By Adam Toren
Your reputation precedes you wherever you go. Whether you’re searching for potential clients, looking to build your brand, or networking with like-minded professionals, your character and notoriety are introduced to the world miles before you even arrive on the scene. This may not be breaking news to anybody. After all, people are first and foremost social creatures. It’s in our nature to talk, trade stories, and share information. What has changed is the arena for this exchange of information. Every business, whether it’s online or brick-and-mortar, is discussed thoroughly on the internet. It’s essential nowadays to manage your online reputation so that you can place your best foot forward at all times.
Who’s Searching For You?
Just about everyone. Consumers on the lookout for the best treatment and prices. Writers and journalists seeking a hot story. A new business partner investigating past deals. The fact is, typing a few words into a search engine is incredibly easy and very convenient. It’s usually the first step people take when they’re trying to find tips or information.
What are They Finding?
Hopefully they’re finding your website, loads of relevant information, glowing reviews from customers, and positive recommendations from colleagues. Negative results can range from a sea of useless spam links to worst case scenarios such as websites designed entirely to attack you or your business. Both cases are far from ideal. When it comes to online reputation management, being irrelevant or invisible is nearly as bad as being negatively portrayed. People are searching for you because they’re interested. All they want is a little bit of positive reinforcement so they can take the next step.
Handling Negative Feedback
Attacks on your reputation can come from unhappy customers, disgruntled employees, or even malicious business rivals. Managing a great company can ward off a lot of negative reviews, and legitimate customer complaints should be handled by finding a solution to the problem. If someone is criticizing you or your company politely but unfairly, don’t hesitate to respond in order to clarify the issue. On the other hand, don’t get dragged down into the dirt by vulgar and biased critics. Smart consumers will be able to see through obvious attempts of defamation.
Twitter and Google and Facebook, Oh My!
It’s hard to keep track of all the social media websites out there. Just when you finish updating your profile on one, another pops into existence. Today, a friendly and informative Facebook page is a must, and Twitter can be great for business updates and networking purposes. Working to get your business ranked highly in relevant Google searches is essential for effectively managing your online reputation. And don’t forget the power of video. YouTube draws millions of viewers daily and is a popular destination for product reviews and consumer testimonials. Staying up to date can seem intimidating, and in some cases it may be worth it to look for a specialist to manage your online presence.
The best way to tackle any problem is to anticipate it and take the initiative. Put yourself in a strong position by having a helpful and informative website that commands attention from anyone interested in you or your business. Update it regularly with deals and announcements and consider writing a blog to engage your client base. Be communicative. Answer your emails regularly, and respond to questions from any potential customers.
From the butcher to the baker, online reputation management has become just as important for non-internet businesses as it is for dot-coms. It may seem like uncharted waters, but really it’s just an extension of what you’ve been doing all along. Take that friendly, entrepreneurial spirit and place it online.
- Adam Toren
Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of the award winning books, Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right. Their latest project is a free classified ads network called: iSell.com.