4 Embarrassing Online Reputation Mistakes Businesses Are Still Making

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.

Is Your CEO On Social Media? If Not, Your Business May Be At Risk.

Roughly 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on any social media channel and fewer than 12 percent are active on more than one channel.

That’s surprising, especially given consumers’ overwhelming desire for transparency from businesses and business owners. Consistent headlines about data breaches and privacy concerns are surely to blame, leading 86% of Americans to say business transparency is more important today than ever before.

It’s no longer safe for businesses to stay silent on their values, business decisions, and political and social stances. Younger buyers, especially, are using digital transparency as a measuring stick to identify the companies they want to purchase from — and those they don’t.

That helps explain why an industry leader like Nike felt compelled to launch an advertising campaign with an athlete is polarizing as Colin Kaepernick. It’s simply a good business decision: some 86 percent of people are likely to take their business to a competitor when there’s a lack of transparency on social. (In fact, Nike’s sales surged in the days following the Kaepernick ad debut, suggesting that Nike’s competitors may be suffering from this very affliction.)  

CEOs are in a uniquely appropriate position to answer the consumer cry for business transparency on social media. Not only can they can speak to the rationale behind business decisions and give a compelling behind-the-scenes perspective, they can also share insights on industry trends that inspire consumer trust and interest.

Even so, nearly 90% of Fortune 500 chief executives are still missing the mark on social. They either don’t understand how social media supports business objectives or aren’t committed to using it effectively to achieve their goals.

That’s a risky situation for those businesses because a CEO’s reputation is directly responsible for 44% of a company’s market value. When you consider the impact on recruitment, corporate reputation, and stakeholder confidence, it becomes difficult to ignore the financial impact of an executive’s personal brand.

Sure, social media transparency is just one component of a powerful executive brand, but it’s an essential component. Not only do consumers want to know what a business stands for, they also want to know the same of the people running the company.

Transparency can even play a significant role in the long-term preservation of a business and its business owners. Think of it like an insurance policy: when brands are transparent and develop a history of transparency, nearly 90% of people are more likely to give them second chances after bad experiences and 85% are more likely to stick with them during crises.

At its core, a CEO’s social media strategy ought to appeal to the curiosities of its most important audiences, whether that be investors, consumers, or employees. According to a recent study by Sprout Social, when it comes to a CEO’s social media activity, consumers find the most value in the company’s reasoning behind business decisions, followed closely by industry thought leadership and inside looks at the company.

Though this type of information tops the charts when it comes to positively impacting consumers’ brand perception, executives with different priority audiences may find alternative content to be more effective. A focus on employee recruitment may necessitate sharing individual employee stories while a focus on investors may inspire more content about the CEO’s entrepreneurial experience and long-term vision.

Regardless of an executive’s target audience or social media focus, it’s important for their online activity to feel as authentic as possible. Whether CEOs choose to run their own social media profiles, manage it in-house or partner with a digital agency, their activity must feel relevant and representative. After all, most consumers set a higher standard of responsibility for business transparency on social media than they set for politicians, nonprofits, friends/family and even themselves.

Is that high bar due, in part, to the current lack of social transparency found among today’s Fortune 500 CEOs? Perhaps. Is there pressure for tomorrow’s executives to adapt or risk alienating their target consumers? Definitely.

Those willing to take their executive presence outside the boardroom and into the digital landscape are primed to enjoy a distinct competitive advantage. After all, simply posting on LinkedIn is enough to make you more socially transparent than the majority of today’s most successful CEOs.