Almost every startup founder has to be the ack of all, especially when starting up; from product development to marketing, and hiring to administration, you have to look after everything. Things can be pretty much confusing while overseeing so many things at a time, and you may forget some most important to-dos in such a situation.
Well, you may afford forgetting bills payment, but you must not forget to track your online footprint, which contribute to build up your business’ reputation. As a fact of the matter, we are living in a “search-happy” world, where people look up for your happy customers before they decide to do business with you.
Importance of reputation management for a startup or small business is similar to that of food to human beings. According to research, you are at risk of losing 22% of business when potential customers find a negative review about your business in the first page of search results and the risk doubles to 44% with two negative articles.
So, if you are a startup founder or a small business owner, you must not wait until an online reputation crisis happens to your business and must take care of everything from now.
This article will discuss important things that you must know in order to manage your brand reputation or online presence as an entrepreneur.
1- Effective reputation management starts with effective monitoring;
Monitoring is crucial because this is the only way you can know what’s going on, however, manually monitoring each and every update about your brand online is not possible. So, you must ensure that your online reputation monitoring is fully automated, i.e. you can set up Google Alerts or Bing alerts for your brand name, products, your own name/names of key people in the organization etc.
Having these alerts set, you will receive updates in your email inbox whenever there is an update for these terms on the Web.
2- Using reputation management tools is mandatory;
Honestly speaking, Google and Bing Alerts are effective, not enough, because they do not cover all the aspects of your reputation monitoring. This makes it mandatory to use good reputation-monitoring and management tools.
There are a lot of online tools that help businesses to monitor their online reputation; some of them are free even. Top 5 online reputation monitoring and management tools that I believe are comprehensive and worth trying are:
3- Hire an expert to manage, defend and restore brand reputation effectively;
It takes thousands of work hours (and at times tens of thousands) for a startup to move to the next level, and a little reputation crisis can cost you your whole business. Do check this infographic; the cost of unhappy customers which explains how it takes 12 positive reviews to dissolve the effect of one negative customer experience.
You may spend an extra hour to monitor and manage your brand reputation initially, but as the business grows, it requires an expert to manage reputation effectively. You must hand over your online reputation in good hands, i.e. someone who has hands-on experience of managing reputation of a business like yours. You may hire a full time employee or outsource it to a long term reputation defender with a track record of effective reputation management.
Having your online reputation management in expert hands doesn’t just ensure a better management but also relieves you from continuous stress and you can focus on other business areas with more energy.
4- Encourage positive reviews but be prepared for the negative ones too;
Being a startup founder or a key person, you must proactively ask your customers to leave reviews online, i.e. Zomato, Google places, Facebook and so on. Using social media a customer service channel is a great way to encourage positive reviews, but you must also explore other tools and technologies to improve customer relations.
Encouraging positive reviews is a daunting task, but you must know that you can’t really stop negative reviews. No matter how professionally your online reputation is being monitored and managed, there may come a day when your business hits a negative review. As discussed above, it takes 12 positive reviews to dissolve the effect, you should focus on getting more positive reviews to suppress the negativity. Reach out to your most loyal customers to minimize the effect faster.
5- Respond to negatives but also beware of cyber bullying and defamatory tricks of competitors;
Receiving a negative comment is never a pleasant experience, and you may feel frustrated or annoyed, but that is time when you should take a deep breath and compose yourself. Never, respond to a negative review in anger or in haste; discuss it with the team and make sure to get a humble and honest response posted.
In case, if the negative review is a defamation trick, better is to ignore, because replying to it will just get it noticed. And yes, do check this detailed guide on how to deal the bad online reviews.
The Bottom Line:
Online reputation is the key indicator of your business’s health and managing it effectively requires you to hire a professional but also to oversee the whole process yourself.