Your online reputation can make or break your startup. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar location or you’re operating solely on the Internet, you need to ensure that the chatter going on about you is positive.
According to OutboundEngine, 68 percent of consumers trust opinions that people write online, and 88 percent trust these opinions just as much as they believe personal recommendations.
If you’re in the beginning stages of your company and you want to ascertain a good online reputation, follow these tips from marketing professionals based out of WeWork.
Create content for your audience
The first step is to put out content about your company that relates to your audience. This way, you’re not depending on others for press and exposure, and you’re going to reach your target demographic.
Melanie Eddolls, a WeWork member based in New York City, says, “I think the best way is to create buzz, and to delight and to stand out in [customers’] minds right from the get-go. So much of this depends on the product, the goal of the startup, the phases they are rolling things out, the amount of money they have, and the audience they are trying to reach.”
Whether you’re writing blog posts for your website, sending out an email newsletter, or producing tweets, Snapchat messages, and Facebook posts, make sure that what you’re saying is going to be appealing to your potential customers.
“Go where your audience is and speak their language,” says Eddolls. “Be authentic. Then revisit them and make them brand ambassadors.”
Establish a paid and organic social media presence
At first, you may not know where your customers are hanging out online. It’s best to set up accounts on all the social media networks and create fitting content for each platform.
Brandfresh’s Felix Chang, who works out of WeWork Charging Bull, says that social media is “an excellent tool to build brand image and customer trust. Having no name is a disadvantage, but if you can build some content even before starting the business, you’re pursuing the right path building your presence online.”
Chang points out that paid advertising on social media is effective as well. Due to the recent changes in the Facebook and Instagram algorithms, it’s more difficult for brands to be seen on social media without paying for ads.
“Setting some budgets for social with the right target audience can get you a lot of buzz without breaking the bank,” he says.
Don’t ignore the negative posts
Negative posts are the worst. Whether or not they’re true, they can cause irreparable damage to your startup’s online reputation.
Eddolls deals with negative comments in a few ways. She won’t engage if the poster is a heckler or a competitor. If the comment occurs in a space that her company owns, such as a Facebook page, she will delete it and then address the customer personally through a message or email.
“We never make excuses, or act defensively or ‘put out,’” she says. “I am still a believer in the old rule that ‘the customer is always right.’ Even if they are not right, it’s not a good idea to put something defensive, curt, or a long line of excuses. These are not good things to live online or in print, ever.”
According to Chang, you can turn these comments into something useful for your business. He says, “Your negative feedback can be positive with the right attitude.”
Invest in systems to help you keep track
Googling yourself every single day is going to drive you nuts. Instead, try out some free and paid platforms that will show you what’s going on with your startup’s mentions.
Eddolls recommends Hootsuite, the social media management dashboard where you can view what’s happening on your networks, reply to comments, receive messages, and analyze your growth. Similar services include Buffer and Sprout Social. Some of them are free, while others can cost hundreds of dollars per month for a bigger team.
A more comprehensive tool that’s a favorite is Mention, according to Chang. The service compiles any and all conversations about your company online. Another platform, Fresh Web Explorer by Moz, allows you to see mentions, and research and compare your links to those of your competitors.
Building your online reputation takes a while. It’s an investment that doesn’t happen immediately. However, once you find your audience, create a system for replying to comments, and monitor what’s being said about you, you can successfully nurture a solid reputation for yourself.
“Maintaining a good reputation, even with just a few good pieces of feedback in the beginning, is worth its weight in gold,” says Chang. “The more you have, the more your potential customers will trust your brand.”
Photo: Kristen Norman