MRU speaker: Don't fear online reviews

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BROCKTON, Mass. — Transparency.

That is the key component for business executives and owners to keep in mind when creating and managing their online reputation.

“Most people have a bad review and their first response is, ‘How do we get it out of there?’ The reality is, once it hits the Internet, it’s up there,” Lighthouse Media Solutions COO David Jensen said. “Socially it’s not accepted, but it’s also challenging to remove something. But what you can do is move it down in the search results.”

Jensen was speaking Wednesday to attendees at a regional Marine Retail University. The events are presented across the country by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Dominion Marine Media to help boat dealers drill down into their regional marketplace.

The daylong events are also designed to provide broad industry information in a series of seminars, such as the one Jensen gave on managing an online reputation.

Instead of trying to expunge damning comments from review websites or company Facebook pages, the better option is to have a proactive response to negative ratings and reviews, Jensen told the crowd of about 125.

“A critical component to consumers’ decision-making process is from reading both good and bad reviews,” Jensen said. “The more important part is how you deal with it.”

The first step in locating such reviews is to do a Google search, perhaps a painful one, such as “company name” plus the term “sucks,” Jensen said. Or the company name with the words “bad service.”

For company owners or managers who have a high profile, it might also make sense to plug those names into Google searches, he said.

Company owners should also make sure they’re claiming their review sites on platforms such as Google+ and Yelp, Jensen said.

“If you don’t have these two claimed, you’re leaving the door open for your competition to outpace you and increase their results,” Jensen said. “You also run the risk that your online reputation will get hijacked. These profiles are relatively easy to claim.”

It’s important to respond to both positive and negative comments. “The more posts you make, the more it shows up in search engines, and the more ads these sites can sell,” Jensen said. “It’s very important that you respond to both positive and negative comments. It shows consumers you watch and you care.”

When you see bad reviews, “Don’t remove them, don’t remove them, don’t remove them. I can’t say that enough,” unless it involves profanity or actual slander, he said.

“But you all have ways to defend against this,” Jensen said. “The best thing you can do is drive that stuff down, and the only way to do it is to generate more content. I can’t tell you the number of Yelp reviews that have gone from a very negative response to saying ‘thank you’ in the end. That voids the negative comment for the next person who sees it.”

Whenever possible, respond initially online, but try to resolve a particularly heated customer offline, he said. “Making sure you respond is important, but making sure you generate more content is just as important.”

By generating content, Jensen means asking people that you know are happy you’re your service to review your business on Yelp.

“If you try to write reviews and inject them into Yelp as a review, as soon as somebody recognizes that’s you, you lose your reputation, or rather, you gain a negative reputation, and there is no coming back from that because it will haunt you for the rest of your days online,” Jensen said. “Being transparent is also really important in an online environment.”

Once a negative situation is resolved offline, take it back on, Jensen advised. “Bring the bad experience to a resolution as much as possible.”

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