Whether you are acting on your own or on behalf of your business, you should know that your online reputation can mean the difference between success and failure. If you have literally thousands of competitors, why should someone choose you? Your reputation is the first answer to that question, and it is not something you can control on a moment-to-moment basis.
I’ve found it takes groundwork, and often years of outreach, to make an impact. Once you do, however, you’ll be that much ahead of the pack when it comes to getting customers or clients. This isn’t a hurdle; it’s a step up that you just have to build yourself.
Here are a few tips to think about when considering your online reputation:
Gain a Comprehensive Understanding of Social Media
There are few things more embarrassing than making a major mistake on social media. Whether it’s sharing a far too personal photo on a business Facebook page or merely sending a post out at the wrong time, people will measure your social media skills as some measure of your competence, especially if they have no other reference point for your work.
Before you try and manage your reputation too much or make major changes, though, it would be wise to thoroughly review each social media network you plan on using for your work.
Try the following:
- Make a throwaway account (or just start this when you have no followers) and try just about everything you can within the user interface. Learn by doing and interacting. Don’t focus on what you send out so much as the process of sending it. It isn’t a major endeavor, but just make sure you know the ins-and-outs of each button.
- Read e-books and articles online to learn some tips and tricks. I did this when I first started experimenting with social media and the background knowledge I gained complemented my trial-and-error efforts quite nicely.
- Learn what types of posts people react to within your industry and pay attention to the times you post. Contrary to what a lot of blogs and “experts” say, there is no “best time to post,” but being aware of when engagement is higher or lower will help you keep ahead of the competition and will improve interaction with your audience.
There will be other ways to learn, and you should take notes along the way, but just remember that learning how to use social media is much like learning how to use good form and posture—it takes practice and patience, so don’t give up and eventually you will start to see results.
One Person Can Make the Difference
When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean go out of your way to provide special services to everyone you interact with online. You should, however, try to make every experience and interaction a positive one. You don’t know who might recommend you, effectively doing your marketing for you. Treat everyone like they could be the spark that sets your business aflame.
If someone is asking a question, answer it and try to do so publicly so that the answer is there for others and also to show to others you regularly interact with followers online. If you can determine a deeper problem, try to address it. Good favor pays excellent dividends when it comes to your online reputation.
The idea that one person can make a huge difference also applies to negative opinions and press. To potential customers and partners, one complaint will stand out among a sea of happy customers. While I firmly believe you should delete abusive and toxic comments from any page under your control, address legitimate criticism with open arms and honesty. It will make you look far more professional than ignoring such remarks.
If a major part of your business comes from online activity, then you need to be able to respond quickly to anything that comes up and reply to messages/emails within 24 hours. If you get a reputation for being slow to respond, you won’t find many opportunities coming your way, as people don’t want to be held up.
Balancing the rest of your life with your online life can be difficult, but I’ve found the following habits to be helpful:
- Check your email, social media accounts and any websites you have twice a day. This will ensure you get back to people within 24 hours of receiving a message. Unless you’re expecting communications, this is a perfectly reasonable timeframe for a response.
- Have a way to access most of your accounts on your smartphone in case you get a few spare minutes waiting in line at the store or riding public transit. This way you can make use of your “idle time,” and this will relieve some of the burden during the rest of your day. My only warning with this is to either use your data plan or invest in a Virtual Private Network, as hackers will steal your account details over a public WiFi network.
- Keep a list of common questions people ask so you can respond to more frequent inquiries faster. I wouldn’t necessarily encourage form responses or form letters, but there is no need to craft 100 percent unique responses to every question. Be prepared and then you can spend more time tailoring responses to less-common or more-detailed questions.
Stay Focused and on Message
While you should absolutely remain personable and relatable to your audience, there’s no need to split it by talking about divisive issues. You can do as you will, but it’s not advisable to talk about political or spiritual issues on your fitness pages unless you are certain your audience will be receptive to your thoughts. Even then, you might intimidate future visitors to your pages, which can hinder your growth.
You also want to consider that people usually know you for at most a few things online, and you should generally stick to those things. Far too many marketing campaigns (especially fitness marketing campaigns) get derailed in favor of a cause or by trying to branch out into new products and services. If you try to focus on too many things, you can lose your reputation as an authority on one topic. Focus on what you do well and what your audience wants and you and your brand will stand strong for it.
There is, of course, more to managing your online reputation than what I’ve discussed here. If I wanted to go into complete detail about it, I’d need a book deal and six months. It’s a constantly changing process that’s rooted in traditional ideas. If you hold to those ideals, you’re going to have a good reputation. After that, it’s just a matter of marketing.
How do you handle your online reputation? Do you think there are other things people should know? Do you agree with the above points? Please share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below!
About the author: Caroline is an online marketing professional and blogger with years of experience under her belt. Based on time spent freelancing, she knows how important reputation can be online and hopes that you can take away important information that will improve your career. Catch up with her on Twitter at @eHealthInform