Guarding your business and personal reputation

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Reviews, online security and personal reputation management

In the business world, your influence and reputation are your personal currencies, but the former is greatly affected by the latter. Your reputation, whether conveyed online or via word-of-mouth, enables you to connect with others effortlessly. Therefore, any tainting of your reputation may have repercussions. It's crucial that you employ personal reputation management — whether that means reviewing what consumers are saying about your services or practicing online security to keep company matters private.

Actively respond to reviewers

Although there are numerous sites where customers can leave comments about you and/or your business, there will typically be two to five key sites that get the most traffic and reviews for your particular industry. According to Forbes, you should "track everything that is being said." Designate someone at your firm to read all reviews. Be sure to thank each person who leaves a positive review, especially if customer engagement and high service levels are part of your brand, as this will enhance your reputation for appreciating customers. Likewise, when you read a negative review, determine what can be done to resolve the problem. Sometimes the reviewer will provide specific details; if so, follow up accordingly. If not, reach out to the reviewer. Great follow-up can cause people to re-write or amend their reviews.

And if you or someone at your firm makes a mistake, admit to it. Apologize and make amends whenever possible. Oftentimes it's not the mistake that causes problems but the refusal to admit and address it quickly. The sooner an issue is uncovered and addressed, the less negative impact it has. Own your mistakes and celebrate your wins.

Engage with your stakeholders online

Is your company's blog very corporate, or is it personalized? Inject personality into your blog by including an occasional article from yourself or another executive from your company. Periodically include information about company and personnel happenings via your Facebook page or Twitter account. If your business is consumer-based and lends itself well to photos and short videos, use Instagram. Join conversations on various LinkedIn groups that pertain to your business. Proactively manage your reputation by engaging with your customers, partners, employees and others online.

Be authentic

Consumers increasingly want to do business with companies that are authentic — firms that remain consistent between what they say and do. Or, as Inc. magazine puts it, if you're known for making pizzas, don't start making hamburgers and dilute the brand. If you're good at something, tout it. Confidence is attractive for people and businesses. However, if you are not great at something, do not claim to be. People are much more supportive of individuals and firms that are humble.

Embrace online security

Social media platforms are taking steps to combat the issue of negative anonymous comments, but the comments remain persistent. Occasionally these anonymous entities hack into known accounts and create spam posts that could set you back years. To prevent this, make sure that you limit who has access to company accounts and that you change passwords for your business quarterly, and annually for your personal accounts.

Be careful of what kind of information you share online. Make sure your personal passwords are strong for bank, brokerage, insurance and other accounts. Don't autosave passwords in your computer browser in case your computer gets hacked. Instead, install a password manager for you and the rest of your company.

Your reputation is one of your greatest assets as it can make or break your relationship with clients. It's important to reinforce wise use of online security, review responsiveness, asset protection and authenticity in all of your firm's interactions. Proper execution of reputation management will drive the results you seek.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.