Online reputation management is all about cleaning up, protecting, and improving what people find about you online.
That process is by no means simple; negative reviews, unflattering news, and algorithm updates are all par for the course. No one can control those hurdles, but businesses on the path toward a clean digital presence can sometimes makes self-destructive mistakes that turn routine challenges into long-term consequences.
Are you falling into any of those traps? Here are four of the most common online reputation mistakes business owners are still making today.
Leaving Listings Unclaimed and Profiles Unreserved
One surefire way to take control of your business’s first impression is to claim and update your company information on platforms like Google and Yelp. Those listings are usually one of the first things to pop up in a Google search, and customers know they can go there to confirm simple business information like hours of operation and company addresses.
Incredibly, most business owners are still leaving this opportunity on the table. A study from 2017 found that 56 percent of local retailers still haven’t claimed their Google my Business listing and 66 percent haven’t claimed their Yelp listing.
Unfortunately, Yelp and Google’s automatically-generated local listings can often prove even more disastrous than a missing one. There’s no telling what information is correct and what isn’t. Potential customers who take the listing as gospel may be surprised and frustrated to find a business closed when the listing promised it would be open.
While Instagram and Twitter don’t automatically create accounts for businesses, an unreserved social media profile can be just as devastating.
Businesses that fail to reserve their preferred handles across top platforms early on may find them no longer available the next time they check. Or even worse, they may find the profile has been taken by an impersonator or bad actor trying to sully the business’ name.
Ignoring Social Media Notifications
When customers have a question or a complaint, how do they let the business know? Over the phone? Via email? In person?
Not anymore. Nearly 60 percent of Millennials prefer to use social media to voice concerns and complaints. Even non-Millennial customers are likely to vent their frustrations online: 47 percent of buyers across the board address customer service issues over social media, second only to in-person complaints.
Taking care of customers online is important for brand perception, but it also impacts a business’s bottom line. Customer care is an opportunity to form a relationship, not just solve an issue.
On the other hand, brands that ignore customer complaints on social media risk losing them forever. When consumers complain and get no response at all, more than one-third will never buy that brand’s product or service again.
Scheduling out posts using an automation tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can be helpful, but remember that social media is not a one-way street. Make time to regularly check back in to see how people are responding and audit notifications for customer questions and concerns.
Forgetting About Online Reviews
Picture the scene: a business begins to invest heavily in its digital marketing program. The content team writes dozens of articles and creates engaging videos to increase brand awareness. They share all that content on social media channels, launch various pay-per-click campaigns to drive leads, and start to build up an engaged audience.
The only problem? As soon as those potential customers decide to look deeper and research the company, they find the company’s negative online reviews.
A few negative reviews here and there is completely normal, but the real damage comes when there are no positive reviews from happy customers to balance the score. All customers are left with at that point is an unrepresentative sampling of negativity to inform their purchasing decision.
That's a concern worth taking seriously: 86 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
It might be impossible to prevent unhappy people from posting negative reviews. But there are two important steps you can take.
First, it’s critical to respond to those reviews to mitigate their impact. Nearly 90 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, so an unanswered review is a missed opportunity to balance the scales.
Second, it’s worth putting a process in place to generate new positive reviews. Angry customers aren’t the only ones with a voice; happy customers are willing to write about their experiences too, as long as it’s easy to do so.
Handing Responsibility to the Under-qualified
What happens when businesses realize they need help with their digital footprints? Usually, they either look to either hire the right staff internally, or else partner with firms that specialize in digital branding and online reputation management.
But sometimes they make the decision to start delegating responsibilities internally -- often to people who lack the necessary experience.
It is not uncommon, for instance, for CEOs to delegate social media responsibilities to interns or executive assistants. Neither is it unheard of for content marketing or review management tasks to fall on executives who don’t have the time nor ability to do an effective job.
Unfortunately, that’s when mistakes are made. Those mistakes can undo months, or even years of hard work spent building up a strong brand and a loyal customer base.
Facebook and Twitter responses are often the first line of defense against angry customers. Blog articles and social media posts contribute to the first impression people get when they research your company for the first time.
Online content takes many forms, but regardless of platform or length one thing is certain: that content needs to represent the brand well. Accidents, misrepresentations and customer service flubs are far too common to risk delegating those responsibilities to a first-timer.
There are enough challenges along the road to a clean and positive online reputation without suffering embarrassing mistakes along the way. There’s nothing wrong with involving interns in your social media activity, but do yourself a favor and leave management to the experts.