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From a brand perspective, it’s true to say that reputation is everything. You could make the most fantastic products around, but a lingering negative reputation could well be the undoing of your business.

Given the massive importance of developing and maintaining a good reputation, it follows that any startup needs to give attention to protecting its reputation from the very start.

Word-of-mouth in the traditional sense meant telling your neighbor or friend about a positive experience you had with a particular company or product. But times have changed, and with the advent of the Internet, the grapevine is a whole lot bigger.

Going online

With social media available to just about everyone, comments about you, your products and your business can be posted online for all to see. The trouble is, commentary tends to stick around on the World Wide Web, and one negative comment or bad review can do tremendous damage to your company’s reputation. According to a survey, a bad review influences a buying decision of a customer 86% of the times.

While in the past, a customer might have had a complaint they shared with those closest to them, they can immediately air their grievances in public, in plain sight. These days, what appears about someone or something online is controlled by artificial intelligence systems, and they’re difficult to ‘trick.’

But there are ways, although limited, of controlling your online reputation, and that’s what’s meant by online reputation management.

More and more important

Do you know what people are saying about your startup? No? Well, you should because what’s written out there could make or break your business. Caring about your online reputation is crucial to your company’s success. When people are looking for a service or product, they turn to search engines like Google for suggestions.

What your new business needs is for your name to come up in a search, with only positive comments and reviews. A great many businesses receive criticism, whether justifiably or not. The trick is not to let it dominate your online reputation.

One bad review among many positive ones won’t break the bank, but a negative comment with no satisfactory response is likely to disappoint.

Making it a priority

So, developing and maintaining a good reputation is essential for your business for sales, staff morale, and the survival of your enterprise. And as the saying goes: prevention is better than cure. It’s easier (and cheaper) to take a proactive stance in creating and maintaining a positive reputation than it is to try and remedy a poor one.

You need to actively influence people’s opinions of and attitudes towards your startup. As soon as possible, choose which online platforms you’re going to use. Don’t try to use all of them or you’re unlikely to be able to cope. Then be active on these platforms. Be proactive about creating positive content.

If you aren’t up to managing your online reputation and/or presence, farm it out to someone who is experienced at online reputation management. It’s worth the investment to ensure a good reputation.

Always… and never

There are a few guidelines to follow to help your online reputation. Make it a priority to always respond to comments and reviews within 24 to 48 hours. Regardless of whether something written about you is positive or negative, always convey respect by responding and acknowledging what has been said.

If you receive negative coverage, let them know that you have heard what they are saying and that you value their input. Detail what action will be taken to rectify a situation when a complaint is justified. Never, however, respond in the heat of the moment. Rather leave it to someone else than risk ruining your reputation.

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