Bad reputation on-line? What can I do?


August 8, 2011 / Updated: August 8, 2011 / Lena Shore
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We have people saying some bad things about our company online? What can we do about it?


Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” might have worked well for her, but chances are it isn’t what you want for your business.

With the advent of technology and mass use of social media including Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and others people’s opinions get around fast. Super fast. Unfortunately, an unhappy person is 100 times more likely to post something negative online about your company than a happy customer will post something positive. Yes. I just made up that statistic, but you get my point.

The result is this: You can’t make everyone happy all the time. You need to plan for it.

What is your online presence like?

Do you have an online presence? Do you have a website? Are you involved in any social media? If you aren’t online, you need to be. You can’t do anything to balance the Twitter tides unless you are also on Twitter. The same goes for Facebook and other social media outlets.

If you don’t have a website, you need to have one. Aside from being a great way for clients and potential clients to find you 24/7 it is also a way to educate people on your products and service.

When your online presence is established, the search engines are going to bring back more good than bad.

What is being said? Is it true?

Negative comments about your business may be hard to swallow, but they can also be a great opportunity. Are people complaining about your service, your product, or your hours? How many people are complaining? If it is just one unhappy customer, it might not mean much other than someone having a bad day. But, if you find out ten people are all complaining about the same thing, it might be time to make a change internally. This doesn’t mean you should ignore a single negative comment, but learn to evaluate it with an open mind.

Fight negative statements with positive ones.

Make sure your online presence is full of good things that outweigh the bad. Tell success stories on your website. Post testimonials from happy clients. Encourage feedback on Facebook and Twitter. Establish a dialog with your customers.

If you get in the habit of learning what is being said about your industry (and you in particular), you might notice trends. Take these trends and address them. Is there some seasonal problem you could help people benefit from? Does your industry deal with back to school products, shopping for the holidays, or summer maintenance? Is there a common problem or misconception that could be addressed in your industry like “all mechanics are crooks” or “financial advisers are expensive”? Take the time to learn what people are saying and put information out there that is positive. Establish yourself as positive, helpful, and give clients information they can use and want.

Handle it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t hide it.

Everyone makes mistakes. It is how you handle them that makes the difference.

What if someone posts something negative on your Facebook page? It’s easy enough to delete that comment — but I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you delete that comment you are just going to make the commenter mad. They may very well spend more time saying other bad things about you in retaliation around the web. Besides, this is an opportunity! Address that person’s concerns. Maybe you did make a mistake. Maybe they misunderstood something. Address it. Offer to make it right. Tell them how to fix it.

This accomplishes a few things. First, you’ve listened to that person and established a dialog. Most people just want someone to hear them and address their issue. Second, you have a chance to show other visitors how you handle problems. And third, a customer that has a problem that you resolved is a much more loyal customer than they were before.

If you find a negative comment on another site you can’t control, see if you can reply to the comment and address it directly.

Don’t bad mouth others

If you find out that the competition is saying bad things about you, don’t retaliate by saying bad things about them. These are school-yard tactics and it will only tarnish your own reputation by playing the same game. Instead evaluate the comments to determine if they are true and something you can fix. Then offer examples to the contrary online.

For instance, if you have been accused of poor customer service you might want to:

  • Change up your sales staff or give them more training
  • Add a new question on your website’s FAQ that explains how you handle complaints
  • Post an article that details a case-study of a recent client that shows off your customer service

Don’t go looking for trouble

I had a client whose angry ex-wife was posting really terrible things about him on-line. He made a request to the website to take it down. In the meantime, he Googled the particular phrase every day to see if it was still there. My SEO guru friend Michelle Chance-Sangthong said “Googling for that phrase every day and clicking on it is the worst thing you can do. It will increase the popularity of it!”. So, don’t do it. It’s good to google to see what is out there. Don’t obsess over it and click the bad items. You are better off combating the negative comments my generating your own positive ones.

Request Removal

You can also try to contact the site owner to see if they would be willing to remove the offending statements. Depending on the website you could become successful.

Get a professional

If you don’t have time to do any of these things yourself, or feel like you need help, you can always rely on a professional to get the job done. And SEO expert can teach you great things and do some great things to get your online reputation in the black.

Wrap up

Your online reputation is important. With these tips and tricks to help you know what people are saying about you and your industry — you can go far in managing your company’s online reputation and prevent negative impact. Be positive. It’s all an opportunity.