Many of your customers probably know you as well as your co-workers, friends and family do. In some cases, they may know you even better.
So, what do you do when your online reputation is being called into question? Do you panic? Do you try and cover things up? Lastly, do you fight to restore your good name and that of your business, hoping not to take much of a financial hit?
As some business owners have discovered over time, it just takes one negative comment, one questionable posting, one miscommunication to put you and/or your business in peril.
Before there was the Internet, business owners typically only had to worry about the occasional irate customer showing up at their store, mailing them a nasty letter, or picking up the phone to vent.
Now, however, the Internet means that many customers can take to the electronic airwaves to vent, sometimes putting you and your company in jeopardy, a situation that can play out in front of countless eyes.
According to a 2012 Safe Home Products survey of U.S. shoppers, 91 percent of consumers use online shopping for researching goods and services, while 78 percent claimed they were going to spend more time utilizing online shopping going forward. The bottom line, that means more potential eyes are checking out your company website, not to mention your social media pages.
With that being the case, business owners need to make sure their online footprints will not get them stuck in quicksand.
Among the ways to protect one’s online reputation:
* Know the reason behind your visits – What exactly is your reasoning behind being online in the first place? Are you there as a business owner to promote your company’s goods and services, assist customers who have questions or issues, give your rivals some competition in the social media and online marketing world or just feel like you have to have a presence in today’s information age? Clearly, you need to have some reasoning behind why you have a company website, utilize social media, and engage in online forums etc. Always know the purpose behind things you do, so that you stand a better chance of succeeding;
* Think before you type and/or post – With all you have to do as a business owner, do you allocate the right amount of time to being online? For some business owners, they farm out the work they want done on social media, blogging, talking with customers. Others, however, like that hands-on approach. Whichever one works for you, make sure there is time and effort put into it. If you or one of your employees has a run-in with a customer, don’t take to social media as an example to rant about it. Not only could you lose business over it, but it makes you and/or your company look unprofessional. If you are celebrating an event in the office, do not post images that could offend people on your company Facebook or Pinterest pages. What seems innocent to you could offend others, including current and potential customers. Always run through your head as to whether or not something is appropriate for others to see online before posting;
* Know what is being said – Finally, do you know what is being said online about you and/or your business? Too many business owners get tied up in their everyday business dealings, therefore not having time to check their online reputations. Along with customers, there are companies out there conceivably talking about you and your business online, offering private information that you may not want out there. Do a Google search from time to time to see what is being said about you and your company, especially looking to dismiss negative information.
If your online reputation means as much to you as it should, then make this the year your reputation gets your full attention.
About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business and career topics for various websites, including perfecting your online reputation.