Reputation is a concept that every brand must place at the centre of their offerings. Good reputation is everything in the business world and especially so for the small to medium size business sector.
But what is reputation exactly?
This seems obvious when written in black and white, but is it? Reputation according to the dictionary is:
"the opinion that people in general have about someone or something, or how much respect or admiration someone or something receives, based on past behaviour or character."
Put like that it seems a fairly easy thing to manage, and to an extent one could argue it is, when we are dealing with a singular person off-line, in the real world, without the ability to rant or rave to others easily.
This environment, the "closed-loop" was the game for businesses for years, we only had to concern ourselves with individuals and ensure they had a great customer experience or service. If the experience didn't live up to their expectations they may have told a few close friends but generally the bad reputation would have stopped there. It was only in crisis situation when the mainstream newspapers got hold of a story and sensationalised it that a business had a large scale reputation issue on their hands, where a PR firm would be called in and paid lots of money to fix it.
However, this has all changed, not the mass media, that's still strong, but the singular customer telling a few friends has changed, it has changed because now the singular customer will voice her opinions on Facebook, or Twitter and you know what? Things can soon escalate out of control and the small to medium sized business can have a big problem from a small start.
Social networks are by default particularly adept as facilitating gossip, and the majority of us love a good rant and rave. It is often the extremes that get amplified, either positively or negatively. Added to this we all suffer from Herd Behaviour
, in that if our friends start moaning and creating bad reputation about a brand, we are likely to "jump on the band wagon" too, regardless of our experiences, to a point.
5 Simple Strategies to Cope
1. Create Good Service
Naturally avoid creating bad reputation in the first place at all costs. This like sounds basic stuff but I am amazed daily by exceptionally bad customer service, be it a phone manner, or a waitress, or the way a shop assistant talks to me. If people have great services and receive excellent products a brand is unlikely to receive bad reputation, in fact it is likely to receive praise on-line!
2. Monitor Using Google Alerts
are an excellent way of being notified when Google (the great "Digital God" organising all of the Worlds Information) finds information you are monitoring. With Google Alerts you can set it up to monitor keywords and be told if and when those keywords are found on the Internet. Monitoring your brand name is essential at the bare minimum. You can also use Google Alerts to monitor your competitors, and tons of other very cool stuff.
3. Monitor Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Everyone has Googled their own name surely? Though this seems glaringly obvious to some of us it is in fact not so obvious to all. This is something you should do on a fairly regular basis for your brand name and products. Keeping control (if that is the correct word use) of the front page of Google for your brand name is an essential activity. If you find bad reputation entries here it is time to consider some reputation management activities.
4. Google Maps and Reviews
Google also likes to pinpoint on a map every single business on the planet, and your small business is no exception. Even if you have not requested for it to be added, and created the map entry yourself it is likely someone would have already done this for you. Have your claimed it
? Do you have access to edit the entry? You really should have control of your own business entry on Google Maps so you can at the very least put across the key things you wish your business to be known for. In addition you should keep a close eye on the reviews for each entry. I've enjoyed posting some bad reviews myself for local businesses, a garage in one instance provided terribly bad service, and my review is there for the whole world to see, in fact others joined in on the rant. This of course appears #1 on Google for their brand search - not good!
5. Twitter Keyword Monitoring
Twitter is one place where gossip and ranting and raving is very much at home, this is where an ideology (be it positive or negative) can really get some traction. Every time I look at my Twitter stream I will see someone, or a collective of people, having a good old rant. It could be your business they are talking about! You do not have to be an active user of Twitter to monitor it, you don't have to take part in the conversation itself and spend hours each day creating tweets, but you DO need to be aware if your business is being talked about, and more importantly know what to do about it, if it is! I personally use Hootsuite
and I set up columns where I monitor client keywords to ensure I'm always in on the conversation should one arise.
There are many many tools and other places that you should be looking at, really, many many, but these 5 are a great starting point for you.
Please do start a conversation in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts.