With increasing numbers of people heading online as their first step to research your company, product and even for your personal information, it only takes a few bad reviews or complaints to result in lost opportunities and a damaged perception or brand. Your customers are online and it is vital to manage your online reputation in order to protect your brand as it may be the first impression the public gets about you.
Social tools, like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogging sites with endless agendas have magnified the voices of your clients and potential prospects for your business. Let's face it, almost anything can get posted about you or your company regardless of the facts.
No matter who you are or what business is, when you start getting attention, it is only a matter of time before someone will post something negative about you online. With the influence of social media, those that are critical of you, your product or your company can easily show up online bashing you.
Criticism, dissatisfied customers, varying opinions, opposition, even intentional and malicious brand-bashing are not new challenges in business. These issues has been around since the creation of gossip and opposition, it is the power, accessibility and reach of the web that makes your social media reputation a new issue.
Here are some ideas about how to manage negative social media:
1) Treat Your Social Media Reputation Like Your Personal Reputation.
Handle social media attacks the same way you would a personal attack. Handle it, don't delegate this or take it lightly. Nothing is more important than your name and reputation.
2) Handle ALL negative post as opportunities. All complaints, bashing, and customer dissatisfactions should be treated as opportunities not problems (until proven to be something else). A dissatisfied customer or post can be turned into a fan when handled correctly. I have a policy in my company where I personally contact every customer that expresses a complaint with the goal of making turning a problem into a win for everyone.
3) Handle Immediately -- The sooner you handle the complaint the easier they handle. Respond immediately and reasonable people will appreciate you making them a priority. Don't respond with the intent for them to remove a post or criticism but to handle it. "Wow, I saw what you posted online and I wanted to call you right away and see what I could do to handle it. I had no idea. Tell me about what happened. What can I do to resolve it?" Most people, when handled correctly, will then retract the post or post how great you are.
4) Contact directly. Do not respond publicly online to something negative as you only bring more attention to it. Like an communication it is best done when handled directly either by phone, a direct message or even in person if possible. Be careful not to suggest wrong doing in your message but that you want to see what you can do to handle the upset.
5) Be pro-active -- The best solution to reputation management is to be on offense not defense. Create initiatives to simply collecting positive post and testimonials, even video, about you and your company. Encourage and make it easy for the people that love and do business with you to spread the good word about you. Aggressively build a positive public relations campaign about your good works, endeavors and contributions that will outweigh any negative post.
6) Know Your Limitations -- While I believe that every complaint is an opportunity you have to know which battles to fight and which one's to walk away from. Don't invest time in those that have as their real goal to consume you, your focus or your energy. There are a some people that are only interested in making noise, negativity and spewing hate. Disregard and don't engage them once they prove they are only interested in the negative.
The most important consideration is you should treat your social media reputation in the same manner you would your personal and public reputation. It is only a matter of time before someone post negative comments about you, which may include exaggerations of dissatisfaction issues with some going as far as fabricating complete falsehoods. It is a fact of life that to the degree you get attention, you will at some point get criticism.
Protecting your online reputation requires that you know what you can do so that the public searching you out gets the right story about you. Make it a priority and be proactive!