Online Reputation Management: What You Need to Know

You’ve decided to try a new hair stylist: what’s the first thing you’re likely to do?

Google the stylist’s name, of course.

In the world of social media, everyone – from independent contractors to multi-national corporations— needs to pay attention to his or her business’ online reputation. With the plethora of review sites— including Yelp, Facebook, Metromix and Angie’s List—smart business owners are tracking what’s being said about their services and responding, when needed.

Think positive

“I’m amazed at the number of people who look at my online reviews before booking appointments with me,” says Rochelle Binik, creative director at Noel Rose Hair Studio in Lincoln Park.

Glencoe-based Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage agent Kit Schiele confirms the power of Internet reviews. “An online review can make or break your reputation.”

Her colleague Laurie Gross reports that savvy online marketing is particularly critical with younger clients. “Couples in their 20s and 30s, especially, are doing their homework online. They base a lot of their decisions from what they read on the Internet.”

To keep the positive reviews at the top of searches, some business owners will ask satisfied clients and customers to post appreciative comments.

“Sure, I’ve asked a client to post a testimonial. It improves my search engine optimization,” Gross reports.

Keep a close eye on your profile

Even international corporations need to stay on top of online commentary, as unflattering information impacts sales, employee morale and sometimes stock prices.

“We had a situation in which one of our products was reportedly being used for an off-label purpose and it negatively impacted the company,” says Sally Benjamin Young, vice president of Public Affairs, at Lundbeck, Inc., a pharmaceutical firm in Deerfield. “Online petitions were initiated, Twitter was abuzz, there was a lot of chatter. And so, we decided to engage in the conversation—in a very thoughtful and responsible way—to provide some balance.”

The tone of the response is key, Young notes, as is having a foundation of goodwill. “Reputation management starts before you are confronted with an issue.”

Stay above the fray

While some sites allow business owners to respond to negative feedback, Waukegan attorney David Leibowitz does not recommend getting into an ugly online back-and-forth conversation.

“If the criticism is untrue and defamatory, you might be able to take legal action,” he says, noting the need for an attorney conversant in Internet and defamation law.

Better yet, Leibowitz counsels, “It doesn’t hurt to say ‘I’m sorry’ and then try to fix the problem.”

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