We were honored last week to find our way into an excellent piece by Lisa Stephens of the Globe and Mail, on the subject of companies managing their online reputations, especially in cases where they’ve faced negative consumer reviews.

Negative reviews are inevitable. They’re also nothing new. In fact, a Google Search for the term “negative reviews” turns up 1.38 million results!

When it comes to reputation management, some business owners are still in denial. How about this cafe owner, who – stung by negative reviews on Yelp, a popular local business review site – posted a sign banning “Yelpers” from the cafe. Talk about compounding the problem!

There is, of course, such a thing as an unfair review or a bad customer. But the savviest business owners know that sour grapes won’t help turn the tide of public opinion. By being proactive and open and courting an entourage of supporters who will be willing to drown out (or argue with) the negative voices, it’s possible to come out on top.

Sam Decker, VP of BazaarVoice, writes about the importance of negative reviews in establishing the overall credibility of a site that incorporates user feedback. I couldn’t agree more. I was recently a little disconcerted when I visited the American Apparel site, because of the presence of too many glowing, cheerleading reviews of its products. Some simply said “I haven’t tried this yet but I’ll be getting one really soon!” Poring over the various reviews, I actually felt like I’d be more likely to buy the product that had at least one negative or moderate review. Why? Because I wouldn’t be as likely to suspect that the reviews are fake.

To boil the advice down to one point, I’d probably say that you shouldn’t wait for negative “incidents” in online reputation, but rather, be proactively building that reputation all along. That means treating the online world as an extension of the offline word-of-mouth world… including, potentially, participating respectfully in the debate. Consumers are the kind of animal that can smell fear. Build confidence by establishing online reputation as part of your proactive, not reactive, marketing arsenal.

Posted by Team HomeStars

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