For any small business looking to make it on the online landscape, the personal reputation of the founders/owners/executives has a direct impact on the product and/or service the business is associated with. Read on to understand more.
Benjamin Franklin once said that many good deeds are required to create a good reputation, but it takes as single bad deed to lose it. This paraphrased quote forms the basis of the irony behind reputation management, especially in today’s era of social connectivity. Whether it’s the reputation of a company, person, business, sect or social group, all you need is a few minutes for a handful of people to put up a few posts/comments/tweets, and a long-standing good reputation could be burned to ashes.
Today’s age is defined largely by social media, which plays a pivotal role in dictating perspectives and defining mass thought processes, the reality of which is little more than simple reactions produced reactively, without careful thought, verification or consideration.
Celebrities have a thousand advantages which are not available to the small business owner/entrepreneur – hordes of adoring fans, PR teams, publicists and fixers who can step in to save the day. For such people, even negative publicity can be turned into an advantage. For the entrepreneur, however, maintaining a spotless reputation is an endless war, and any negativity for the owner or senior managers can mean downfall for the entire brand. Just as the brand impacts your reputation, your reputation directly impacts the brand you’re building.
To avoid the spiral of negative reviews online(Yelp, Google, Glassdoor and the many social media sites available), you and your executives must abide by a strict code of conduct when operating your online accounts. The following are some of the things that must be implemented for entrepreneurs and their managerial teams to maintain a stellar online reputation.
- Social monitoring tools are your friend
There are tons of social monitoring tools that you can use to keep track of current social media activities on every site. All business moguls, business speakers and technical bloggers who are active on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and others keep tabs on all online references made to them, and so must you.
Manual monitoring isn’t workable to that scale, but you can use tools such as SocialMention, Google Alerts, Trackur and Rankur among others to accomplish the same goal.
- Have complete control over your own account
It isn’t uncommon to see senior level managers of a business, such as the CEO, COO and CFO, relinquishing their sign-in credentials to someone else, be they the personal assistant, marketing team of even your outsourced web marketing firm so that they can manage the news being posted to their social accounts.
While seemingly benign, this isn’t the best idea; you should be in full control of all the activities relating to your personal profiles. Social media has unstoppable virality and anything that is said, posted or promoted using your profile could not only risk you own reputation, but also that of your business and products/services.
- Think before you post
You can delete a social media post, but that doesn’t mean that you can take back what you said. Because you’re in a position of influence, it’s important to always remember that anything you say attracts an audience of thousands, even millions, from your own employees to competitors and existing and potential clients who follow you on social media. Give careful thought to every word you post under your name. Do not post negative things about products, people or brands with which you are directly or indirectly associated using your own profile, whether they are true or not. In addition, ensure that your comments, likes and shares of other material do not represent any personal attacks. Be especially careful when interacting with people you don’t know directly.
- You don’t have to be on every social site
One of the best ways to avoid trouble is to cherry-pick the social sites to which your name is attached.Choose your forums, social networking platforms and communities from among similar-minded people within your niche and related niches. On platforms like Xing and LinkedIn, you can afford to be less careful about who you follow and what you share.
In addition, joining up with those with whom you share a common goal provides a well-defined arena where you can share relevant information. If you’re not conversant with Twitter, Facebook and other general social platforms because of the volatility of their posts, you can restrict yourself to activity on professional networking sites alone, such as LinkedIn.
Another idea may be to open a profile under an assumed name and picture, especially if you want to join sites or networks which may pose a risk to your business reputation. It is important to be part of such sites, since you can get firsthand information about what’s being said of your products, services, brands, employees, etc. Pseudonyms help you to maintain your anonymity while collecting valuable information. Selectivity and perceptiveness are your two best friends when choosing where to stamp your presence.
- Update your social profile regularly
You need to have information about the people that actively follow you, including those that visit your profile frequently and/or respond to your posts. In addition, exercise discretion when liking, following or connecting with new users. You set criteria to be used when adding people to your profile. From time to time, check out your ‘About’ sections and update to ensure they reflect your current status. Delete old or no-longer-relevant facts e.g. past jobs and any other details which may cause current facts to be misunderstood. You should look likeable and credible at all times.
It is common practice for senior-level executives and business heads to distance themselves from activity within social platforms in order to maintain a level of privacy. However, this isn’t the best way since your personal profiles provide a useful channel through which you can positively influence your target market and promote your brands. In addition, clients inherently distrust anyone they can’t find online, so it’s better to have your profiles and keep an eye on them as you go along. You also lose valuable opportunities to connect with potential business associates, followers and clients. If people don’t know you, then they will believe anything that is said about you. The best defense is to have a strong online presence from which people can judge your authenticity.