Running a business today isn’t quite the same as it once was. That’s due in large part to the continued evolution of the Internet and the rapid rise of mobile technologies. The shift from traditional media to online channels also means that, for business owners concerned about their reputation, it’s now more critical than ever to have some sort of strategy for managing what people are saying online.
Understandably, not everyone is blessed with online marketing savvy. (As if you’re not already too busy with managing your business offline!) And for some, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing certain things about online reputation – and the ways it makes an impact your business. But don’t fall for these myths! We’ve made a list of what not to believe, lest they begin to hamstring your sales and performance.
Myth 1: What people say online doesn’t matter, and it won’t affect my business.
Wrong. More than ever, consumers rely on online sources of information to guide their purchase decisions and shape their opinions about a certain business, brand, product, or service.
Online reviews play a central role in this. According to the latest research, 85 percent read reviews to determine whether a local business is good or not. And 8 out of 10 consumers in the US check reviews before purchasing a product or service.
Myth 2: My online reputation is out of my control.
This couldn’t be more true. Sure, most of what comprises your reputation online are what we would call “user-generated content”: reviews, tweets, blog posts, comments, customer feedback. But there are still a number of areas over which you can have control.
For example: descriptions of your business, your menus and product catalogs, your list of services. You can also populate the Web with important local data like contact information, website and blog links you own, photos, videos, and review responses. If you regularly crank out content like this – and keep your data up-to-date – then you’re already one step ahead of the competition.
Myth 3: It’s easy to fix a bad online reputation. Just hire one of those service providers. Or I can just buy reviews.
True, there are multiple online reputation management companies out there that can help you improve your online visibility and highlight positive information about your business instead of negative. But don’t think for one second that they have the ability to remove bad reviews or turn your image around in a snap. Online reputation and review management is a process that requires investment of time and effort, not just money.
It’s also not a good idea to fake your online reviews and give yourself five stars. The cons of review fraud heavily outweigh its pros, and chances are you’ll get caught eventually anyway and risk further damage to your reputation.
Myth 4: Online reputation management is expensive.
Not true. You don’t have to shell out over a thousand bucks a month to repair your online image. But you do have to come up with a strategy that allows you to make efficient use of your resources. Start by assigning an employee or staff member who’ll take ownership of what’s being said about your business online, a manager who will at least keep an eye on your reputation and reviews on a regular basis.
It’s also critical to have a system in place for measuring and analyzing data. If you happen to discover mostly positive results, then good! Meanwhile, if all you see is a bunch of negative results, comments, blog posts, reviews, and ratings about your business, then this should help set the direction for what you’re supposed to do in the next few weeks or months. We repeat: it requires an investment of time and effort, and not just dollars.
Myth 5: Nasty negative reviews are unfair. Which means I can be equally nasty in my responses to these critics.
Don’t fight fire with fire. That’s what a smart review management pro will tell you. And don’t post anything on the Internet that will reflect badly on your business and come back to haunt you later on. Besides, potential customers may be reading – and you certainly don’t want to drive them away.
These examples should be the total opposite of how you should respond to bad reviews. We understand: there are so many freaks and haters online, and sometimes you just want to give them a dose of your own medicine. But resist the temptation: instead, be polite and professional even to the harshest of your critics.