Expand your presence

Think of the Internet as a room full of people shouting. The more people you get shouting your message, the more likely it is that your message will be heard, and other messages will be drowned out.

That’s the basic theory behind expanding your Web presence to protect your reputation online.

According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, nearly 66 percent of consumers go online to research products or services before making a decision to buy. If a negative news article, a bad review on a consumer site or a rant by a disgruntled employee is the first thing that pops up when prospective clients research your business, how likely do you think it is that they’ll do business with you?

Your online reputation can color the way many groups view your business, including stock holder, prospective clients and employees, journalists and your current staff. Having a page full of negative news stories, blogs from angry ex-employees or a link to a competitor’s site on the first page of a Google search of your company name can be harmful to your company’s business.

That’s why taking proactive steps to build and maintain your online reputation is so important. Companies often spend decades building their brands, working to build a reputation to reliability and trust. They know that how the public perceives them has a big influence on their bottom line. The importance of a good reputation extends to the online world, where a growing number of people are going to get their information about the companies they do business with.

By establishing a larger Web presence, you can influence how you’re perceived by the Web browsing public. The more sites you have spreading a positive message about your business, the more likely it is people will land there first before finding negative news or hate sites. Here’s a few ways you can expand your online presence.

Company Web site — If you don’t have one, get one. If you already have one, make sure it’s user-friendly, has a domain name that fits well with your business and is updated with recent and useful information.

 

Embrace the media — Local television stations and papers are always looking for something to fill the space between the ads. Most of these agencies have sites these days. Send your press releases to local newspapers and television stations and work to develop a relationship with their reporters. The more positive stories you can get on your sites, the more likely it is that folks using search engines will find a positive message about your company when searching online.

Use social networking media — Get a Facebook or Twitter site for your company and fill it up with useful and fun, but business-appropriate material. You don’t have to be as formal as you are on the corporate site, you can fill the site up with workplace events like company softball games and employee birthdays. Make it fun.

 

Have a social networking policy for your employees — Everyone gripes about their boss, but it’s not wise to do so in a public forum. Make it clear to your employees that posting negative opinions about the company on social networks or Internet forums is not acceptable. No one wants to institute an Internet “thought police,” but employees should be expected to act with professionalism and discretion.

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