In a digital world, word of mouth travels faster than ever before, and the credibility and reputation of your brand are tangible assets that can both accumulate value, or depreciate, depending on a wide range of factors.  With over 60% of users influenced by online reviews, a few negative results online can have a significant impact on your business if you’re not careful.

As a result, monitoring the internet for negative mentions of your brand should be an important part of an overall online marketing strategy.

Negative Results

When you search for your brand, you’ll usually find mostly neutral results.  It’s when you start finding results that include pages which refer to your brand, products, or service negatively that the importance of managing your online reputation becomes clear.

The usual response from companies who find negative results about themselves is straightforward.  They want those results off the page.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple, especially these days.

Not only are there the usual issues with “out-optimising” those specific pages, and the effects of your efforts in things like personalised search (there is no more front page of Google), but search engine results are not the only source of potentially negative mentions of your brand.

ORM & Social Media

The rapid rise of social media has brought a new dimension to online reputation management (ORM).  Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have not only made it easier than ever for end users to complain, but have brought a new level of visibility and shareability to negative mentions of your brand or services.

And while it is also easier for people to compliment your brand, they’re much more likely to take to social media over a problem than they are with praise.  Part of this willingness lies in the perceived effectiveness of such complaints.  Many users believe they will get faster and better results by reaching out on social media, than they will by following “official” complaint channels.

Managing Your Reputation Online

The critical part of responding to negative sentiment about your business is to do it quickly, and publicly (assuming that sentiment is made public).  It’s more important to be seen to be dealing with an issue than it is to try and hide that issue away.  Everybody makes mistakes.  If one of yours is revealed, admit to it, and make up for it, so that everybody can see. With the right response, you can turn a complaint and negative comments into praise and positive ones.

With that said, you can’t depend on people contacting you directly (or via social) when they feel there is a problem.  And that means you can’t just rely on the things you get told.  You have to monitor the net for mentions of your brand, to make sure you can respond pro-actively, before things get out of hand.  There are various software and online solutions that will monitor the net for you, but the important thing is to take action at the right time.

The Cost Of A Negative Reputation

It’s often tempting, especially in cases where you really haven’t done anything wrong, to ignore anybody spreading negativity about your brand.  But credibility is one of the most important factors in a successful online business, and you may ignore complaints, bad reviews, or unhappy clients at your peril.

It’s estimated a single negative result showing up in search engine results can cost up to 22% of potential customers, depending on where in the results it appears.

With that in mind, managing your online reputation is something you should seriously be considering.