reponline

Google is the front door to your business.  Are you keeping it safe from intruders?

Go ahead, Google the name of your company now. I’ll wait.

With direct sales continuing to move toward more of an online model, it’s never been more important to protect your company’s reputation online.

However, before even looking at the results page, what words follow your brand name in the auto-suggested results? Do the words “scam” or “pyramid” or “lawsuit” appear anywhere?
Now take a look at “[your company name] + reviews”. Any negatives?

If all results are positive and clean, good for you! Your company is either new, uncontroversial or has taken steps to build in protection around your brand name.

On the other hand, if you are seeing negatives in your results, so are your prospects, your field, press and  even regulators. Google is the front door to your business. How will you keep it clean?

It’s now time to get working to remove any negatives. With direct sales continuing to move toward more of an online model than off, it’s never been more important to proactively manage your company’s reputation.

Competitors and disgruntled former reps, lawsuits and mistakes from the past are all easily Googled. In our industry, companies who aren’t taking an aggressive approach to managing their reputation online are setting themselves up for real problems.

The fundamentals of managing an online reputation should be the basic knowledge of every direct selling executive. It’s no longer just the problem of the marketing team—everybody from the CEO on down must be involved in reputation management.

In response to the new age of transparency we are witnessing online, following are a few tips to help companies implement the systems necessary to build or repair an online reputation:

  1. Occupying the first few search results with your business website is no longer enough. Direct selling is a ‘considered purchase’, i.e. users will do far more research on your company and products than others. They will scroll, they will click, they will read.

What this means is the first ten results will heavily influence if a person decides to join or buy. Positive or neutral links need to dominate the entire first page of search results. Having community-driven content like videos, positive reviews, media coverage and testimonials will help build requisite trust and encourage people do join our companies and sell our products.

  1. New direct selling companies must defend their online reputation before they even launch.

Once a new company reaches any level of success, the haters and opportunists will likely come out of the woodwork. A new brand is utterly defenseless online as their name can be easily hijacked on Google. “Thinking about joining [Company X]? STOP and watch this video first!” or “[Company X] is it a SCAM?” could be the first things a prospective enrollee sees. Yikes!

The company name, brand strategy, and content plans all can make or break the long-term reputation of a new business. In some cases, the search environment is tarnished before the business even attempts to “manage” its online reputation. Steps should be taken from the very beginning to build a fortress around the brand name.

  1. Negative content online happens—you just have to make it your business to defeat it.

While it can be disheartening and frustrating when negative content pops up, there are strategies to mitigate this. One thing actually in your favor is the nature of the search engines themselves—they are ever-changing and always seeking new, socially-relevant and authoritative content. Managing this is a matter of offering search engines positive content that outranks the negative to regain control of your brand’s top 10 results.

However, it is also important to remember that although the impact of negative content can be mitigated, it may never disappear. Of course, measures should be taken to prevent negative content before it publishes, but even if something unfavorable does show up, it’s not too late. With the right resources and expertise, a company can regain control of their reputation in a matter of months.

  1. Manage the online reputation of not just your brand, but also your executives and founders.

Not only do you need to pay attention to managing the online reputation of your brand, but you should also make efforts to protect key executives at your company. In direct selling, executives are a part of the research prospects do.  Who are the leaders? Are they clean online? Do they have lawsuits or controversy in their background?

A few easy first steps to building reputation for execs and leaders such as dedicated bio pages, utilizing sites like LinkedIn, about.me, and personal blogs can help build a personal brand and prevent easy attacks from haters. Media coverage about executives is also helpful. Media articles, blog posts and press releases will all rank highly on search engines for an executive’s name and help to build credibility, trust and a strong reputation.

  1. Actively seek out online reputation expertise – both within your organization and without.

One of the things we say a lot around here and has consistently proven to be true is that reputation is your MOST important marketing spend. More important than cute videos or even your events.

Why? Reputation is where the relationship really starts—if negative links are scaring away half of people who your field introduces to the company it will be costly in sales, recruitment and retention.

Combatting high-authority negatives and dedicated haters frequently requires additional expertise and strong knowledge of reputation strategies.  Sometimes going it alone can mean making a bad situation worse.

Jonathan is founder and CEO of Momentum Factor, the global leader in online compliance and reputation management for direct selling companies. 

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