Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a sole proprietorship, reputation management is a factor in the perception of how potential customers see your company and its goods and services. Since an increasing percentage of people use the Internet to conduct research that influences their buying decisions, it’s never been more important to manage your company’s online reputation in the search engines.
Blogs and forums give Web users unlimited opportunities to discuss favorable, and unfavorable, customer service experiences and how your company handles both kinds of feedback can influence your bottom line. With that in mind, here are some ideas to proactively manage your company’s online reputation in the search engines:
- Start searching! – Your company’s reputation management begins with finding out what people are saying about your firm so search for your company and its products and services via the search engines. Mix up the search terms for a comprehensive view and definitely search for ‘(your company) customer service.’ What you find will be invaluable for remedying any negative information about your company.
- Be proactive – View your reputation management as a marketing campaign and develop a plan of action. Make note of problem areas as well as things that customers think you do very well and learn from both positive and negative aspects.
- Participate – When you encounter blogs and forums with negative information about your company, register and join the discussion so that you may discern precisely what is causing people to vent their frustration. This part is tricky as forum participants are very savvy about sniffing out company shills but if done properly, you’ll be able to gain some very useful insight.
- Start a forum or blog on your company site – Start a blog and/or forum on your company site where people can anonymously give you feedback on their experiences. Once again, the insight you gain from this will help determine what to do about it.
- Issue press releases – Press releases are a very effective way to announce new products, services, and company policies. Just make sure they are topical, well written, and newsworthy so their chances of being picked up by the major news wires are enhanced.
- Subscribe to Google Alerts – Google Alerts is a key, free service for reputation management purposes. You can set parameters so that when specific terms appear on blogs, forums, and search engines, you are sent an alert when they are posted online.
Remember that the Internet allows anyone to post their views and grievances whether they are warranted or not. What’s important is how you use this information, learn from it, and adjust to both positive and negative assertions about your company. At the very least, you gain an outsider’s view on the perception of your company and its goods and services and that type of information is priceless.