Four Common Online Reputation Problems

By: Guest | September 20, 2012 | 

Gorman, RichToday’s guest post is by Rich Gorman.

The Internet has often been likened to the Wild West, and not without reason.

Anyone with a vendetta and enough determination can eventually tarnish a company or an individual’s online reputation.

Online defamation is a particularly big problem for smaller 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, BBB complaints, or plain-and-simple bad PR, there are two basic routes that a small business can take.

The first method is to employ a professional reputation repair service; the other is to attempt going the DIY route. In either case, however, the best efforts are undercut if the company persists in making basic reputation management mistakes.

The good news, for small businesses eager to enhance their online portrayal, is these common mistakes can be easily identified, and ultimately stopped. Here are four of the most common reputation management mistakes that small businesses make, along with some tips on minimizing these potentially disastrous problems.

A Lack of Awareness

The first common problem small companies face is the belief that reputation damage could never happen to them. There are a lot of small business owners who believe that, if their products are good and their services superior, bad reviews and customer complaints could never be a problem – then they’re blindsided when negative PR happens.

Don’t allow yourself to become naive or complacent; bad reviews can happen to any brand, and at any time, stemming from flat-out unreasonable customers, from competitors, or even from disgruntled ex-employees.

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 that proactive action is taken 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 very helpful in cultivating a positive online image. It is only helpful, however, when it’s on-message. That’s why it’s typically not a good idea to have the social media work handled by a summer intern, or a brand new employee. The work of reputation defense should be handled by someone who gets – and is invested in – the company’s vision!

Zealous Response

Still, other small business owners damage their brands by becoming too zealous in responding 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, responding in gratitude to positive reviews can be a good idea. With negative ones, though, it’s important not to respond in anger or in haste – and in fact, it may be best to avoid responding at all. A response is unlikely to win over an unreasonable customer, but 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.

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, which is why monitoring is not a one-time thing, but an around-the-clock process. Companies that haven’t, at the very least, established Google alerts are leaving themselves wide open for online attack.

These are all internal problems that can make the external issues even more dire. By fixing them, small businesses can ensure that they’re helping, rather than hindering, their online reputation.

Rich Gorman is a multi-tasker himself, helping multiple companies and sharing his expertise about personal reputation management. Rich operates the official blog for the direct response industry, where he shares his thoughts on direct response marketing.

  • Rich, thanks for the suggestions, they’re straightforward and a common-sense reminder to make sure that you follow a process in any and all costumer interactions. I agree with your assessment that one of the most overlooked tools in our digital arsenal is consistant monitoring. What comes with that monitoring process is the need to navigate between negative and positive commentary surrounding a brand. Sometimes customers cannot tell the difference between individual opinions or the brand talking. Do you have any additional insights on how brands can work with negative feedback on social media channels?

    •  @hiuhime That’s always a tough call, hiuhime, and a big part of it is distinguishing between feedback that is actually reasonable and constructive– even if it is negative– and feedback that is simply defamatory. It can go a long way toward engendering goodwill toward your brand to engage with customers and consumers, and to address their concerns, but in instances of pure online attack, brands are often better off seeking to suppress.

  • Hi Rich,
    Great Post! Sadly people do not realize how easy it is to have their reputation ruined over sometimes no more than soured grapes. I have been a marketer over 25 years and 13 of those on line. I have seen this done over and over countless times. Many times to really good people and great companies.
    Another thing many people don’t realize it doesn’t take a (group) of people it can be as small as one person. I think what you have done here by bringing this up is magnificent work.
    Again great post.
    Susan Boston

    •  @susanb940 You’re right, Susan– one person is all it takes. That’s the amazing/sometimes-scary thing about the Internet!

  • Rich,
    Great post! I do agree with these potential online challenges for small businesses.
    I do, however, disagree with your “zealous response” point. I think that ignoring negative reviews could impose greater harm than good. I do believe that a response should not be done in anger or haste, but should be done professionally and personally. If the situation is handled correctly, I do believe that it’s an opportunity to win over an unsatisfied customer and potentially create a loyal customer or company advocate. There are always exceptions, but those opportunities shouldn’t be overlooked!

    •  @courtney petty I would not disagree with you if we are talking about actually constructive criticism, Courtney. The problem comes when you are dealing with deliberate attempts to defame or degrade, or else with fake reviews, posted by online competitors. Those are the cases in which I would argue that a response could not possibly do any good.

      •  @Rich_Gorman You’re right in those cases it may not do any good converting those customers or acknowledging the fake reviews. However, if I were a customer browsing a listing in which there were a ton of terrible reviews that were not addressed and some other reviews were addressed, that would look suspicious. Maybe it might be beneficial to address “those types” of reviews in a professional manner so the other potential customers can see that criticism and complains are handled.
        It’s hard to assign “types” to reviews, as we might not know it was a who exactly is leaving them. We can assume they are fake or simply trying defame/degrade- but I think a general guideline for how a company handles these types of situations should be created and followed. If the reviews are that inappropriate, there are usually measures website/business owners can take to combat the abuse (whether the directories enforce those measures is another thing).

  • John_Trader1

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    • jeffespo

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      • John_Trader1

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    @bettybrowser @visibilidad 😉

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