Any business that wants to thrive in today’s world must have a vibrant online presence. It all starts with a quality website, but it surely doesn’t end there. You’ve got to be active on quality social networking sites, you’ve got to have products that translate to apps and mobile platforms and you must have positive visibility on sites like Yelp. You can hire programmers, IT experts and a social media team to do all of that work, but you cannot control your customers. And many entrepreneurs have made the mistake of underestimating how just a few negative reviews online can impact their business. The fact of the matter is that people pay more attention to the recommendations of friends and associates than they ever do to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are tools of discovery, and if you have a negative reputation online you could find yourself closing up shop before long. Here are five ways to avoid that fate by improving the reputation of your business online.
First and foremost, you’ve got to be honest. You may think that a bit of spin and passing the buck will put a band-aid on things. But if it doesn’t pass the sniff test it will actually make things worse. It’s too easy for people to dig up dirt or uncover the truth online, and apologies that aren’t honest or information that is inaccurate will always come back to bite you later. Your best bet is to admit a mistake was made, and do whatever is necessary to remedy things. People aren’t looking for perfection, just accountability. If you step forward in an honest way you may actually win over some new customers.
It’s also important to be transparent. Today’s marketplace is all about building trust. There are hundreds of companies out there competing with you, and they could take your customers even with an inferior product. People want to deal with individuals, with folks they have some sort of actual relationship with. You can’t be everyone’s friend, but you can be open and transparent about your business practices. Don’t ever hide costs, underplay fees or promise results you cannot deliver. It’s much better to manage your customers’ expectations and respect their intelligence.
You should also attempt to run a responsible business. Since the internet has truly joined the world into one international community people are much more aware of how their decisions impact others. Environmental sustainability has become a core aspect of many people’s decision-making around purchases. Today’s consumers obviously want a good deal, but they also don’t want to support companies that exploit third world workers, bend laws to maximize profits or harm the environment through their actions. And if you run a socially responsible company, make sure you tell people about your efforts. You will find fans this way, and consumers will even be willing to accept slower delivery and slightly higher prices if they know they are supporting a positive company.
Don’t forget to also be consistent with your message. Promoting your business online is an every day activity. Once you get started down one strategic path you must maintain it, or risk losing whatever momentum you built. People will begin to rely on your communications, and they will be seen as more authentic if you keep up a consistent pace and delivery.
Finally, make sure your social media work is not a one-way street. You’ve got to engage in the community. That comes not only from offering up value, but also answering questions and interacting as often as you can. For example, some people may have strong options about physician reputation management best practices. They will respond to your posts, and you should use that as an opportunity to start a conversation. The more you show a true connection and care for your audience, the more loyal they will be.
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