The internet has added an entirely new dimension to the way you should be doing business, and social media has added yet another twist and turn for business owners or individuals who have gotten wrapped up in what the internet has to offer. Most of the time you hear good things about businesses online – they get more customers, they sell more widgits, they develop new and fabulous websites.
But sometimes things aren’t so cheerful online. What used to be an isolated event – a customer who was displeased in some way – is now rampant, and there’s nothing we love more on a social network than to bash a company or individual we’re not pleased with. Sadly, this can be a huge stumbling block, or even fatal, to many businesses or individuals.
Your Online Image
But, you might argue, surely the company earned that reputation. If they had simply done a better job with customer service, they wouldn’t be the object of scorn online. While this might be the case in a fair number of incidents, in many other cases the company didn’t do anything arguably wrong – the customer was just feeling snarky and set off a rampage of drama because she could over an established return policy or the written terms of service that have been in effect for years.
When you stop to consider how many cyber bullying cases are appearing in courts, it’s not a big surprise that some people simply enjoy targeting others for sport or letting a disappointment or complaint get out of control. Just recently in Texas a bill is becoming law making it a serious crime to impersonate another online without express permission. It’s going to be a bumpy road in Texas and other states with similar new laws for those who love to make fake or hack into Facebook or Twitter accounts for trolling purposes.
Repairing the Damage
Online reputation management is a lot like cleaning up after a hurricane. The storm swoops in, does way more damage that is reasonable for a bunch of rain and wind and then leaves again. You find yourself standing in a sea of broken homes, downed trees and up to your knees in filthy rain water. You’re in a big mess, and it’s going to take far longer to clean it up than it was to establish that negative online reputation in the first place.
Fortunately, you can use social media to build yourself back up just as surely as it was used to tear you apart in the first place. While you might find out after the fact that you or your company was the victim of a slander or smear campaign – these things can happen almost overnight online, mind you – you can immediately start to repair the damage.
If suitable, write a response to the primary complaint, carefully worded, and release it as a press release. If you’re big enough in the media news, that release will be picked up and spread for you, helping start the counter campaign. You can help the release along by tweeting about it, linking to it from your Facebook or Linked In page and asking your industry contacts to help move it along. Then you can target the more insidious tactics – you have to get people to change their minds.
You can do this best by not arguing on blogs or websites – after all a good fight online helps your would-be fans choose sides and some will inevitably choose against you. Instead, do a slow and steady campaign of reaching out to community and would-be customers to show them you’re not the guy they might have heard about.
Tweet about the great things you’re doing. Post updates and inspiring customer or employee stories on your website. Most importantly, use social networks as part of a greater SEO campaign to erase any negative websites from the top spots in the search engines, replacing them with some of your own sites that are more honest, and hopefully a bit more balanced.
Rebecca Garland is a professional freelance writer working hard to populate the internet with meaningful, interesting content. With advanced degrees in information science and business, Rebecca enjoys a variety of topics ranging from the entrepreneurship to Chicago web design. Learn more about Rebecca on her professional website, www.internetauthor.net.