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Your Online Reputation: An Integral Part of Your Business Model

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If you aren’t planning on getting your business online in some way, then you can essentially plan for it to fail. Online visibility is incredibly important, even for businesses that don’t intend to sell products online, and if you don’t plan to have a website and accounts on multiple social media accounts, then you will most likely miss out on appealing to your target market. On the contrary, if you have already planned to build your online visibility, then you need to make sure that you equally plan for building and protecting your online reputation through online reputation management.

Although the internet and online platforms, such as social media, have made it easier than ever for businesses, they have also made it easier than ever for professionals and businesses alike to ruin their reputations in a matter of minutes. Companies such as L’Oreal suffered when it was found that they had created a fake blog, causing the company to lose credibility amongst customers, and Chrysler nearly sent the Motor City of the world, Detroit, into a rampage when it posted a hateful Tweet about Detroit being full of terrible drivers. So if you are serious about keeping your business visible and around for years, then there are a few things you need to do if you wish to maintain a positive online reputation:

Hold Multiple Accounts

As a business, one of the best way to control your online reputation is by holding multiple social media accounts and any domain names that relate to your company – even the bad ones. BP suffered at the hand of angry environmentalists after it spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf. In addition to neglecting its online rep, the company also realized that it had failed to secure all social media accounts and domains related to the brand. A false Twitter account was then established under the company’s name which regularly Tweeted funny comments at BP’s expense.

Lesson: Owning all domains and social media accounts related to your business is a must – otherwise you risk malicious use by competitors or angry customers.

Be Quick to Curtail Bad Press

While we would all like to believe that we will never do anything wrong, it is basically inevitable that your company will remain blameless throughout its existence. Unfortunately, the internet has made it incredibly easy for angry customers to post negative comments throughout the web, and if your aren’t attentive, you could risk that press becoming more prevalent than the information you want your target market to see.

Again, the best lesson in bad PR control could be learned from watching how BP reacted to its massive oil spill in the Gulf. Environmentalists and locals alike were livid with the company, and began bombarding the the company’s Facebook page with negative comments. Instead of responding to the negative comments or trying to appease the masses, the company just let the angry mob control its page resulting in negative press and even angrier mobs for nearly a year after.

However, there have been several other companies and organizations that failed to respond quickly, potentially costing them their reputation and several thousand dollars in revenue. United Airlines broke a customer’s guitar and did little to compensate the owner. In anger and annoyance, the guitar’s owner posted a music video about the incident online. Within 4 days, United Airline’s stock dropped 10 percent – a $180 million loss.

Lesson: Always respond quickly and with politeness to any customer complaints that show up on your social media sites. Allowing them to go unanswered will only result in further anger, and potential loss of revenue.

Post Often, but Watch Your Content

By posting often to your social media accounts, you keep control of it. You are able to further engage your customers and are better able to control their conversations and posts. While posting frequently is a great way to raise your rank and customer awareness, it can also be an avenue for negative press if the wrong thing is posted. Chrysler and the American Red Cross both suffered earlier this year by posting negative content, both through Twitter.

A Chrysler employee commented on the poor driving ability of Detroit drivers which caused the city to revolt against the company. The company’s brand remains tarnished as its ability to curtail the negative press that followed was lacking. The American Red Cross suffered a similar rough patch when an intern posted about interoffice drinking to the organization’s account. The Red Cross, however, was able to recover its reputation as its post didn’t bash potential customers – it simply made benefactors wonder where their donated dollars were going. However, Dogfish Head Beer, the brewery mentioned in the Tweet, did take notice and began donating – as well as several other avid drinkers.

Lesson: Keep posts clean. Make sure that Tweet are friendly, Facebook posts are nice, and that no lewd videos or photos ever go viral.

By properly managing your online reputation, you will better ensure your company’s success. You will be able to keep the information that you want your customers to see relevant, and you will be able to keep any negative press from being a leading news story. Don’t let one mistake lead your company to ruin. Plan ahead for how you will manage your online reputation, and how you will recover should your company ever be faced with a social media failure.

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