Stop me if I’m wrong, but your online reputation is both one of the most important things to take care of and seemingly one of the most daunting. Maybe you gave a great handle on your company’s online reputation; but as soon as you think you do there’s another website or trend to catch up on. And if you’re not a tech-savvy person who watches this all the time, how do you keep a handle on it?
First, lets talk about why — whether you’re a car dealership, restaurant, chiropractor, public speaker, or whatever — being in full control of your online reputation is so important.
When I went to manage a local Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep store that had been in business for decades in my hometown, I was honestly quite hesitant. The reason was the store did not have a good reputation offline, much less online. Maybe that’s an understatement…they had a TERRIBLE reputation. Whether you are aware of it or not, the reputation perceived online is often the perception offline. We are often not aware of it offline because the offline community (our potential clientele) is talking about us behind our backs. And, let’s be honest: any business who deals with the public, no matter how great the company, will catch some deserved or undeserved flack over even trivial things everyday. The BBB has been in business a long time over just this philosophy of having somewhere for consumers to vent. Consumers just have more options of where they can go to vent with the digital age we live in today– right, wrong, or different. And vent they do!
After interviewing at the aforementioned store, I realized they had a large clientele of happy loyal customers including the local TV station, hospital, and other businesses. Yet, even with these connections, they still had a really crappy reputation. Why? Because no one managed it. Their online and offline reputation was out of control, from the BBB to industry specific review sites and even Google. It was affecting sales big time. And taking control of your online presence and reputation is a free way to increase sales long-term. But it won’t happen overnight.
So here’s how we easily managed to take control of our online presence and flip it totally around in just a few months:
1. Make a plan and put it in writing. We decided who was in control of what, sort of a damage control action plan. Even if the guy who was in control of online reviews had to get with another manager before making a response, there was a plan so that we could respond quickly. It’s too much to think the owner can keep a watch on everything. So delegate that responsibility to one or more managers so that you can make a response fast. We had one guy in charge of online reputation, and another in control of offline reputation.
2. Keep everyone informed. This is actually the easiest part when it comes to your online reputation. Most online review sites will allow you to take ownership of your review page so that you can receive email alerts whenever something changes. Make sure all the decision makers get copied on these alerts immediately, it will bring a lot of urgency to the process. And when changes or communication is made, cc the decision makers again so they know what’s going on. The worst thing that can happen is the owner get a call and not be prepared for it.
3. Search for yourself online. Simply go to Google and search for your company, you may be extremely surprised in what you find! I know we were, since the first page of results contained nine links to bad reviews or our competition, while only one was to our website. So if people searched for us online we were not making a good first impression. Google also has “alerts” which can be emailed directly to you as soon as a new result pops up in your name, which was also a big part of what we did. Again, direct someone to manage this day to day and cc everyone when something important comes up. The alerts are very simple to setup and change.
But don’t just limit yourself to Google! Search anywhere people can talk about you– online blogs, news sources, forums, social media sites, etc. Making a plan to ensure you control page one of Google’s results and other sites was the most important part of taking control of our online presence and turning our reputation around. If this seems too daunting or you find you don’t have the time manage Google’s first page of results, you may want to hire a reputation manager to help you get this fine tuned like we did.
4. Be proactive! The most important thing you can is to be proactively engaging your online presence. This has traditionally been done with TV and radio ads which do work. But the nice thing is you can cast a wider net for cheaper online. This can easily be done for free with things like video marketing, SEO, or paid search ads. I’m not saying to flush the traditional methods since we took full advantage of TV and it worked. But these days you gotta be thinking outside the box to make it work. And most importantly, engage and reward your online community who talk about you favorably. Creating a raving fan base is a lot simpler than one typically thinks. Things like video testimonials, online reviews, and social media sharing will make your business shine like no other before.
If you take dominating your online presence seriously, the changes will happen fast. But it does take time and follow through to truly make it work. Don’t give up! And if you ever need assistance, feel free to reach out to me.