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Your Online Reputation Can Either Make You or Break You

By Carl Weiss

Shakespeare once wrote; "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet."

The Emperor Wears No Clothes
The Emperor Wears No Clothes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bill didn’t have the Internet to contend with back in 1594, things were simpler.  Heck, it had only been a little over a hundred years since the printing press was actually invented.  The age of the scandal sheet had not yet been born.

Fast forward five hundred and twenty years and the world is a very different place.  What electronic media, and news organizations haven’t done, the internet with blogging, social media, YouTube videos and rating site has. They are all spewing out intimate details concerning the lives, loves and eccentricities of not only celebrities, athletes and politicians, but ordinary citizen and businesses as well. It would make the Shakespeare blush.

Want to know which celebrities have been caught cheating?  Interested in keeping tabs on the latest crooked politicians?  Dying to find out more about professional athletes caught driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  How about if your employees have been out drinking or how well consumers really like that product you have the hot’s for. All this and more is but a Google search away.

Lindsay Lohan at Calvin Klein Spring 2007 Fash...
Lindsay Lohan at Calvin Klein
Spring 2007 Fashion Show
Afterparty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The trouble in today’s wired world is that neither the emperor, superstars or business wear any clothes.  The Internet in essence has become the ultimate scandal sheet, where even the tiniest impropriety can suddenly explode onto the worldwide stage as a scandal of epic proportions. All fueled by the public’s insatiable need to know, (and the news media’s need for ratings).

The problem is that these same tools can be used to create a media feeding frenzy can also be used to make or break any business owner on the planet.  No longer satisfied by celebrity gossip, the same tools of the trade that can tell the world about Lindsay Lohan’s latest wardrobe malfunction can be used to dish dirt on any business.

Are You on The A-List?

Traditionally, companies strove to be on the A-List, that is the preferred list of vendors through which others would choose to do business.  When it comes to business listings today, the A-List for many means Angie’s List.  First founded by Angie Hicks in 1996 as a means to evaluate reliable contractor in suburban 
report card 1944
report card 1944 (Photo credit: pjern)
Columbus, Ohio. During its first year of existence, Hicks went door-to-door, signing up members and collecting ratings on local contractors. By 1999, she took her service online, becoming one of the country’s most influential business ratings portals. Angie’s List went national when William S Oesterle and Angie Hicks joined forces in 2009, and today’s its views as one of the premier rating portals.

 Using a report card grading system of A through F, Angie’s List rates companies based upon third-party reviews purportedly from consumers who have used any vendor listed on the site.

Not everyone agrees with the validity of their model, as reported by Consumer Report in October 2013,

"We think that the ability of A- and B-rated companies to buy their way to the top of the default
Courtesy of WikiPedia
search results skews the results. Cheryl Reed, a spokeswoman for the company, disagrees. 'We don’t believe that,' she says. But Angie’s List marketing materials intended for businesses say that companies that advertise get 'an advantage of increased exposure' that
 'can propel you ahead of your competition.' They get 12 times more profile views than companies that don’t buy ads. Angie’s List encourages businesses to solicit reviews by giving customers free, postage-paid forms, stickers on thank you notes, and Web links embedded in e-mail invoices. But experts who study survey techniques say that can create a bias for positive reviews. Angie’s List misleads consumers by prominently promising that 'businesses don’t pay' and that it’s a consumer-driven service supported by membership fees. But almost 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from advertising purchased by the service providers being rated. Angie’s List tells consumers that it provides 'reviews you can trust,' and takes steps to detect and remove fraudulent positive and negative reviews.”

Relying on a pay-to-play system is always dicey when it comes to their impartiality.  Take for instance what happens when you query the Better Business Bureau, another paid service, regarding Angie’s List.  On the BBB Angie’s List, LLC is rated A+.  Yet if you scroll down the page you will find out that, there have been 290 closed complaints filed against the company within the past three years (129 in the past 12 months alone).  Of the 24 customer reviews posted on the BBB site, 23 were negative and only one was positive.  If this is an A+ rated business, what does it take to get a D?

Of course, the problems with skewed or impartial reviews are not limited to paid rating services.  Far from it.  The real elephant in the room is the fact that there are far too many places that reviews and ratings can be posted for any mere mortal to keep track of them all.  Everyone from search engines (Google Local, Yahoo Local) to Social Sites such as Facebook and Merchant Circle, to popular review sites such as Yelp, Yext and to name a few. 

