Just when you think you’re safe, someone could take a shot at your business in cyberspace.
That’s exactly what happened to shop owner Greg Sands, who operates 29 repair shops across the country and is also CEO and founder of Mudlick Mail in Acworth, GA, a company that provides demographically targeted, direct mail programs for auto service and repair shops nationally.
An individual who claimed to have inside knowledge of his business began posting a series of false statements about Greg and his shops on a variety of consumer websites and blogs.
Despite his quick action of hiring a “computer forensic specialist” to track and identify the culprit online after roughly a week, it took a few weeks to undo the damage.
Greg stresses the importance of recognizing the various on-line threats that may endanger your brand name, and offers these guidelines for maintaining a good reputation in cyberspace.
Monitor and Manage: I bet a lot of shop owners don’t even know that on-line complaints about their businesses exist. My SEO company was the first to spot the alarming posts and bring them to my attention. But even shops that don’t utilize SEO firms need to monitor their on-line presence. Google your name regularly to see what type of hits are returned. It’s also worthwhile to visit Yelp and other consumer review sites to gauge feedback.
If you see negative posts or reviews from customers who have had a bad experience, take the time to respond and attempt to address the issue as quickly as possible. If you can fix the problem, it increases the chance that the customer will update his or her post to reflect your efforts to improve the situation.
Of course, there will always be a certain number of complaints that are bogus, posted by cutthroat competitors or angry ex-employees.
Take Action: Very few on-line comments call for legal action. But inaccurate or untrue statements made on a large number of sites should be cause for alarm and could signal a larger campaign to harm your business. In those instances, it’s also wise to act more aggressively in order to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control or garnering media attention. You also need to play hardball occasionally to send a message to others who may be thinking of damaging your business using message boards or review sites.
Ask for Help: Remember, you’re in the business of fixing cars, not disarming Internet bullies. So don’t be afraid to ask the experts for help. If someone is spreading false claims, the first thing you’ll want to do is hire an SEO firm to prevent the comments from showing up first in search engine results. They can also investigate the feasibility of removing the comments from some sites. An SEO firm might also be able to help refer you to surveillance experts and others who can track down the source of the claims. And, a public relations firm can help craft a response to the on-line posts, if necessary.