When you think of online reputation management, you probably picture presidential Tweets and Hollywood stars behaving badly. What’s that got to do with you? After all, you’re just a business owner, doing your best to work with clients.
The truth is, the internet is forever and thoughtless comments can follow you around to affect your business long after you’ve forgotten you made them. If you’re puzzled about why your business isn’t booming the way you’d like it to, maybe there’s a reason hidden somewhere online.
The first step in any campaign is to find out what you’re fighting. Do a detailed search on yourself and your business to find out what people are saying about you. Are there bad reviews on obscure review sites? Did you lose your temper and get into a flame war with someone five years ago? As far as potential clients are concerned, you and your business are interchangeable. You need to know what people will find when they do a search for you and your company.
Correct any Falsehoods
Are trolls posting lies about you or your company? It happens to the best of us, especially in the business world. You can’t fight fire with fire on their playing field; that will only increase the attacks. To paraphrase Michelle Obama: when they go low, you go high. Counter-attack all the bad publicity with good press, specifically aimed at proving what they say isn’t true.
Get Rid of Past Mistakes
Your research may have unearthed comments you made long ago that you’d rather not have associated with your business. If you can find it, a potential client can, too. Remove as much danger as possible by deleting all the old forum conversations, blog comments and Facebook posts that might put you in a bad light.
Set Up Ongoing Research
Google Alerts are designed to allow you to do an ongoing search for any search phrase. You’ll get an email every day with links to every instance where your search phrase has been mentioned online. Set one up for your name, your business name, and any other phrase you can think of that relates directly to your business.
The key to protecting your online reputation from this day forward is to respond immediately when you find a negative comment. Be polite, apologize if you need to and answer any problems honestly. Your reaction to negative press will make a bigger impression on potential clients than the negative review itself.
Craft Your Online Persona Carefully
It may sound like overkill, but you need to know exactly what image you want to project to everyone online before you make any more posts or comments anywhere. Are you funny? That could be seen as personable or not serious enough. Know a lot about your business? Depending on how you present it, you could be an expert or simply a know-it-all.
Make a decision about the image you want people to have of you and your business, and never post out of character unless you’re in a private room where you know all the members. Even that can be tricky sometimes, depending on the members of the group. From now on, consider all public posts as small advertisements for your business, and never write anything you wouldn’t want your potential client list to see.