Ted Vickey by Ted Vickey

I am writing this blog post at midnight from an airport where my flight has just been cancelled, leaving me stranded after a long day of meetings. Rather than fighting the more than 150 fellow passengers to rebook at the airport, I turned to Twitter. Within minutes, I was able to determine the airline wasn’t going to be able to rebook me for two days, so I tweeted Southwest. By the time I reached the baggage claim, they had me on the next flight at 10 a.m. the following day. I praised Southwest on Twitter and had a Twitter rant with the other airline—both of which were retweeted numerous times. Because of the first airline’s lack of concern, I will never fly them again. Because of my interactions online with Southwest, I will be a customer for life.

The advent of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, has made it very easy for disgruntled customers (and future customers) to leave both positive and, yes, negative reviews about your service. Negativity spreads as fast as the latest fad diet. Research suggests that it takes 10 positive comments to offset the impact of just one negative comment. Do you know what is being said about your personal-training or health-coaching business online? How do you respond to such reviews? Take these steps to protect your online reputation.

Step 1 – Protect

Even if you have no interest in using social media, consider registering your company on all of the major services. This will avoid possible confusion from similar-sounding companies or those from other cities, or from others creating fake accounts under your name. You work too hard to allow a negative review that isn’t even you to impact your business.

Step 2 – Monitor

Create a plan to monitor your online reputation. Eighty-three percent of consumers say online reviews influence their perceptions about companies and 80% report that negative online comments have changed their purchasing decisions. I personally use Google Alerts to send me an email every time my name is mentioned online. Additional services like Hootsuite, SocialMention and IFTTT can monitor your online mentions (both positive and negative).

Step 3 – Respond

When negativity happens (and accept that one day it will), respond immediately and never ignore negative comments. Remember to respond in a professional manner and take the emotion out of the reply (yes, that is hard to do). While the negative comment will never go away, neither will your carefully crafted professional reply.

Don’t let a negative comment create a bad first impression. Monitoring your reputation is a daily task, but with the proper tools, you can streamline your work. And don’t forget to forge relationships by also replying to the positive comments with a word of thanks.

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