Six Ways to Manage Your Business' Online Reputation
Reputation is the intangible-but-invaluable currency that determines whether a business withers on the vine or grows to become an institution. That's been true since the dawn of capitalism, but the Internet has added new layers to old practices. Failed online campaigns can doom businesses in and of themselves, and it's essential for companies to not only avoid common pitfalls but to maximize what they do on the Internet.
1. Have a Vision
It's all well and good to know that reputation is important, but it's equally important for businesses to define what kind of reputation they want. Some things are a given; every business wants to be known for quick and friendlycustomer service and excellent products. The focus should be on that and what they can do to set themselves apart. It's equally important for them to target their efforts toward particular crowds. A marketing strategy that isn't congruent with a company's business plan is just wasted effort.
It might seem a little odd for a soap company to have a Twitter feed, but astrong social media presence keeps that company fresh in people's minds. Ifnothing else, social media can be used to keep consumers up-to-date on sales and other useful tidbits regarding a company's products.
3. Listen and Respond
It's inevitable that people will say nasty things about a business on the Internet. There's no way to counter all of it, but well-placed comments in forum threads and on blog posts can do a lot for a company's image. It provides a chance to debunk common myths by displaying clear examples of employees who go out of their way to address and rectify the concerns of wronged customers. It might not change the opinions of the aggrieved, but onlookers who are on the fence are much more likely to warm up to a company that does everything it can to help its customers.
4. Check Search Rankings
Some business owners obsess over search engine rankings. The formulas can be finicky, and the effectiveness of new content can only be measured over longer periods of time. That's why checking in once every few weeks is the best method for staying on top of how well something is actually working, and if a company's site ranks low for a long period of time, that's when something needs to be done about it.
5. Create Content for Human Beings
Most people are familiar with old-school SEO practices. It amounted to creating pages that spammed popular keywords as many times as possible in order to inflate a site's ranking. That doesn't work anymore, and it's not what reputable companies want to be associated with. It can be difficult to strike the proper balance between readability and properly optimized marketing content, but the basic idea is that if something doesn't read well to a human, search engines will eventually penalize it. Informative content that contains a handful (or less) of the desired keywords is more than enough to draw people in.
6. Monitor Wikipedia
User-generated content is some of the most popular and powerful stuff on the Internet, and unfortunately there are a number of people who will spread lies for kicks. While it partly falls under the category of dealing with negative feedback, Wikipedia is unique in that it ranks so high in most search engines that people may come across a Wiki entry on a company before the company's actual site. That's why keeping the Wikipedia page clean is one of the mostimportant things to do even if it is one of the hardest as well.
The Internet has been around long enough to become a fixture in people's lives, but there are numerous ways to leverage it that are just now being discovered. The most important thing for a business in the 21st century to do is to stay on top of new innovations so that it can maintain control of its image in the face of increasing complexity.
Jason Hennessey is the CEO of EverSpark Interactive and a Cobb County resident