Although it can be difficult for business owners to constantly monitor what is being said about their business online, it is important for them to be aware of their online reputation. Quite often, a company’s brand has been strongly developed over years, and so it can come as quite a shock to read defamatory remarks online. Even worse, comments that appear in high ranking websites can negatively impact on business.
Whilst negative comments in person can be dealt with efficiently, online reviews are harder to manage and often lead to losses in sales, hiring ability and a general bad reputation. With this in mind, I have included a few points below on how businesses can try and limit a negative perception of their company online, as well as deal with damage control should they need it.
Be at the Top of the Search Engine Game
Probably the most important point of all is to try and own as much of the search engine results page as possible. A few links at the top of the page is a good start, however most people will search through the first two pages of a search engine, so the more space a business can cover, the better. This can be through different web links on the company website, blogs, social media, or media coverage.
It’s a Blogger’s World
Blogging is one of the best ways to show a customer target base what the company values are and what impact it is having in its industry. Blogs should include professional information about the business and its product, as well as support and advice on industry trends and topics. Articles that have been published online by the company should show up on search engine pages and has the added benefit of portraying positive information about the brand. In addition to this, blogging attracts more traffic to a website and therefore can help with lead generation.
Social Media is Key
Managing social media accounts is just as, if not more, important than a business website. All social media profiles should have a similar name/handle that are easily identified and linked to the company name. All social media accounts should be updated regularly to give the company a bigger presence online and any reviews/comments should be responded to in an efficient and professional manner. Social profiles that tend to have more of a presence in search engines are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.
Keep on Top of Mentions
Creating a Google Alert can help in keeping abreast of online mentions about the company. This is a free service that sends email alerts once the business is mentioned anywhere online. This allows businesses to monitor content that is published, as well as respond in an appropriate manner if applicable.
Have a PR Strategy in Place
Online content doesn’t need to just be generated through blogs and social media. Having an active PR strategy focusing on sponsorship, press opportunities and corporate social responsibility all lead to an online presence as the activities and coverage are interesting to promote through online channels.
Don’t wait until something goes wrong to work out how to fix it. Companies should always have a crisis plan in place to handle any issues that may arise with negative information about the business. Ideally someone should be in charge of monitoring online brand mentions whilst also being able to deal with threat detection and limitation of potential brand damage.
The person of choice can either be in-house or contracted, but it is imperative that they communicate with key decision makers in the company to ensure that decisions to solve a crisis are in line with company values and that they act fast when dealing with the crisis in hand.
Put Policies in Place
When it comes to current and past employee online discussion about their place of work, policies need to be put in place and made aware of. Social media rules should be covered in relevant policies, such as Social Media Use, Technology Use, Disciplinary and Bullying & Harassment.
Important points that need to be included are:
- First and foremost, any confidential information about the company must not be mentioned online. Language used should be as loose as possible but examples should be included, such as future plans, product information, client details etc.
- As technology is evolving at such a rate, it’s important not to be too specific in what it covers. For example, when discussing technical equipment to access the internet, the term ‘technology’ should refer to PCs, mobiles, tablets etc.
- Personal social media use is important to include as an employee’s online reputation can also affect the company brand. Staff members who have a large online following can affect the amount of interest a business receives. Employees can endorse products and become thought leaders in the industry if their social media is used correctly. However, in the same way it can benefit a business, it can also have a negative impact if staff members criticise the company they work for.
If you wish to read more about the article I referred to at the beginning of this post, you can find it here.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.