Ask Vyki: Negative reviews and saving reputations

Ask Vyki: Negative reviews and saving reputations

How do I deal with negative reviews about my business on the Internet or negative feedback on Facebook?

One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard from clients and potential clients is the potential for negative feedback and reviews that comes with online marketing. I’ve even seen businesses downright refuse to market online because of it.

For those of you that are apprehensive, there are several ways to monitor, avoid and even resolve negative feedback about your business online. This is known on the Internet as “reputation management.”

There are many companies that will moderate your online presence for you. There are also ways you can do it yourself:

Set up alerts – Set up alerts for your business with Google Alerts at alerts.google.com or socialmention.com. This way, anytime anyone says anything about your company, you will know and can respond accordingly. (Tip: Create two alerts each, one with quotations and one without.)

Search – Google your business name regularly and look over the results. Pay close attention to review sites and directories such as Google Places, Manta, Yelp, etc. While you’re at it, make sure all information about your business on these sites is correct.

Respond to all reviews, positive and negative – Responding to positive reviews, even with a simple “Thank you,” will keep your customer loyalty up. Take negative reviews seriously, don’t just ignore them. Apologize for the inconvenience, thank them for their feedback, let them know that you plan on personally taking care of the issue, and even offering them a discount or freebie will usually resolve their problem. You might regain a customer, and this approach shows others that you actually care about your customers.

Flag it – If the review or post contains hateful, violent or inappropriate content, you can flag the review or report it as abuse or a policy violation. Be sure to get familiar with the Web site’s policy and rules regarding reporting reviews.

Bury it – Bury the negativity with positive posts. Ask customers in person or on a social network to review your product or service. Your loyal fans will see the negative post and respond or post their own positive reviews. Simply having enough user-generated reviews and comments will help drown out the negative chatter.

But what if the negative feedback is on Facebook, Twitter or another social network? Most of these tips hold true. However, when you own the page that the comments are posted on, it is usually easier to deal with. Do not delete content unless it is inappropriate. If it is constructive criticism or a complaint about your product or service, respond accordingly. The good thing about these sites is your brand advocate will usually help you take care of the problem.

Several years ago I owned a business and had some legal problems because of a mistake I made. As a result, there were news articles posted that weren’t exactly in my favor. I have learned my lesson and am trying to get a job in an unrelated field — but I am afraid that the negative press is affecting my job search due to the fact that employers are now using Google to find information about potential hires. How do I combat these negative search results?

We all make mistakes, and if we’re smart we learn from them. Unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes become public and can hurt you in the business world, especially if they’ve been exploited on the Internet. If you own the content, take it down or make it private. If you don’t own the content, sometimes reaching out to the author or publisher, explaining your situation, and asking them to take it down might be the answer to your dilemma. But what if they refuse? Or what if the information in question is not even about you but about someone with the same first and last name? Well there are some steps you can take to reduce its visibility by publishing proactive information about yourself or your business.

• If a newspaper or publisher wrote an article about a legal matter that was subsequently ruled in your favor, contact them asking to update the article or post a follow up article about your exoneration.

• Create multiple social media profiles and keep them relevant and updated. LinkedIn is especially useful in that it’s a social media network for jobseekers and businesses.

• Start a blog with your name or your name and location as the domain name (ex: www.yournametexas.com). Write at least once or twice a week and remember that what you write will be read by your professional peers and potential employers. Each post you write is an opportunity to display your expertise, personality, intelligence and knowledge of your chosen profession or hobby.

• Read other people’s blogs and write comments. Most blogs allow you to post comments under your name, e-mail address and/or Web site. These posts and comments will show up in search results.

Recently I stumbled upon an online platform that simplifies this process. Brandyourself.com describes itself as a “do-it-yourself personal reputation platform.” It offers a free online dashboard the enables you to submit links that you want to show up at the top of Google (your LinkedIn profile, personal Web site, and positive article written about you). It also offers simple tools to help boost those links to the top of search results. You can also setup alerts so that you will know when something important happens to your results.

Managing your reputation online doesn’t need to be difficult. After cleaning up your search results, it essential to watch them and make sure they stay positive. It is also a good idea to watch what you say online, keeping private information private. Erin Bury of Sprouter.com, a Web site for entrepreneurs, says it best: “Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.”

Business Journal contributor Vyki Alleman is the owner/operator of Rockit Multimedia, specializing in Web design, social media marketing, video production and search engine optimization. In her writing for this newspaper and on her blog at www.rockitmultimedia.com, she advises readers on a variety of issues. Readers are invited to submit questions to the Business Journal or to Rockit Multimedia.

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