Why Your Startup Needs to Protect Its Online Reputation From Day 1 It's important for every company to be proactive about its online reputation.

By Andrew Medal

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


With the internet giving people so many avenues to form an opinion about your business, it's important for every startup to be proactive about its online reputation. The waters of social media and online review sites can be cutthroat -- particularly for startups.

Sites such as Yelp and Amazon, as well as those that curate employee reviews such as Glassdoor, have huge effects on your brand's reputation. While bigger companies have the finances to ride out the claims from a disgruntled patron, it can take just 140 words to affect a startup's business growth.

Related: How to Protect Your Online Reputation in 2017

I know this issue intimately as I was the target of an online slander campaign. A company I had helped start went into an ugly civil litigation, and the opposing party did everything they could to damage and tarnish my online reputation. I learned the hard way how important your online story is, and it took me years to clean up my search results.

The power is shifting from business to consumer when it comes to shaping a company's image. Now startups have to get ahead of the curve and do their best to come out of the gates smelling like roses. This is where online reputation management is key.

Brand reputation determines your success.

The conversation has moved online, but the basics are still the same. In a time where consumer's trust in companies is at its lowest, brand reputation is proving to be more valuable than ever.

"Today's cyberspace is an overcrowded standing room," explains Anthony Will, CEO of Reputation Resolutions. "Implementing strategies to build and protect your online reputation is crucial for any startup looking to survive. What comes up on the first page of a "Google' search will have a direct impact on a startup's ability to generate sales and attract investors. By creating a positive online reputation with high ranking web properties, startups can mitigate the risk of negative content impacting their brand in the future, and set the company up for long-term success."

Bad reviews will inevitably come to rain on your parade someday. Use the good reputation you have built as an insurance policy. The best approach will be to have an online presence that engages customers regularly. And not just about sales or when complaints come knocking at your door. Start building a healthy relationship with your customers by exchanging content. Respond to their posts and share ones of your own that relate to your brand's interest in social causes. Do this by having a social, environmental or economic mission.

Related: Here's How to Reboot Your Reputation This New Year

Showing that your brand serves an authentic and meaningful purpose will be crucial to building a good reputation. This is especially true as today's consumer demands that the brands they buy are working to forge change.

Building an online brand personality will protect you.

If used wisely, social media can go a long way in generating consumer interest and building a strong customer base. The same social media that could knock you out with a Pinterest post could also be your savior. That's because more now than ever, people are attributing emotional human traits to a brand's identity -- all thanks to social.

Consumers are now describing brands as "cool," "fun," "snobbish" and even "grumpy." Consider Taco Bell's online personality. Today's upcoming consumer generation sees this formerly "gruff" brand as today's social media cool kid. Companies should leverage social media to craft perceptions of their brands. A good rule of thumb is to keep your interactions with your followers similar to the general mood of your audience; in the case of Taco Bell, most people associate it with post-drinking snacks, so the company is upbeat, fun and a little sassy.

Follow the mood of your people, and be concerned about what they're talking about. Post content that relates to the human personality of your brand -- do this with your direct replies and responses as well. If you can get those consumers to love you for your human traits, they'll be more likely to forgive you when you make a mistake.

Related: 3 Ways to Turn a Startup's Bad Professional Review Around

Content marketing is the (underrated) new black.

Consumers don't really think of content and branding as one. Most of us jump to thoughts of logos, color schemes and slogans. What's more, most marketers are the same. They immediately hear content marketing and think of branded content such as sponsored posts and product placement. But that's not what we're talking about. Content branding is a strategy that can help your brand convey to consumers that you have a culture that caters to them. It starts first by becoming part of the way people see your brand.

Before launching your startup, "invite" content to be your launch party "date" by starting a blog. It can help you to build solid search engine results for your brand's keywords. Optimizing your site for search engines by using content will help consumers to start making associations with your brand before it even comes out on the market.

Andrew Medal

Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Andrew Medal is the founder of The Paper Chase, which is a bi-weekly newsletter. He is an entrepreneur and angel investor.

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