“How you act and react in the digital world can make or break your company’s name”

Increasingly consumers are making their purchasing decisions online so make sure your business is responsive in the digital world.

With the vast majority of us turning to the web to purchase, engage and organise our lives, it has become increasingly important for businesses to keep their online images squeaky clean.

Discount airfares, a taxi for an early flight, reservations at a boutique hotel and a three-hat restaurant – having checked out their reviews on TripAdvisor – can all be arranged with the click of a mouse from the comfort of your home.

According to an ACMA report, “Australia in the digital economy report”, 69% of internet users have purchased at least one good or service online in the past six months. How you act and react in the digital world can make or break your company’s name, so here are some tools and tactics to help manage your reputation.

Monitor social media and react to criticism

Social media is a powerful medium for businesses to steer their brand’s message and it’s important to keep an eagle eye on reviews and comments, and respond to consumer feedback in order to avert potential disasters swiftly.

An example comes from retail giant Harvey Norman, who avoided a potential boycott in 2010 by pulling a controversial radio advertisement just four hours after it was criticised on Twitter. Furthermore, they used the platform to send direct messages to the unhappy people involved.

This incident is evidence of how businesses can use social media to quash negative sentiment and avoid PR disasters and while many businesses are proactive using social media, many are also using it to see what's being said about their brand.

Engage with customers

According to our recent Yellow Social Media Report 2014, 74% of social media users have read online reviews before they purchase.

Kelly Brough, executive general manager of digital partnerships and innovation at Sensis says more Australian consumers are using social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

“This presents small and medium businesses with clear opportunities to build customer relationships and potential sales although our research shows that businesses are not effectively engaging with these channels,” she says.

It is important to engage with your customers and be vigilant in responding to their comments and reviews, whether negative or positive. With the speed of social media, responding and giving validity to comments or claims is essential.

Strengthen your SEO strategy

If something negative has been published online about you little can be done to remove it, according to Matthew Gain, head of digital at public relations company Edelman Australia: “If companies have a strong social media presence then the most relevant and trustworthy information will rise to the top. With negative articles that do outrank your own articles, you need to strengthen your search engine optimisation strategy.”

You can also act pre-emptively by having a solid library of content (uploaded to blogs and other social media) which is updated regularly so that positive information that you control is pushed further up SEO rankings.

Sign up for Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a good way of keeping abreast of what’s being said about you across social media platforms, online news sites and forums. Receive emails (you can control the frequency of these) with results listing the number of times your company has appeared in news articles or blog posts. Perform simple Google searches throughout the day to screen what people are saying.

Examine your content

Focus on improving your Google rankings through boosting content and becoming a trusted resource yourself, rather than relying on online review sites to spread the good word.

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