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Five Principles for Managing Your Store’s Online Reputation

Five Principles for Managing Your Store’s Online Reputation

Every business knows that managing its reputation is critical towards ensuring that customers become and stay interested. All businesses, and ecommerce businesses in particular, need to worry about protecting their online reputation given how many people will search their businesses to see whether they can be trusted.

Simply having a good product and quality customer service will go a long way to protect a store’s online reputation, but you cannot make everyone happy all the time. Here are a few ways in which you can protect your reputation by heading off complaints which some customers may have about your business.

  1. Look on the right websites.

There is more to protecting your online reputation than checking Yelp. Social media websites should have people talking about your business, and it is on you to manage it. Social media marketing is basically about protecting your reputation through the myriad websites out there.

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It is impossible for any business to have a strong presence in every social media site, so start by making a presence on the two or three which pertain the most to your business. You should already know which websites are the most relevant. If you don’t, this guide should help you get started.

  1. Understand content marketing.

Your business cannot just make a Twitter account, post a few tweets saying that your business is awesome, and call it a day. Content marketing is a marketing strategy which relies on putting out all sorts of relevant or interesting information to keep customers attracted. A blog where you talk about how your business works is an excellent example of content marketing. Content marketing is cheaper than traditional approaches but requires consistency and a fair amount of creativity in order to compete with all the other businesses on the Internet doing the same thing.

Content marketing could fill a book, but here is a short guide to help you get acquainted with the concept. By continually putting out content, you can cement your business’s reputation as an interesting place which helps people thus counteracting the complaints which others make about your business.

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  1. Look into professional services before things go wrong.

Online businesses have a bad habit of assuming that their online reputation is not a big deal, only to panic and overreact when negative reviews or online criticism hits. In fact, the act of hiring a PR firm after your reputation gets hit can make things even worse in the short term. Customers will get suspicious about whether critics’ accusations towards you may actually be true.

While hiring a professional online reputation management firm means additional expense, it is worth it when you consider the importance of your online reputation. Business News Daily has a good list of companies, but take care to do your own research. Pick a company which you can trust, avoid ones which employ shady “black hat” tricks, and do your research.

  1. Engage.

Dealing with online criticism is always challenging and you may be tempted to do nothing, hoping that the criticism just blows over, but what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. A customer can search your website, find a negative review of your business on Yelp or Glassdoor written years ago, and decide to stay away if you have not done anything to counter that attack.

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Always try to respond promptly and professionally to any negative reviews you find. If you take a peek at PopularReviews, you’ll see a typical product review site where anyone can sign up and post an opinion about your company. This makes reputation management difficult. While many people lose their civility when sitting behind a computer screen, remember this: if you would not yell and insult customers who come into your stores with a baseless complaint, you should not do that towards those complaining online. Professional behavior may not soothe the person who wrote the complaint, but that professionalism will impress others who read your response.

  1. Do not forget your personal reputation.

We have all heard the stories about how businesses have had to fire employees who post inappropriate pictures of themselves on social media. The employees may gripe about being fired for something they did off-hours, but businesses do this to protect their reputation.

This applies to you as well. Google yourself and take some time to go through past posts on Facebook and Twitter and remove any pictures or posts which may be viewed as inappropriate. If you do employ a content marketing strategy for your business, devote some space to your biography and those of key employees. This will make you and your business appear more relatable while also removing problematic aspects which could harm your reputation.

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While the fight to protect your online business reputation is a never-ending struggle, always stay vigilant for threats from your past and present.

Featured photo credit: Chris Potter via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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