By Laura Haight
Originally published as The Digital Maven column in the Upstate Business Journal
Years ago, I worked for a newspaper in New York City whose tagline was “don’tcha hate not knowing.” I always thought it was a bad message for a newspaper because it implied that after reading us, you still wouldn’t know what was going on.
I was reminded of it today as I contemplated this column because so many people who hold themselves above the fray of social media; who will not succumb to promoted posts, grubbing for likes and shares, just don’t know what shape their business reputation is online. And they may be blissfully ignorant of the truth.
But whether you choose to participate or not, the rest of the world is out there. And chances are… they’re talking about you.
So like the Godfather, circumstances are pulling you in and you are helpless to resist. Here are four ways you can help control your online reputation.
Stop fighting and start monitoring. It’s likely that the armies of new reviewers do not even realize the power that they wield. And they are powerful.
MIchael Fertik, founder of Reputation.Com wrote in Inc Magazine that 89 percent of consumers believe online reviews are trustworthy and 80 percent have been swayed by negative reviews. Another 85 percent said they are more likely to make a purchase if they can find an online review. For restaurants, their influence is even greater. Each additional star in your rating is worth — or conversely is costing you — an incremental 5 to 9 percent.
Even if you think you will never use them, you should own take steps to claim your social media sites with your business name. Do this on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest and claim your company page on LinkedIn. This at least prevents others from grabbing a site in your name — whether they intended to or not — where their actions or ratings could become linked with yours. It is very difficult to reclaim a business site once someone else has it.
Don’t get mad, get posting. “Take these down!” That’s what I often hear first from businesses that don’t understand social media. In most cases, you can’t just make bad go away. You can counteract it with good, you can respond with service-oriented responses, but you can’t just make them disappear. Consider first if you have a lot of negative posts about an aspect of your business, maybe you’re learning something you need to know. If those same customers took the time to call you and voice your complaint, over time you would realize that you had an issue to address. You can look at bad reviews as “feedback”.
But you should also look at them as opportunities. Strong customer-service companies monitor social media constantly and quickly respond to complaints. One owner of a coffee shop would respond so quickly to negative posts on Twitter that he would often have the customer happily compensated with a free drink before he’d had a chance to leave the shop.
Let the good push down the bad. The positive side here is that good comments are more useful than bad. Not everyone is social media savvy and there are metrics to suggest that negative experiences prompt more feedback and posts. You can counteract that by encouraging happy customers to voice their opinions. Make it easy by emailing them with a link to a review site, or a scannable code on a thank you card with their receipt. Not everyone will do this, clearly. But hope is not a strategy either. Some marketers will try to counteract the bad by paying people to write good reviews for you. I say resist this. Authenticity shows.
Search for yourself. Do you even know what’s out there? Probably not. Search for your name, your company name and dig a little into the results. Search for your store or restaurant on most used review sites and see what your ranking on those sites is and why. What you don’t know can be hurting you.
That’s four things, but here’s an general tip: Be cautious of what you say online. One bad meal in a restaurant doesn’t mean the place is the pits. One snippy sales assistant at a shop doesn’t speak for an entire organization. Your words today go a lot farther than you think. Live by the tweet; die by the tweet..