you like it or not. In the digital age, it may take a little more attention to detail, but it also presents you with an opportunity to show off what your company values are all about.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.