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It can start with a single bad Tripadvisor review or one negative Facebook post. After all, every business–no matter how much they prioritize customer service–will have a dissatisfied customer from time to time. All of a sudden, however, you may find that the impression of your brand that is presented by Google’s search results is less than stellar. Perhaps that disparaging Opentable review is higher in the search rankings than your many glowing reviews. Your business’ reputation in the eyes of the online community starts to lose its luster.

So, what can you do? The internet has become the first stop for almost everyone when they’re looking to find out information about a business, research products, or make critical purchasing decisions. Your online reputation is a cornerstone of your brand identity and protecting your company’s good name online is crucial for businesses across sectors. That’s why you need online reputation management.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Simply put, online reputation management seeks to strategically craft how the public’s perception of a business appears online. The aim of such efforts is to create broadly positive public opinion surrounding a business and its services or products. The actual mechanics of online reputation management can take several forms.

The first part of any online reputation management strategy involves monitoring what’s being said about your business online. After all, you have no way of responding to negative sentiments if you don’t know what’s being said about your brand in the first place. The rise of social media has given consumers a large number of channels to vent their frustrations with what they perceive as poor service or bad products. Tripadvisor, Bookings.com, Expedia, Instagram, Google Reviews, OpenTable, Facebook, and more are all common places for bad reviews–both well-articulated and snippy one-liners.

Once you know what’s being said about your business online, the next step is responding to any criticisms. You may be thinking: why not just wait and let new positive reviews bury the old negative commentary? For better or for worse, the information posted on the internet is all but permanent. Ignoring critical remarks about your company won’t make them go away–and can actually make things worse.

Instead, take poor reviews as an opportunity to let your customer service shine. Often, customers become upset because they think that their bad experience doesn’t matter to the faceless company they’ve been dealing with. Proving them wrong by showing that your business does care about customer feedback and concerns can go a long way to building goodwill. Take this a step further by finding a way to resolve their issues. By offering a solution that addresses the problem, you can change the perception of your business from uncaring to committed. Even in cases where the bad review is completely off-base, taking the time to educate the reviewer in a respectful way can be extremely helpful for your business’s online reputation.

Keep in mind that there’s also an element of introspection necessary when your company is on the receiving end of bad word-of-mouth. Is what’s being said in the negative review accurate? You still need to address the post, tweet, or review directly online, but reflecting on any underlying internal issues is also a best practice. Letting the reviewer know that you acknowledge these internal issues and what you are doing as a business to address them can be extremely satisfying for both parties. In these cases, receiving the negative information can provide insight about things that need improvement and actually help you run your business better.

The Dos and Don’ts of Online Reputation Management

Knowing what online reputation management is and why it’s important doesn’t necessarily make it clear how to get started. After discovering negative reviews posted online, many businesses fail to find the right response that doesn’t escalate the matter further.

The first major action your business should avoid when delving into online reputation management: ignoring negative commentary. As we pointed out above, pretending like an upset customer doesn’t exist won’t make them go away–and it might just make them angrier. What’s more, that comment is going to be there for everyone to read for a long time if you fail to engage with it.

That leads to the next big don’t: don’t try and delete poor reviews and comments! It can be so tempting to trying any make anything negative about your business just disappear. The risk that your deletion will be noticed–either by the original poster or by someone following the conversation–is too great and gaining a reputation for hiding negative feedback is even harder to come back from than the feedback itself.

The last thing to avoid when engaging in online reputation management is defensiveness. It can be tough when you think (or know!) that the customer is wrong, and negative reviews can easily feel like personal attacks. In this case, however, the “customer is always right” approach is the best. Like deleting negative comments, becoming defensive will just end up reflecting poorly on you, not on the complaining customer.

So, what should you do when embarking on an online reputation management strategy? First and foremost, make sure you respond to all negative messages about your brand. You need to show customers that you care. (As a side note, a quick “thank you” in response to a positive review can also help your online reputation.) Apologize for the bad experience that your customer had and–most importantly–present a course of action. This can be as simple as asking for their account information or offering to get on a phone call. Remember that the goal is to take the discussion offline and out of the public eye.

Of course, knowing exactly what you should and shouldn’t do in relation to online reputation management can be difficult. Many businesses find it sensible to engage a professional like Maydragonfly Marketing, to help manage their online reputation. If you feel like your business can’t stay on top of your reputation on your own, this is likely the best course of action. After all, your brand’s good name is depending on it.

Do you need help with your company’s online reputation management strategy? Maydragonfly Marketing has a team of native/fluent English-speaking experts with customer service and public relations training to help you tackle those bad reviews. Contact us today to get started!

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