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If I could distill the essence of the World Wide Web as it stands today I would say that it’s all about reputation and whether you’re from a marketing, sales, SEO or web design background, you may think in terms of branding, aesthetics, look and feel or another perspective, the thing that matters is reputation. That is why a number of companies offer Online Reputation Management (ORM) as a service. But you can do a lot of this yourself. However, research does show that a managed service can be more effective. Ultimately, if you hire an expert to do a job that they are used to doing day in day out then they’re probably be able to do it better than you.
So if the web is all about reputation and reputation is an asset that business and individuals see as valuable then how can we protect this asset? Just as we’d insure a house with building and contents insurance I’d expect to protect a reputation using similar cost/effort. But how can this be done? Here an example:
Example – You’re a local tradesperson and you’ve received a negative review. What do you do? You haven’t really used the internet much to promote your business. You have a website and your niece created a Facebook Page for your business a few months back. She showed you how to log on back then but you haven’t used it since. The negative review is from a customer who you recognise but you did turn up late to the job but now you’d like to put things right and start to repair your reputation. The thing is that one negative review does not a bad reputation make. However, if your reputation is pretty much non-existent in the first place then then balance can be tipped quite easily. Think of a set of weighing scales. If you have loaded one side up with lots of weights (i.e. positive reviews, blog posts, lots of good press, etc) then one negative review won’t make that much different. Sometimes a customer may phone you and you may not be able to answer and this can be all it takes. In the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey, the author describes an “emotional bank account” which I think can be applied here. If you repeat the same mistakes and don’t learn from them then you become that person or your business gains that reputation. You see reputation can work for you or it can work against you. It sounds obvious, but you can have a good reputation or you can have a bad reputation. Your business may be involved in something particularly bad and then this will be equivalent to a lots of small mistakes. This is why it’s best to put processes and fail safes in place before anything bad can happen.
So how does the local tradesperson with the negative review come back from this? They reply to the negative review and encourage their customers to leave them reviews. It’s as simply as that. When they receive positive reviews they should also reply to those and thank them for their time in leaving them positive reviews. If your reputation comes under attack then you will have a better chance of defending it if you have already prepared and been working towards showing that you have a good reputation. So long before the local tradesperson from this example came across this negative review s/he should have been working towards a better online presence. This means encouraging customers to leave reviews, working on branding, adding blog posts, putting out press releases, posting on social media sites and so on. When the tradeperson’s niece setup the Facebook site. The response should not have been “I don’t need that. Why do I need that”. It should have been “Thanks, let’s getting started!”.