How to Take Advantage of Online Review and Answer Sites: Know What People are Saying"The first phase of social media was listening to the conversation. The second phase was joining the conversation. The third phase will be hosting the conversation on your site," says Calacanis. But first things first, here are some of the best ways to track public opinion about your company.1. Keep a finger on the pulse. There a multitude of free sites that allow you to track mentions of your company or brand on both traditional and social media. Some free and popular methods include setting up Google or Yahoo! Alerts, as well as tracking Twitter hashtags, which serve to organize trends and topics, and mentions of your user name. Using Guy Kawasaki's Alltop, a directory of popular blogs and articles on a wide range of subjects, can help you keep tabs on the movers and shakers in your industry and potentially develop relationships with them. In a separate category from reputation monitoring sites and services, Google Analytics is a great free tool that lets you monitor your website traffic which, among other things, can help you evaluate the success of your social media efforts. Finally, it's probably a good idea to keep an eye on the competition as well to see how you could improve and avoid pitfalls.2. Get insight into customer satisfaction. Services such as RatePoint, a suite of widgets that business owners can subscribe to, including customer reviews, surveys, and newsletters can be downloaded to any commercial website. The service helped Will Aubuchon who runs Hardwarestore.com customize his inventory to better meet customer demand and boost revenue by 5 percent last year.
Dig Deeper: Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online
How to Take Advantage of Online Review and Answer Sites: Responding to Negative ReviewsIf your Yelp page is one of the first things to come up on a Google search, scathing reviews can put a real dent in your pocketbook. At the same time, sometimes you have to toe the line. Here's how to approach a giant digital thumbs down. 1. Don't get defensive. It's the natural response but no matter how justified you feel, your initial response to a miffed customer should be apologetic that they had a negative experience and convey proactive steps to address the problem. 2. Be quick on your feet. Customers will often go back to update a negative review if the issue gets resolved, so a swift response can turn a negative into a positive. 3. Be discreet. Reach out to negative reviewers directly and privately, you want to learn more about their grievance and acknowledge them in a controlled setting. Perhaps later, if the situation is applicable to a larger segment of your customers you can post a general apology or update on your website or blog.4. A few bad reviews won't kill you. Obviously it would be great if all your customers composed sonnets extolling your company's greatness and performed them on YouTube, but even if you have hardcore fans, there will always be haters. This is one reason you should encourage customers to review you. The more feedback you have the smaller the voice of the malcontent reviewers will be.
Dig Deeper: How Businesses Can Respond to Criticism on Yelp
How to Take Advantage of Online Review and Answer Sites: Removing False InformationResponding to constructive criticism is one thing, you can take it into account to improve customer satisfaction and your business in general, but what if there's false, defamatory information about your company floating around in the ether? One site, the RipOff Report, serves as a forum for consumers to complain about different businesses. However, the founder and editor of the site, Ed Magedson, refuses to take down false complaints, though he will investigate them for a fee. This business model has made RipOff Report the subject of many lawsuits, but the site appears to have survived most of the legal challenges unscathed. If you find yourself in this situation, here's how to take matters into your own hands after politely requesting a retraction, of course.The main thing is to beef up your SEO. If people refuse to take down defamatory content about your company, your best option is "trying to push that domain onto the second page of Google so that it's not coming up in the top ten results," says Brad Fallon, an SEO expert and the CEO of Stompernet, a network for entrepreneurs to compare best practices for online businesses. After all, acing the algorithms to manage your online reputation is a lot less expensive than dragging the situation before the courts.Fallon also recommends that companies not only keep a main company website but also several other ancillary blogs or domains for key products or events, which will also help to control what shows up first in a Google search. If that doesn't work, you can engage in SEO sabotage: purchasing links to the offending website that appear on a site that's already in the search engine's doghouse for violations such as keyword stuffing, machine-generated pages, or copyright violation. Such behavior is malicious but has yet to be deemed illegal. A SEO consultant would probably only do this if the content that you're burying is defamatory to your company and not just a customer with a bone to pick.
Dig Deeper: Can you take legal action against a former employee who bad-mouthed the company?
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