OnlineRep_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.


Things said online about you or your business can have a measurable impact on your success. A negative review or erroneous information that is left unchecked can spread quickly and dissuade customers from buying from you. On the other hand, engaging with your audience in a direct, friendly, and constructive way can build tremendous goodwill and loyalty.


Taking control of your online presence is a necessary part of doing business today. Yet surprisingly, a report by Wakefield Research found that 53 percent of those surveyed don't check on what people are saying about them. Chris Smith of Argent Media, a Dallas, Texas-based search engine marketing agency, gives these tips for managing your online reputation.


1. Be visible all over the web

Open accounts for your business on the major platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Consider opening a YouTube channel to post videos about your business. Use Pinterest, Instagram or Flickr to post pictures. Each account gives you a new opportunity to control how your business is portrayed.


2. Use your social media accounts

Once you've opened a Twitter or Facebook account, use them regularly. Set up a schedule for posting new content on a regular basis. This allows you to build your audience and engage with them in meaningful ways—enlarging your influence and spurring them to bond with you.


OnlineRep_PQ.jpg3. Establish a separate presence for each brand

If you have a diverse line of brands or products, consider creating a distinct online profile for each one. Not only will this give you a bigger overall presence, but you can also target your message more specifically to niche customer groups. 


4. Blog

Regular blogging lets you control the narrative of your business and improve your search rankings through a strategic use of keywords. "For reputation purposes it can give you a solid 'home court' ground where you can directly respond to any major assertions made about your company if necessary," Smith says.


5. Assess criticism fairly

Be open-minded when listening to online complaints or bad reviews, Smith says. Customers might be able to spot legitimate weaknesses or deficiencies in your business. If so, acknowledge them and take steps to address them in a prompt, effective manner.


6. Apologize

Owning up to a mistake made by your business and apologizing can often mitigate the situation and maybe even forge a stronger tie with your customers. Make sure your apology is genuine and direct, and consider offering some kind of unconditional remuneration.


7. Avoid online arguments

Don't get drawn into a public shouting match with a dissatisfied customer. Even if you are objectively in the right, you'll still project an image that is unprofessional or mean-spirited. "The best approach is to defuse situations and take communications offline to try to reconcile," Smith says. "Be nicer in your online interactions than you even think you need to be."


Adding online reputation management to your marketing strategy can pay for itself in satisfied, long-term customers and sustained business growth.


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