Most realize how important online reputation is to their business. But did you know that 88% of the top 100 direct sellers show negative search results on the first page? Does this statistic include your company?
Despite the many amazing achievements of our industry, there remain serious challenges to the direct selling business model. From avaricious Wall Street stock manipulators to disgruntled reps who never really tried, the threats to our brands are continual and pervasive.
With access to search engines and social media in everyone’s pocket, these online “meanies” can now instantly reach a vast audience—directly impacting direct selling companies’ retention, recruitment, and revenue.
Negative search results are often the deciding factor in a new prospect deciding not to join a direct selling company. A few negatives on the first page of search results, particularly from reputable sites, and you could be immediately losing 40% or more of your prospects. That directly affects the ability of your field to recruit, and ultimately your bottom line.
Our firm recently reviewed the search engine results of the Top 100 Direct Selling companies worldwide and found a staggering 88% had at least one negative link on the first page. Often the link had the word “scam” or “pyramid” connected to it. Unfortunately, bottom-feeder marketers and online bullies have discovered that such inflammatory words get more clicks and views, thus the negative becomes a vicious circle.
The consequences of widespread online negativity for our industry and companies are massive. The current connected generation is, at the moment, open to the model, but if current public and online negativity festers online, the opportunity to reach them could be lost for another generation.
There are solutions, and companies can counteract the influence of the meanies by taking the following steps:
1. Commit to combating negativity in the search engines. A Google search of a company name and executives is nearly universal. If your company does not show well in search, you should commit all necessary resources to fix it.
2. Educate your field in best practices for social media and other online marketing. Many reps do not understand how to properly market their businesses online, and often inadvertently put your brand at risk with unauthorized marketing and .
3. Be vigilant in identifying, prioritizing and enforcing your online compliance policies. The regulatory environment has taken a hard line over the past year on claims made by independent representatives, and it is critical for companies to prevent the use of illegal claims.
4. Engage your field on multiple social media platforms. Create content worth sharing and encourage them to do so. Highlight and promote their success stories, especially on video. This will help your social media and other secondary sites rank well in the search engines.
5. Monitor blogs, social media and news outlets for both positive and negative mentions of your company and respond accordingly. Thank people for positive stories and reviews and promote them. Address negative comments – if and only if you think it can be resolved – and try to move the conversation offline for resolution. Don’t feed the trolls, but if you can solve one person’s problem, stopping that negative review or conversation could save dozens or hundreds of prospects down the road.
6. Make a firm commitment to exceptional customer service. While much of the negativity may be directed at the actions of your field, your customer service department is ultimately who is in the greatest position to impact your company’s reputation. Consider the big picture, and whether your policies and practices are really supporting your long-term objectives. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
7. Once you know you’re delivering great service and support to your leaders, encourage them to write online reviews about the company. All too often, leaders complain to corporate management about “all those negative reviews”, but when you ask them if they’ve written a positive review, the vast majority answer “no”. Who is supposed to write great reviews about your company if not your happy, successful field leaders?
Ultimately, there’s a lot more to cleaning up your company’s reputation – and the industry’s – than just influencing search engine results. Understand that influence on your bottom line and dedicate the resources to making the necessary changes. It may be an ongoing battle, but it’s one worth fighting.