Traps to Watch Out For

While review sites are important for consumers to check on businesses with which they have yet to do business, there are a couple of flies in the online ointment. 

Escape artist
Escape artist (Photo credit: practicalowl)
1.      A number of these sites have no way for the company receiving a complaint to redress it.  This means that anyone who simply has a grudge against the owner can fire at will in order to damage the owner’s reputation.
2.      This also means that on many review sites a wily competitor can post an anonymous complaint on a company knowing it will do harm without fear of retaliation.
3.      An unscrupulous business owner can also flood the review sites with false positive reviews from their friends, family and neighbors.
4.      People are more likely to be motivated to post a negative review than a positive one.  When a person is happy with your product or service, they rarely share that information with more than 1 or two people. However, when someone is unhappy they usually tell at least ten others! With the internet, this become ten thousand people!

The biggest problem for most business owners is the fact that they have no mechanism for generating positive reviews and/or testimonials.  This is unfortunate since this means that the ONLY reviews posted on most businesses are negative, since as they say, “You can’t please all the people all the time.”

You’re Online “To Do List”, For Cultivating Positive Reviews

In order to address this potential disastrous problem, every business owner needs to establish a corporate policy that is dedicated to cultivating positive reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers.  This way, when an occasional complaint does surface, it will be buried in a mountain of positive press.  In order to accomplish this in a reputable manner, I recommend the following:

1.      Call or talk to some of your most loyal customers and ask them if they would be willing to tell of their experience with your business in front of a video camera.  Video testimonials are some of the most persuasive reviews on the planet.  They can literally turn your best customers into your best salespeople.
2.      At the conclusion of the video, you can also ask them to post a review on Google Local, Yahoo Local, or any other site you prefer. 
3.      If you have a receptionist or sales staff, encourage them to ask your clients to post positive reviews.  (I even recommend having a contest where the employee that generates the most  reviews every week receives a reward.)
4.      Broadcast these videos and customer testimonials by reposting them on your newsletters, mailers, blogs and social reviews.
To do list...
To do list... (Photo credit: vvvracer)
5.      Ask clients to post their testimonials on their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus social sites.
6.      Make sure you thank clients who post positive reviews. This can be accomplished by thanking them publicly in newsletters, email newsletters and by sending them small thank you gifts like coupons or gift cards.
7.      If you sell a product or service directly, ask your new clients to provide recommendations and testimonials via post cards and or letters. These can be used as credibility building devices on your website and on your social media sites as well. Make sure you get their permission to use their testimonial.

The best part about using this strategy is that all it costs you is time.  If you don’t have the time to do this in-house, outsourcing this can be a good alternative.  Putting your head in the sand is a sure way to get into trouble. Reputation management is a necessity in business today. Ignoring it can either make or break you. Failing to bolster your online reputation can cost you dearly.  Or, as Shakespeare  might have put it,

“Alas, Poor Yorick! I knew him well.”

In this article, I have provided specific information that will help any business understand the importance of reputation management in the 21 century. I have  also provided a list of traps to watch out for and a list must do items to improve a company’s credibility.

If you found this article to be useful, share it with friends, family, co-workers and associates. To learn more about this subject read - How to Win Friends and Influence People in the 21st Century and its "Take Two Article" by the same name. You can also search this blog by keying in "Reputation Management" in the search box. If you have something to add or a difference of opinion, place that in the comments section.  I hope this information helps you find a company that does not use cyber babble.

If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will send you this free eBook. Your information is always keep private and never sold.

When he isn’t waxing poetic, Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency.  You can also join him live every Tuesday when he co-host’s Working The Web To Win on Blog Talk Radio, which airs live every Tuesday at 4 pm Eastern.

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  1. To outrank your business site in SERP, your business online reputation should be stronger one. For this you should promote your business like a brand and try to post positive reviews related to your business product and services. Share these positive reviews and information on social media sites.

  2. Try to add your links to other profiles as well to encourage multiple sources of traffic for your site.
    90% of online commercial searches result in offline bricks and mortar purchases.
    Many email marketing software websites which review products and solutions present an opinion as to what one is the best.

    Review my website see his review

  3. I was looking for articles on uses of professional social networking and I came across yours inspiring read. Thanks man!

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