How your business is perceived by online users affects your brand.  All of your online contributions, from blog comments and Tweets, to photos and links, color the perceptions of online users.  Any online information associated with you or your business will influence your reputation.  Is the information your customers are finding online creating a flattering image?

“ We don’t live in a world of reality, we live in a world of perceptions. ”— Gerald J. Simmons

It starts with your website, yes, but your online reputation spreads far beyond that, especially if you are active in social media.  Small business owners, whose names are synonymous with their company, need to protect their personal reputation as well as their professional one.

Ty Kiisel’s article at Forbes.com on managing your online reputation is good advice for businesses and individuals alike.  Ty’s points sound just like pearls of wisdom dispensed by Moms everywhere, but they are spot on.

Ty’s tips include:

  • Think before you post – Don’t write anything (or post photos) you’ll regret later.  Would your Mother approve?
  • Don’t pick a fight online – Dealing with irrational customers in a public forum must be handled delicately.  Allowing yourself to be provoked into a permanently public argument is a no-win situation.
  • Always be polite – Choose your words carefully, even good intentions can sometimes be misinterpreted.
  • The internet is forever – The key word in the second bullet above is “permanently”.

Managing Your Reputation

The first step in managing your online reputation is to find out what the internet has to say about you.  Search your name, and your business name, on different search engines using different search terms to see what comes back.  Search on social networking sites as well to find out if you are the topic of any conversations.

If you don’t like what you find, you can still remedy the situation.  Respond to valid criticisms you might find online.  A polite response to public complaints is constructive and well received by the wider audience.  If you find damaging information, request a correction or retraction from the poster or website administrator.

Monitor Your Reputation

Keep an eye on what is being said about you.  Start with the common review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but also check sites like the Better Business Bureau or Ripoff Report to find out if there are any outstanding complaints about your services.  Be sure to address any and all customer concerns, if you can.

There are services out there which will notify you when reviews are posted about your business. ReviewTrackers and Review Alert! are two paid sites that I found.  Or, you can create your own alerts on Google, for free.  Google Alerts will notify you when information about you, or your business, begins popping up in their search results.

You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.  But the internet can give you a good idea.  By keeping on top of your online reputation, you can manage perceptions and maintain control of your brand.

 

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