The Internet has often been likened to the Wild West, and not without reason.
Anyone with a vendetta and enough determination can tarnish a company or individual’s online reputation.
Online defamation is a particularly big problem for small brands. Not only must small business owners contend with bad reviews and damaging allegations, but also with the many internal errors that can create online reputation nightmares.
For external issues—negative reviews, better business bureau complaints, or simply bad PR—there are two basic routes a small business can take.
The first is to employ a professional reputation repair service. The second is to attempt to do it yourself. In either case, however, the best efforts are undercut if the company continues to make basic reputation management mistakes.
The good news for small businesses eager to enhance their online appearance is it’s easy to identify, and ultimately stop, these common mistakes.
Here are four of the most common reputation management mistakes small businesses make, along with some tips to minimize these potentially disastrous problems.
1. Lack of awareness
The first common problem small companies face is the belief that reputational damage could never happen to them. Many business owners believe if their products are good and services superior, bad reviews and customer complaints could never be a problem Then, they’re blindsided by negative PR.
Don’t allow yourself to become naive or complacent. Bad reviews can happen to any brand at any time. They stem from unreasonable customers, competitors, and even disgruntled ex-employees.
2. Going social without a strategy
Of course, many small business owners are all too aware of the looming possibility of online reputation damage. And as such, they are diligent in taking proactive action to defend their brand. This is admirable, but when you take proactive action without proper foresight and strategy, it can do more harm than good.
This is especially true when it comes to social media implementation. Posting regular updates to the company Facebook or Twitter accounts can prove helpful in cultivating a positive online image. However, it is only helpful when it’s on-message.
That’s why it’s typically not a good idea to have a summer intern or new employee handle the social media work.
3. Responding zealously
Other small business owners damage their brands when they respond too zealously to negative reviews. Online reviews are incredibly influential in shaping consumer opinion and determining a brand’s reputation, but that hardly means an immediate response is always in order.
Certainly, it can be a good idea to respond with gratitude to positive reviews. With negative ones, though, it’s important not to respond in anger or haste. In fact, it may be best to avoid responding at all. A response is unlikely to win over an unreasonable customer, and it is sure to lend the bad review greater visibility. It’s better to focus on creating positive content instead of responding directly to the negatives.
4. No monitoring
A final reputation management mistake that companies make—and in many ways is the most foundational error of them all—is a lack of monitoring. For many small businesses, keeping tabs on the way the brand is portrayed on the Web is simply not a priority, especially when there have been no known negative listings.
Once again, though, these negatives can happen at any moment. Monitoring is not a one-time thing, but an around-the-clock process. Companies that haven’t, at the very least, established Google Alerts leave themselves wide open for online attack.
These are all internal problems that can make external issues even more dire. By fixing them, small businesses can ensure they help, rather than hinder, their online reputations.