10 areas to keep in mind for a solid ‘online’ reputation

“The Internet does not have a reputation as being a particularly civilized place.” – Anita Borg

Today’s businesses (Especially the Start-ups and the MSMEs & SMEs) have become tech savvy and have started creating a brand for themselves. However in the wild internet, the presence and reputation of the business could be easily lost or even worse damaged. As a professional or a business, your job is to identify the places you exist and the information being propagated about you and your business. You need to ensure that you have a great outlook about your business in the internet and ascertain it stands high. Hence you need to take few actions either from the perspective of building your presence and a good reputation or from the perspective of neutralising bad reputation.

Here I list 10 such areas to lookout for your presence and reputation so that people searching for you can find positive about your business. For each section there is an action plan to take.

1. Owning a Website

A website is your Real Estate in the internet world. Owning it increases the reputation of the business. They tell the facts about your business that can clear confusions and doubts. Website also double up to collect feedbacks, reviews and testimonials from your customers and build a good customer service.

Action Plan: Ensure you have a website that is appealing and easily navigable to customers

2. The Social Media Presence

Having a Social Media Presence means you own business profiles & pages within social networking websites. The benefit of having social media presence is increased brand loyalty and recognition, higher conversion rates and better rankings. Social Media presence increases your reputation by increasing the Social Ranking. Reviews on these websites will be weighted better than reviews on your website.

Action Plan: Ensure you have a presence in Facebook & Twitter if you are a B2C Business and Linkedin if you are a B2B business.

3. Find Yourselves in Search Engines

Finding online means you exist. Remember No Reputation is much worse than Bad Reputation. Because Bad Reputation could be corrected, but No Reputation means your business is not found or non-existent. The trust about you is lost if you are not found in search engines. Potential Customers find you only by searching about you online.

Action Plan: List yourselves on Google, Business Listing websites and Industry Listing websites.

4. Search Engine optimization practices

Search Engine Optimization is a great technique to get your website identified and found on search engines. It helps you to get more visibility and credibility to your website and is unpaid, natural and organic method. Search Engine optimization involves creating right content (text, images and videos) to increase relevance to the keywords that is specific to your target customers.

Action Plan: Check if your website is SEO friendly website. It is critical for the success of the business.

5. Review and Rating websites

Review and Ratings websites allow their users to give reviews about individuals and businesses and share their experiences they had. These review websites are user generated content and generally industry specific. The advantage of these websites is that it helps in building the reputation of the business. But the disadvantage is that most of the users who give reviews are the unhappy customers and competitors who wish to spoil the name of the business.

Action Plan: Ensure you are listed in all the reviews and ratings websites in your industry, but deal with them carefully.

6. Have a Blog

A blog improves your reputation because it makes you perceived as an expert. It builds the trust among people and raises the bar. People may want to do more business with a blog system in place than without a blog.

Action Plan: Start a blog and link them to your website and social media.

7. Online Networking at community forums and groups

There are many online businesses networking groups and community forums which help businesses to network and communicate. They not only help to find new customers and new opportunities but also a great opportunity to give your opinions or to clarify doubts. Interacting in these Business Networking websites shall improve your reputation while increasing your network.

Action Plan: Join Community forums for your industry or Industry specific groups on Linkedin. Be active and promote your business.

8. Online Engagement

Engagement with the company or the brand in the internet has become very important for a success of a business. Engagement involves getting people on the social platform and to make them connected with your business. Engagement turns people into True Believers and they become your brand ambassadors or influencers.

Action Plan: Get your customers, employees, partners and vendors to like / follow you on all the social media. Make them your influencers.

9. Monitoring Your Reputation

Identifying and building a reputation is not the only goal of creating a better presence in the internet. It is equally important to monitor the reputation of the business online. It is always good to build, identify and manage all that is said in the internet.

Action Plan: Setup Alerts for your business and take actions immediately.

10. Neutralising Negative Reputation

It is very common for any business to have unhappy customers and generally it is 10% of your customer list. However it is the unhappy ones who try to ruin your reputation. They post bloated information that makes the readers gain distrust about your business. Sometimes your competitors speak ill about you under the name of an unknown customer. This is to spoil your reputation.

Action Plan: Identify negativity and react to them in a way it is necessary. You don’t have to reply to all, but yes, you will have to answer to some.

Though these 10 areas pose a challenge to many businesses, it is not a difficult task. A Reputation Assessment will give a complete idea of where you exist, where you should build and where you can improve. There are around 100+ research areas that can tell you what to do. As a business or an individual you need to decide how important the internet is for your business.

“Your Reputation in the Internet is like a Wild horse that can run in any direction. It is your job to saddle the wild horse and make it run in the direction you desire.” – Satish N Kota

(The author is Satish Kota, an Author, Educator, Entrepreneur and Speaker. He is the author of an upcoming book “The Reputation Builder: Effective Techniques to Build and Improve your Reputation & Rule your industry – A Strategy based approach”. He is also a Reputation Specialist.)

(Image credits: business2community)
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