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The great power of the internet is that it is easy to share information and opinions.

Yet, the great downfall to the internet is that it is easy to share information and opinions.

We all have come to rely on the internet for information, to learn about products, to research purchases we are contemplating, to hear what our friends recommend and to hear strangers either rave or complain about a product or service.

This means that, whether you like it or not, you have a responsibility to protect the brand of your company by knowing what people are saying and responding accordingly.  So how do you go about doing this?

1) There are a few pieces of low-hanging fruit you should definitely be doing:

  • Yelp & Google Reviews – These are very popular product review websites that you should check often.
  • Comments on your blog – If you are not setup to receive an email when someone comments on your blog, you should.  The worst thing that can happen is to have someone complain about your product or service on your own website!
  • Twitter – You can setup an ongoing search on Twitter so that you can check to see if people are “tweeting” about you.  You’ll need to pay attention to this as these conversations can snowball quickly.

There are also companies that will keep track of all of these things on your behalf.  They will notify you whenever something is urgently requiring action from you and will give you advice on how to handle it.  cMedia is a Seattle-Based company that offers such a service.  It starts at $75/month and goes up depending on the number of phrases you need to track or the number of locations that your business has. 

2) If you do realize that there are bad reviews/complaints about your company:

Take a deep breath and don’t freak out.  People (for the most part) understand that some people like to rant on the internet when it isn’t necessary.  Here are some factors that should allow you to relax quite a bit:

  • If you have an overwhelming number of positive reviews, people will pay attention to these and not the negative ones.
  • If negative comments have bad spelling, grammar and/or lack a solid argument.  These lose credibility for obvious reasons.

3) So how should you handle them?

  • Respond quickly.  If you pay attention and publicly respond with respectable customer service, potential customers will be comforted by this.
  • Use humor in a professional way.  A lot of times people see bad reviews as a ‘Doom & Gloom’ type of light.  Let people know it isn’t THAT serious by sprinkling in a little humor with your professional & courteous reply.  Getting a laugh out of a potential customer will evoke positive emotion which is proven to be a very strong sales tactic.
  • Turn negative into positive.  Someone who is vocal in a negative way is highly likely to be vocal in a positive way.  By “Wow-ing” them with customer service after a bad review, they will often go back and write a glowing positive review to counter their previous comments.  (If they don’t on their own, ask them politely if they will.  It shows that you care about your business, your customers and your reputation.)

I’m sure some of you already participate in online reviews and know exactly what we are explaining here.  For those of you who are new to this, well, welcome to the Wild West of Internet Reviews.  There are no laws and no police, it’s up to you to protect yourself!