“Whether it’s a restaurant review on their mobile phone, buying a new car through their laptop, or finding out what their friends think about a physician, people are using search engines to find out what they want to know,” says Erik Deckers, owner of a blogging and social media consulting agency in Indianapolis, IN, and who has also co-authored two books on social media for personal branding and businesses.
“If someone has said something negative or nasty about you, that will show up in a search, and can affect whether someone visits or avoids you, he adds.
All kinds of things can happen if you’re not monitoring your reputation, notes Deckers. “A lot of businesspeople I talk to refuse to participate in social media because they’re afraid people will start saying bad things about them,” he says. “What they don’t realize is that people have been saying bad things about them for years. They just don’t know it. But these if these comments and negative reviews go unchecked, you’ll hurt your practice and lose out on potential patients.”
Set up Google and social media alerts
What you should monitor first is what shows up when you Google your own name. Additionally, Deckers says to see what sorts of things are being said about you and your practice if anything is being said.
“The only thing worse than people saying bad things about you is if no one says anything about you,” he says. “If people don’t find you on a search engine at all, they won’t even know you exist, and as such, won’t visit you.”
Ashley Baxter, a reputation management consultant in Dallas, TX, and owner of Baxie404, says that the best way to keep track of new things being said about your business online is to setup a service to monitor the web for new pages that are indexed which contain a reference to your personal or business name.
“A solid free tool that can be used for this is Google Alerts,” says Baxter. “Also, you should attempt to monitor social media mentions of your as well. A good tool for this would be Trackur.”
Be proactive online
Sam Richter, CEO/Founder of SamRichter.com in Minnetonka, MN, says that all companies should be managing their online reputation. Since many of your customers are already online, it’s best to be proactive and to start controlling the information that will come up in a search engine result.
For example, Richter recommends setting up a very professional LinkedIn account and carefully craft the bio.
“Then use that bio in multiple other sites that are highly ranked by Google including Google Profiles, Google+, and your personal and business Facebook pages,” he says.
If appropriate, Richter also recommends that you participate in LinkedIn Groups, write blog posts, and craft YouTube videos—which can easily be be done in a few hours over a weekend.
“All of these are highly indexed by Google,” he says. “The good news is you can outsource this for very low costs, oftentimes to a local college student or stay-at-home writer.”
Responding to negative comments
Your customers and prospective customers may read something about you or your business on a social media platform like Facebook, on a review site like Yelp, or even in a comment on an article about your organization. Every business hopes that it’s mainly positive feedback, but when there’s a negative comment, be careful how you respond. With customer review websites and social media, companies should always take a humbled approach.
“First, try to determine if the comment posted came from a real customer,” says Baxter. “Many times excessively positive comments are posted by office staff and sometimes negative comments can come from your competition.”
“If you read something negative, the first thing to do is not freak out, rant and rail against the reviewer, or say, ‘I knew it! Social media is a bad idea,’” says Deckers.“First, look at the reviewer’s complaint. Is it a valid one? This may be a complaint about a customer service experience and it may actually be a real symptom of a real problem.”
After you’ve determined the validity of the comment, Baxter advises you to reach out to the customer and give thanks if it was a positive comment. If it was a negative comment, reach out and express concern for any difficulty they had with your business.
“Next, I would suggest offering to make amends by giving a complimentary service on their next visit.”
Finally, do not ever respond negatively to a negative comment. You’re better off just leaving it alone.
“If you respond with threats of a lawsuit or demands that they remove their comments, just know that these things have a way of making national news or gaining the attention of thousands of people,” says Deckers. “Leave it alone, and it will most likely be seen by only a handful.”
You can respond if something positive is written, of course. If nothing else, Deckers says to simply say, “Thank you. I appreciate the kind words.”
“The commenter feels heard and appreciated,” he says. “If they have a good feeling about you because of this, they’re more likely to refer other people to you as well.”
As a full-time freelance writer, I help clients write clear, concise, and effective content for blogs, brochures, newsletters, Web sites, and other marketing collateral. For more information, visit www.danielcasciato.com.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Medical Office Today.