Our CEO, Andy Beal, shares his reputation management advice with Dance Business Weekly and discusses why talking trash about your competition is a bad idea.
Andy Beal, head of Reputation Refinery, a consultancy on building businesses’ online reputations, has even included a chapter called “Don’t Talk Trash” in his book Repped. “Your reputation is only as strong as your character,” he says. “Eventually negative comments come back to you and your reputation will be tarnished. That can cause more harm than you think it will.”
And remember, anonymity is largely an illusion on the internet, says Beal, who has in the past been hired by a business owner to sleuth out the identity of a critical online commenter. That means that any dirty tricks you try, like pretending to be a competitor’s disgruntled customer and leaving negative feedback, have a strong chance of being found out, if not by your competitor, then by the review platform (e.g., Yelp) itself, he says. Apart from being found out, it’s a matter of priorities. Where can you most effectively focus your energies as an entrepreneur?
When a potential client reaches out to us for help repairing a damaged reputation, there is one important factor that we always have to measure in order to determine if we can truly help them:
Have they demonstrated a contrite effort to change their character to better reflect the desired reputation?
Whether that’s a change in management, a change in production quality, or a change in the opinions that were expressed personally, without a sincere effort to improve their character any online reputation management campaign is a waste of time. More so, we don’t take on their project as we feel we would just be helping them to sweep the issue under the rug.
There are many reasons for this but, even if you set aside the fact that we would be attempting some kind of cover-up, the truth is, even if successful, they will likely face another reputation crisis down the road as the underlying character has not changed. And, as Abraham Lincoln once said:
“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
If you cannot, or will not, change the character of your personal identity or company, then you must accept that this now becomes your new reputation. Perhaps you feel strongly that your character is good and justified. That may be true, but a reputation attack means you were not transparent in building a reputation that matched it.
When it comes to building your online reputation, it can be tempting to focus too much on the most popular social media networks and risk the wheels coming off. For example, if you spend all of your time posting to Twitter, what happens if Twitter starts asking for money or decides your tweets violate its policy?
Instead, you have to think of Facebook–or Twitter, or Google, or your newswire service, etc–as a spoke in your wheel. Each plays a role in supporting the wheel, but if one spoke fails, your wheel is still turning.
So, what is the hub?
The hub is the channel that you own. You control it. It is the central part of your branding. It’s your own website. My advice is to always use some kind of blog platform on your site and let that be the hub for all of the content you publish and promote.
If you’re not sure where to start with your own online reputation management please reach out to us. We offer a free initial consultation and can talk about a strategy that helps you build your online brand.
Using unethical/blackhat online reputation management tactics is like an athlete taking steroids. Yes, you may see some improvements, but you will eventually be found out and suffer the consequences–just ask Lance Armstrong!
That’s why Reputation Refinery will never use any ORM tactics it considers to be unethical and why Buzzfeed News turned to our CEO, Andy Beal, for his help in uncovering such tactics and provide a warning for others:
Andy Beal, a consultant and author of books about SEO and online reputation management, told BuzzFeed News that most reputation projects involve “using search engine optimization to try and push negative pages further down Google [results].”
“If you’re trying to get positive things to show up in Google, those positive things need to be legitimate, be real.”
To make that happen, Beal says he works to create high-quality, positive content about a client that reflects who they are. The goal is to give a client the reputation they’ve rightfully earned, he says.
“Your reputation is a reflection of your character. So if you’re trying to get positive things to show up in Google, those positive things need to be legitimate, be real — they need to be an extension of the great things that you’re doing,” he said.
“In a legitimate reputation clean-up campaign, you focus on rehabilitating a reputation, not just whitewashing the internet with fake, positive content,” Beal previously said of that campaign.
When figuring out your profit margin, you likely look at your different operating expenses: supplies, licensing, taxes, insurance, etc, etc.
But, are you factoring in customer reparation costs?
Customer reparation cost is the amount needed to make an unhappy customer happy again in order to protect your online reputation, so that a potentially negative review, post, tweet, etc doesn’t reduce the amount of income your business generates.
As a reputation attack can come in many shapes and forms, it’s not practical to assign a customer reparation cost to each product you sell or service you provide. Instead, you should simply set aside a certain percentage of your total income as an emergency fund for customer reparation costs.
Why is this important?
Here’s an example of an unhappy customer hurting your profits:
A customer is unhappy that the shirt they ordered was very wrinkled and they had to get it pressed. They ask you to reimburse $8 to cover the cost & time involved.
Your refuse, because, well, it’s just some wrinkles. $8 is way too much! The shirt only cost them $25, you cannot afford to refund $8!
The customer then writes a negative review, posts a negative blog post, tweets about their experience, and tells their friends to avoid buying from you.
You have not only lost the lifetime value of that one customer, but potentially have lost the lifetime value of other customers that Googled you, checked Amazon reviews, or saw the tweet. (Also known as the lifetime cost of a detractor.)
It’s a $25 shirt, with, let’s say $10 in profit. An average customer buys 3 shirts from you, over their customer lifetime value.
You drop from 100 new customers a month to 90 new customers a month, due to the attack on your reputation.
Quick math: $10 (profit) x 10 (customers lost) x 3 (average per customer) = $300 per month, lost in lifetime customer profit.
$300 per month in lost profit, because you dug your heels in and refused an $8 refund–or even a credit on their next purchase.
Whether you decide to set aside a reparation emergency fund each month, or simply accept that 1-2 times (or more) a month you will have to take a small hit to the profit from a single customer order, is up to you.
Just keep in mind that the amount of potential lost profit is often huge compared to the small expense of making an unhappy customer happy again. And let’s not forget the immense cost of hiring a firm such as Reputation Refinery to rebuild your damaged reputation.