If you run a small business, then what people are saying about your company matters—period. Specifically, what people are saying about your company on the Internet matters. There’s nothing vain or egotistical about investing yourself in your own company’s online reputation; it’s simply a reflection of how influential the Web is, and how make-or-break important your brand’s online reputation really is.
Think about it. If a new client or customer is seeking information about your company, the very first place he or she will turn, the vast majority of the time, is to Google. So what happens when that prospect enters your company name into the search window? If positive reviews and glowing publicity are all that the user finds, then you’re set.
It doesn’t always work this way, however, and we all know it. We all know that many companies are subjected, whether fairly or unfairly, to bad reviews or negative publicity. When that’s the case, it can prove ruinous. Those bad reviews can and will scare away would-be customers en masse.
Maintaining a pristine online reputation is tough—especially when there are many reputation management errors that end up being basically self-inflicted. Here are four reputation pitfalls that small business owners make all the time—and, advice on how you can avoid them.
- The single biggest mistake that a small business owner can make is just not being there to take control of the brand narrative. What do you do when something big happens at your company—whether it’s something great or something bad? You should be the first one to compose a news release about it, taking control of the story and putting it on your terms.
- A second mistake is a simple failure to monitor. Remember that a negative review could appear at any given moment—and the longer you let it sit there, the more damage it can do. Get in the habit of searching for your company’s name, on all the leading search engines, regularly. Set up a Google alert, too.
- A third error is not being sufficiently active in social media. Having active Facebook and Twitter accounts builds up goodwill about your brand—and it populates the search engines with positive content. Make sure you don’t neglect social media. Also don’t leave Facebook and Twitter updates to, say, a summer intern—or to anyone who might not have a firm grasp on what your company is all about.
- A final, very common mistake? Responding, in anger and in haste, to negative reviews on sites like Yelp. Truthfully, the best option is usually not to respond at all—because a response only gives those reviews more traction on Google. Focus on positive content—on your social media accounts, for instance—and try to simply bury that negative review, rather than rebut it.
Any one of these mistakes could prove ruinous to your small business’ online reputation—but the good news is, they’re all highly avoidable. Thinking critically about your brand’s online image is the first step toward protecting it!
This post was contributed by guest author Rich Gorman. Rich is an experienced veteran in the direct response marketing and reputation management industry. He currently contributes to both www.ReputationChanger.com and www.DirectResponse.net.