Statistics Canada’s findings are surprising: only 41% of small Canadian firms (those with 19 or fewer employees) have a website. If that’s you, then you’re not in control of the information that potential customers are getting about you. Worse yet, your online reputation is at the mercy of negative messages posted by dissatisfied customers, or even by your competitors.
Read on for our four-step strategy for how to maintain your online reputation.
1. Have a website
A website with its own URL is the minimum your customers expect. Even a one-page site is better than nothing. Developing such a streamlined site is quick, easy and economical. There’s no excuse not to have one.
2. Create social media and directory accounts
The minimum requirement for social media is to have a Facebook and Twitter account. And don’t forget about Google+, which is great for boosting your Google ranking. If you offer professional services, LinkedIn is a must. For some types of companies, Pinterest is very effective.
Building a social media presence has several benefits. You’re preventing dissatisfied customers from reserving your company name and using it to vent their frustrations. Plus, you’re allowing potential customers on these same networks to contact you. Bonus: Your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other accounts fill up search engine result pages with content you control or positive reviews, pushing any negative reviews further down.
To ensure search engines find your Facebook page, set those visibility options when you create your account. (For more information about how to maintain your Facebook page, see Facebook: Where to Start?)
3. Set up alerts under your company name
If you’d like to receive an email every time your company is mentioned online, it’s easy and free to do with Google Alerts. You can enter any keyword you want, including your competitors’ trademarks. Once you’re set up, you’ll receive alerts about everything new that’s said online about the topics that interest you, including a negative review added to Google results – a review you can address.
4. Respond to reviews with discernment!
Be sure to respond to a negative review if you have done something wrong, if the customer has a legitimate claim or if the facts are wrong. What about responding to unfounded reviews? It’s up to you. But if you do, do so courteously, regardless of the situation.
If responding to a negative but accurate review, indicate that you’re listening – say that you’re sorry your customer was not satisfied, and promise better service next time. Your engagement and good faith will be visible to other customers and will maintain your reputation.
When responding an unfounded review, remain polite and don’t attack the poster. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing your reputation. (For more information, read 4 Rules for Handling Negative Reviews on the Web.)
After applying these four tips, it’s time to get (positive) reviews from your customers. The best way maintain a good reputation online is to drown any negative reviews in a sea of positive ones!
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