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In the days before the Internet ruled the world, you were the only one responsible for building your company’s reputation. Nowadays you have to manage your reputation, because the smallest thing you do, the slightest fallout with a customer, will be magnified and blown out of proportion online. Consumers research their products before they buy, and it only takes one scathing remark by a disgruntled customer to undo all the hard work you have put into your company. It could take years to recover from such a blow, so like it or not, managing your reputation is extremely important.
Blogs, forums and anonymous review sites have given consumers a platform to air their opinions, which could be a good thing, but some people may comment under instruction of your competition. If you do not actively manage your business reputation, others may do it for you, in a way that will not be advantageous for you or your company.
Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, offers these tips to small business owners on how to protect your online reputation:
You cannot ignore the Internet
Research on the Internet rules, and that is a fact. Even small business owners who do not advertise on the Internet may find themselves being discussed online. The Internet may not bring you business, but it may influence your reputation, because customers go online, especially when they feel cheated or mistreated. You have to go online yourself and do research about what is said about your own company; you might be very surprised at the results!
Know what you can control
Do not direct potential customers to online review sites when they inquire about your business, because you don’t have control over the content of those sites. Rather try to improve your ranking in Google search results by posting helpful articles with advice, information and hints. Become a trusted source of assistance for your customers, and in the long run you will see positive results.
Protect your own reputation
Instead of spending a bunch of money on a reputation management company, use free tools and services such as Google Alerts, TweetBeep and Monitor to help you keep track of your company’s reputation. If you do opt for a reputation management company, avoid companies that create various Twitter accounts and microsites to flood the Web with positive feedback about your company. This will cause your position in search results rankings to fall to the bottom and will do more harm than good.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)