Because the internet is such a free and open environment, people believe that can do or say anything they want without repercussions or without harming anyone else. As well, there are opportunists out there who know how to game the system, and they use that knowledge to attack companies for their own monetary benefit.
As a large organization, you’re bound to run into unsatisfied customers, unhappy employees, and these scam artists, and sometimes it can feel like you are under constant attack. But the first step in dealing with many of the “scam alerts” and unfavorable information about your company online is by understanding what threats exist and what options you may have in dealing with them. Let’s rake a look at the most common threats to your online reputation.
1) Scam Sites
Scam sites are a product of the internet. Before the internet was widely used, if you wanted to find out about a company, you could call up the BBB and see what their rating was and if any legitimate complaints had been filed against them. Today, digital opportunists take advantage of the public’s fear and publish “scam alerts” for a wide range of companies, hoping to get them ranked high in the search results and benefit off of high traffic volume and perform extortion on good companies.
Although these sites purport to publish company reviews by real people, many of them are scams themselves, writing fake negative reviews and then asking companies for tens of thousands of dollars to take the negative reviews down. The best way to deal with these scams is through good online reputation management that will push these types if sites lower in the search engine results and nullify their effect on your company.
Although coordinated online reputation attacks from competitors is rare, it does happen from time to time. Competitors can publish unfavorable articles about your company, or use other tactics, like commenting and posting on forums, to defame and degrade your brand. If legal action is unavailable or not feasible, online reputation management can neutralize the effects of such attacks by promoting positive information about your company and pushing negative material down.
3) Unsatisfied Customers
As a large company, you are going to have unhappy customers, generally through no fault of your own. There are some people out there who simply will not be happy about your company for their own reasons that have nothing to do with your customer service or products. And because blogging and social media is free and easy to use, they may pass along their dissatisfaction to their friends and across the internet.
Of course the best way to minimize this risk is to produce great products and have fantastic customer service. But once you have those things, it’s important to monitor the internet through alerts and social media channels to uncover those little sparks of anger and deal with them though outreach and customer service before they turn into unquenchable fires.
4) Current and Former Employees
As we discussed in a previous post, one of the biggest threats to your online reputation can be your current and former employees. The worldwide accessibility or the internet allows disparate groups of people to band together online to share stories and complaints with each other. For companies with a large set of satellite offices or an independent marketing workforce, this is especially true. If a current or former employee posts an unfavorable rant about your company on their blog, or on an anonymous site, others can encounter that rant and chime in with their opinion. Once you have a handful of current or former employees commenting on the same story, they have formed a community of complaint witch will only fuel their own fires.
As a company, it is important to monitor these types of activities on the internet and through social media. When you encounter a community of complaint, you can defuse the situation by asking for feedback and by showing current employees the way to express their concerns through company channels. Many times, they simply want someone to listen to their concerns and frustrations. And if you can provide that vehicle, and correct the situation, you can defuse it and have the posts removed fairly easily.
Attacks from All Sides
But don’t get bogged down in all the negative aspects of online reputation management, the best defense for these often unfounded online attacks is simply to listen to the concerns of any unhappy customers and current or former employees and help them to come to a resolution. And then use effective online reputation tactics to push out the negative information about your company from competitors and scam sites. With this type of strategy, you can maintain a positive reputation online, bringing in more customers and profits.