Since we launched our Business of Reviews research in 2014 we have been monitoring the need to manage online content and have been assessing the damage unchecked material can do. Online reputation is nothing short of critical for business success, and our 2016 follow up research shows the growing scale of the problem. It shows the need for SMEs to take more action.
The number of SME managers who feel bad reviews have the power to make or break their business has risen from 17 per cent in 2014, to 21 per cent today. Companies operating in the tech sector were the hardest hit. An overwhelming 80 per cent of those questioned said their business has been impacted by this kind of negative content—more than in any other sector.
A further 76 per cent of tech companies had also been hit by poor online reviews (on social media pages, third party review sites or forum pages) in the last year too, with 12 per cent of tech company bosses feeling it’s getting worse, and 20 per cent worried the impact to their online reputation could destroy their company altogether.
As a result, almost a third (32 per cent) have resorted to legal measures to tackle trolls; an expensive and time-consuming approach. So what should you be doing? What are some ways you can take control of your online reputation?
Develop Your Own Positive Assets
Businesses need to adopt a pro-active approach and take the initiative to develop positive content and online assets. Popular tactics are to maintain blogs and various social media profiles. Developing a positive review strategy—actively sharing positive feedback and responding to customers across all owned assets—is also important.
Taking on direct responsibility in ways like this will boost reputation resilience in the long-term. Having a clear online review and content strategy is a vital first step. Make sure it is very well-defined who is in charge of this strategy (in-house or outsourced?) and how it will be tracked.
Constantly Monitor Reviews & Complaints Through Google & Automation
Effective monitoring to track negativity is crucial. Vigilance is the key quality that will allow SMEs to react quickly when problems arise.
It’s worth monitoring key brand terms, particularly searching “company name + reviews” and “company name + complaints” on a regular basis; setting up free Google Alerts with the company name as the keyword; or investing in paid-for monitoring platforms like Brandwatch, Sprout Social and Meltwater to make the tracking both comprehensive and running automatically with minimal company overhead.
At the same time there will always be some brand mentions that aren’t picked up via these tools. For example, comments posted on private Facebook pages or forums that require membership. This is a matter of good old fashioned looking around. Businesses should make it a priority to know where conversations about their industry and services are taking place and manually check and review these forums. Religiously.
DIY Content Removal Requests
When negative content does appear, it can be challenged, often for free. While expert legal support might be needed in some cases, a more “human,” gentle approach can be just as effective, so it is worth trying this first.
Consider contacting a website directly to flag the impact on the business due to negative comments posted on the site. Find the owner and send them a handwritten letter explaining the impact these negative comments are having on your business. Being light, friendly and to the point usually gets the best results.
Examine the publishers’ own guidelines—especially the small print. Most sites have clear terms around acceptable conduct and reviews. If these T&Cs have been broken, you can ask the publisher to undertake non-legal removal of posts.
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