Do you know what current and potential customers will find when they do an online search for your business name? As much as the Internet can help build your small business, it can also cause irrevocable harm if you’re not actively taking the steps to protect your online reputation.
Brandjacking is when someone pretends to be your business for the purposes of damaging your business’s reputation or influencing your business’s brand equity.
Secure Your Online Brand
Part of establishing your brand requires securing your online entities. Securing your business name on multiple platforms can prevent brand confusion.
- Website URL
Secure your domain name as soon as possible. Select a domain name that is directly related to your business trade name. While the .com should be your primary domain extension, consider securing multiple domain extensions like .net or .org. You may want to further protect your business brand by trademark registration. Purchase variations of your domain name. For example, if you’ve got a music business named Three Phase Beats, consider purchasing 3PhaseBeats, 3PhaseBeat, or 3FazeBeats. You can redirect the traffic to your primary domain name to avoid losing valuable web traffic and potential customers.
- Social Media
Secure your username on popular social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn immediately. Even if you aren’t fully prepared to utilize the service, secure the appropriate name before someone with ill-intent does. Use an e-mail address designed specifically for social media and a secure, hard-to-guess password to protect your accounts in case an employee’s e-mail address is hacked or the person responsible for social media leaves. Services like KnowEm and NameChk can help you identify available names on multiple social media platforms.
- Business Listings
If you’ve been in business a decent amount of time, your business is probably listed in an online directory waiting for you to claim it. Popular search engines offer business directory listings that allow you to claim your business information, ensuring it appears on maps and search engine result pages. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, YellowPages, and TripAdvisor are a few popular sites that allow you to claim and edit your online business profile.
Monitor Your Online Brand
Monitoring your brand is an essential part of protecting your reputation. You should always know what people are saying about your business online. You can hire a company to manage your online reputation or you can do it yourself.
- Search Engine Results
Monitoring the online reputation of your small business should become a routine task that you perform on a regular basis to provide quick damage control and address customer concerns. Set up Google Alerts to receive e-mails each time your business name is mentioned online. Perform an online search for your business name on a routine basis to monitor the results. Use tools like Topsy, Trackur, and Social Mention to monitor references to your business.
- Social Media Tracking
Using Twitter’s search feature, perform a search on your username (@Username) and relevant hashtags. According to Twitter, if someone sends you a reply and you are not following them, the reply will not appear in your Home timeline. Instead, the reply will appear in your Notifications tab. In other social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest, perform a search of your business name and bookmark the results page to make it easier.
Be Ready for Damage Control
Establish a plan to address comments or answer customer questions and concerns.
- Negative Comments or Reviews
Most customers will go online when they have a negative experience. Monitoring your online brand regularly can prevent negative comments from lingering, and demonstrates that you value your brand and customers. Be prepared to address their concerns, offer an explanation and possible compensation, and avoid being angry and defensive. Be authentic and helpful in your response.
- Positive Comments or Reviews
Show appreciation for people who leave a positive review or comment. Acknowledge any favorable mentions by responding and thanking the user for taking the time to share an experience. Encourage more customers to leave positive comments on your online profiles to show the value of your business.
Monitoring your online reputation is critical to the success of your business. Customers search the Internet with regularity and a review — negative or positive — can impact your business. Creating a strong and consistent online presence and regularly monitoring it can help ensure accurate online mentions, counteract negative comments, and encourage positive reviews.