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How to maintain a positive reputation online

Do you know that people are talking about you and your company online? You surely do; that's the main reason why you are reading this article, right? These days, even a simple Google search may reveal several undesired results which include phrases like "your company name scam", "your company name rip-off", and so on.

It's a relatively new issue; companies used to sell their products and services to a passive audience only a decade ago. However, things have significantly changed since then and today, by using the huge power of the top social media platforms, even a single unhappy customer can make a big company lose a lot of money.

This is one of the key reasons why most businesses have been forced to embrace the transparency model. According to this paradigm, criticism must be addressed publicly, rather than being hidden. It's true that some companies continue to try and hide their wrongdoings, but in the end this leads to huge financial losses, disappointed customers and tarnished company reputations.

If you want to maintain a positive online reputation, the first step of the process is to start monitoring your company's online mentions. There are several free tools out there that should help you get started, but if you want to get access to a comprehensive dataset, you should get access to a paid online reputation monitoring service, which is able to crawl search results, forums, blogs, review sites, social media websites, etc. and aggregate all the results into a single feed.

You want to be attentive to these types of online reputation threats:

- Negative reviews. There are lots of user review platforms on the web, so if only a few unhappy customers post their reviews there, you can be sure that these reviews will show up when people are typing your company's name into Google. Sadly, a dozen of negative reviews will severely affect the credibility of your company, because most of your customers, who are probably happy with your services, aren't that eager to post their positive reviews. To fix these issues, you should ask the review sites' webmasters to remove the negative comments. This will only work if you can prove that the customer is lying, of course; otherwise, you will have to contact the customer privately, solve the issues, and then ask him/her to edit the review.

- Often, your company will have to deal with negative social media posts as well. So, you should always take the time to monitor the most important social media websites (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) on a daily basis. Try to respond as quickly and politely as possible; most customers expect to receive a reply within a few hours.

- Hate websites. Can you imagine that some people will waste a lot of their time and money to create sites that include misleading information and insults, with the goal of tarnishing your business' reputation? Sure, people have the right to express their opinions, but they aren't allowed to do that by using false information, with the goal of destroying a company. It is true that sometimes these "people" may be, in fact, your competitors, who want to take your business down for good.

Now that you are familiar with the most frequent online reputation threats, it is time to discover the key methods that can help you maintain a positive online reputation. As mentioned above, transparency is crucial. Therefore, if you have made a mistake, assume it, tell the customer that he/she is right publicly, and then fix all the issues. By reacting quickly and giving that particular customer a bonus (an extra discount, etc.) you may be able to turn him or her into an ardent company fan.

In the end, don't forget that any company can (and should) learn from its own mistakes. Maybe one of your employees, who is currently managing the company's Facebook page, is not the best person for this assignment. So, try to give this important task to an employee who may be able to do a better job.