Brand reputation protection is vital online because it can take years to build a solid brand reputation.
Unfortunately, it can be much faster to lose your reputation due to dissatisfied customers, unscrupulous competitors, or careless mistakes. Here are some of the most effective ways to maintain a pristine reputation and secure your brand name.
Practice Social Media Listening
Social media listening or monitoring is a crucial practice if you want to build and maintain your brand reputation online. It's essential to know what people are saying about you at all times.
Another reason to monitor social media is to make sure someone doesn't set up a page or account using your business name. If you want to protect your name, consider getting it trademarked.
Buy Multiple Domains
If you have a domain for your business such as MyStore.com, it can be confusing to customers if a competitor has the domain MyStore.net.
The only way to prevent this is to buy multiple domain extensions to protect your brand's image and not allow squatters or scammers to intercept or profit from your brand reputation.
It's not realistic to buy every extension as there are now thousands. However, it's good if you can own the best-known extensions. Aside from .com and .net this includes .info and .org.
When someone already owns these domains, it's a good idea to research them and see if there's a website on these domains. When there's a website that's similar to yours, it's worth considering starting over with a fresh domain. When there is no website you can inquire into purchasing the domain.
Of course, if you've spent years developing your website you may not want to start over with a new domain. In this case, all you can do is make an effort to differentiate yourself from the competitor's site.
Be Proactive About Legal Matters to Protect Your Brand
Many businesses are caught off guard with problems such as lawsuits, spam complaints, or claims of copyright infringement.
It's worthwhile to take the time to research all the legal requirements of your business and website.
Here are a few tips to help you stay on the right side of the law:
- Keep in mind that you have to pay attention to global as well as local regulations if you're online. For example, today's websites should be GDPR compliant in case you have customers from the EU.
- Be careful about using graphics downloaded from free websites. It's safer to subscribe to paid sites where you can be sure you have permission to use images.
- Trademark your business name, logo, and any unique product names you want to safeguard.
- If you have an email list, always have an unsubscribe button clearly posted with each email. Never send out emails to anyone who hasn't given their permission.
- If you're unclear about any legal matters, consult with an attorney. While this costs money, it's cheaper than having to deal with legal problems in the future.
Take Steps to Thwart Hackers
Hackers represent a real threat to your brand and reputation.
Between identity theft, ransomware, and viruses that harm your website, your valuable digital property can be effectively destroyed in minutes.
There's no way to keep your site 100% safe but you can take certain steps to minimize your risk:
- Make sure your website has an SSL Certificate, which can be verified by the HTTP at the start of the URL. This not only makes it more difficult to hack your site but it will also make your site look more trustworthy to visitors. Most web hosts provide SSL Certificates but you may have to take steps to activate them. If you're not sure how to do this, contact your web hosts' support staff for assistance.
- If you currently use shared hosting, consider upgrading from shared hosting to a more secure plan such as a dedicated server or VPS (Virtual Private Server). These plans are costlier than shared hosting but you'll get better performance as well as enhanced security.
- WordPress sites are especially vulnerable to hacking. You can make your WP site more secure by using plugins such as VaultPress or WordFence Security. Speaking of plugins, be careful to only download plugins (as well as themes) from trusted sources. In general, free plugins and themes from unfamiliar companies should be avoided. You can also keep WordPress more secure by updating to the latest version.
- If you sell physical products, you need to be aware of counterfeiting and brand hijacking on e-commerce sites such as Amazon. It's common for someone to copy your product and sell it at a lower price. Aside from costing you sales, cheap knockoffs are usually low-quality and can harm your reputation. You can install chips into your products to verify their authenticity. The main protection against counterfeiters, however, is to remain alert. If you notice someone trying to hijack your listing, report them to Amazon at once.
Recruit Your Employees as Brand Ambassadors
Unless you're running a solo business, your employees play a major role in building your reputation.
Anyone who interacts with the public, whether on the phone, in person or online is the face and/or voice of your company. However, even behind-the-scenes employees do their part to either help or harm your brand.
If you want to build a great reputation, you must make customer service a priority. Customers are more likely to forgive mistakes if they feel respected and valued during all communications. Your employees should understand the importance of having a positive and helpful attitude when interacting with customers.
Make sure you have clear policies in place for creating any content for your business. Whether employees are creating ads, emails, or social media posts, they should be following certain guidelines so that they stay true to your brand's message.
Online reviewers are extremely powerful when it comes to making or breaking a business's reputation.
You can't please everyone, so don't worry about an occasional negative review. In some cases, however, a truly malicious customer or competitor will write a review that's full of untruths.
For example, someone who's never even patronized your business may post a critical review. Many sites will take down a review if you can show that it's fraudulent.
Just as you need to monitor social media, you need to watch review sites carefully. You always want to know when someone posts a review, positive or negative.
One of the best ways to maintain a good reputation online is to respond to all reviews. Thank people who praise you. When appropriate, apologize for mistakes and do your best to make amends. Report any suspicious reviews. Many review sites will take down fraudulent reviews.
Protecting Your Brand Reputation Demands Vigilance
Keeping your brand and reputation safe takes constant attention.
You may have to make certain changes and make more of an effort at educating your employees on proper policies for brand reputation protection.
Keep in mind that building a reputation is an ongoing process.
Remember to consistently monitor your own online properties as well as social media and review sites to track what people are saying about you. Be proactive in your brand reputation protection by following the above recommendations and you're be ahead of the game to thwarth any brand thrashers online.
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