Your online presence is your online storefront. Regardless of whether or not you have chosen to represent your business online, your brand is being affected. How is that? Well, if you are represented online by customers who have gone and left reviews on sites like Yelp and Facebook and you haven’t engaged to respond to those reviews –your brand is being affected. If you have no online presence at all and prospective clients and customers can’t do any research into your business before interacting with you –your brand is being affected.

Your online image directly impacts your sales, prospective clients, and future engagement.  A large number of people will find a reason online that influences them not to buy from a specific company. These reasons can vary. Sometimes the reason will be negative reviews. Sometimes the reason will be a lack of reviews altogether. Just like your brick and mortar reputation –your online reputation is fragile. In a world of instant feedback, we have the opportunity for instant inadvertent demise of an organization.

How can you prevent that from happening? There are several steps to take to salvage your online reputation. Customers are the most important part of your business. Without customers or clients, you wouldn’t be in business in the first place. Because of that, you should be treating customers as the valuable part of your business that they are. When it comes to your online reputation, respond to customers. Make them feel heard, valued and validated. This is a relationship and, as with any relationship, customers want to be treated with respect.  Their concerns should be treated as valid.  They are valid. They are the backbone of your organization.

Even the customers who are spending the least amount of money are valuable. The internet is an equal playing field. The customers spending the most amount of money with you or the least amount of money with you have the same power to ruin you.

If you don’t have the time or resources to effectively make customers feel important and heard online, then outsourcing may be the best option for you. When it comes to a make or break facet of your business, you can’t afford to let your online reputation ruin you.

Businesses who ignore their “online storefront” fully or who don’t engage with their audience and just repeatedly regurgitate promotional content are alienating their customer base. It shows that you don’t care about the comments or concerns of your customers or that you aren’t available for their comments or concerns at all.

Remember also that employees have a very strong opportunity to make or break your business by the way they conduct themselves on social media. Having a social media policy could mean the difference between the success and failure of your business. All it takes is one disgruntled or disrespectful employee with a skewed sense of humor and an Instagram to completely destroy your brand.  Pair that with a few shares and then news reports and blogs written on the incident and suddenly you are in crisis mode trying to sort through the wreckage and explain what happened.

Having no online presence at all can be just as damaging as having a negative presence that you aren’t addressing.  When potential customers and clients are considering engaging with a business for the first time, they are taking their time to research these companies online to see if they are legitimate.  If you have no sort of online presence, whether it be a website, reviews or social media, it is much less likely that these people are going to turn into customers for you.

The point? Have an online presence. Maintain that online presence. Consistently show an authentic and genuine interaction with your customers.  Negative online reputations sink brands every day. Don’t let yours be next. Do you have any tips for salvaging or maintaining your reputation? How do you think a lack of online presence negatively impacts brands? Comment below!