An article published on the Econsultancy website about Online Reputation Management talks about whether companies should use it and the right and wrong practices of managing your online presence for your customers.

If your brand or company is in the business of selling a nonchalant, care-free and ‘cool’ attitude, then you may not care about your bad reputation online. However, it’s unlikely that this is the case. If you have a negative reputation online, then you are giving your customers the wrong impression.

When a company or brand first starts out you try your upmost to please your customers and fan base, reaching out to try and do anything to satisfy and give off a positive atmosphere. Over the years, you appeased the critics and won over the doubters, but now that you’ve ‘made it’ this bad reputation has appeared and it’s not something that you are actively trying to resolve anymore. You didn’t want this when you first started out, so why are you allowing it to develop further?

Managing your reputation is all about the brand perception. If the brand satisfies your own goals and expectations, then it should be a brand that you’re happy to confidently and publicly present.

A poor reputation can damage sales, don’t wait until your reputation has taken a negative hit to do something about it. It’s important to cultivate a positive reputation early to try and avoid losses.
You may have had a successful restaurant business for 10 years, but when you were first starting up you hit a few bumps in the road and some negative reviews and comments were posted online. Since then, your service has significantly improved and you’re fortunate enough to have a very happy customer base. However, those early negative reviews have a habit of appearing with every search of the restaurant. A bad reputation can stick around, and it’s up to you to not only guarantee that you improve your methods and avoid future negative comments, but also make sure your online reputation reflects the current state of your business.

In more extreme cases, a company can make a seemingly offhanded comment about their products or services and then the media or internet will attach itself to that comment. This negative press and attention can not only damage the brand, but ultimately you could lose a lot of value from your business and faithful customers.

Recently, Apple have had some press over two high-profile news stories surrounding the security of iCloud and their unfathomable forcing of U2’s new album on to everyone with an Apple device. However, even with these two incidents, Apple are able to weather the storm. They have accrued enough good will from the strength of their products that loyal fans and customers will stand by them and actually defend them from the negative news articles. This is due to Apple’s own reputation management.

No matter what you do or who you are, people will always find negative things to say about your company.

It’s hard to filter out the trash talk from the justified comments online, but unfortunately the internet and our brains, don’t have an inbuilt lie detector to see when these comments are false. It’s natural that when we read a negative article about a brand or company, we have no reason not to believe it.

In order to manage your reputation, it takes some planning. Consider your brands awareness and think of strategies for how to deal with situations when they go awry because in most cases, it’s inevitable.

The best place to start with managing the reputation of any company or brand, is to start by going to the route of the problems and solving them. For example, if you supply low quality products that people are unhappy with and complain about, then make higher quality products. If you’re paying below the minimum wage to staff, then re-evaluate the costs to employ people with how much they are working, stop exploiting your workers. These issues are the route of most businesses problems. And although they will seem difficult to change, it’s better that you start from the bottom and eradicate the problems, rather than covering it all up with false information online. A long term solution will always beat a short term fix.

The use of social media for a business or brand, is of paramount importance. It gives customers the chance to freely interact with you on a personal level and it also means your brand can adopt a voice and personality. It’s much easier to talk to someone with personality than someone with a scripted, robotic and unsympathetic view, which unfortunately, a lot of companies seem to present.

If social media is utilised correctly, the employees and customers who use it will not only find it helpful and personable, but they will also find it engaging which may help form ambassadors for the brand. By galvanising fans, you actively make them a part of your brand. Customers who feel linked to your brand are more likely to continue in support and encourage others to try out your products or services.

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