Brand reputations can make or break a company; a few bad reviews or questionable comments on social media could turn away customers instantly. Just look at the NFL these days. Especially in the era of social media and the instant gratification of the Internet, if there’s a single mistake your company has made, people will find it.

Of the many things that play into a brand’s reputation, there are a few that you have control over: customer service, your online presence, and corporate social responsibility. By fixing problems (or establishing high-quality practices to begin with) in these areas, you could be on your way to better online reputation faster than you can say “five-star review.”

Make your customers happy.

People trust online reviews and peer recommendations more than advertising and brand content. In fact, Nielsen found that a whopping 92 percent of consumers world-wide say they trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. What does this tell us? Happy customers and word of mouth referrals lead to an increase in sales, which are worth more in the long run than advertising.

Make your customers happy by revving up customer service and customer interactions. These efforts don’t need to be extreme; just making a customer smile can be the difference between a sale and a negative comment. Engage with customers on- and offline to rectify problems and work towards a solution. Communication with those who could potentially turn into your best advocates will go a long way.

Clean up your web presence.

Being on social media is a must for most brands today. This past June, Facebook announced that 30 million small businesses alone had active pages on the social networking site. If your customers are active on social media, your brand should be, too. Once your social networks and audiences are established, set a tone for the brand. Engage with customers and followers to show that there’s a human, and not a robot, behind the brand name. Tell a joke, share an inspirational story, give insights into an industry trend – provide value in some way to your followers and they will keep coming back for more.

A well-executed website is also an integral part of your brand’s online presence. When customers search for you or land on your website, what action do you want them to take? Is that call to action clear when you visit any page of your website? Experience your online presence with the mind of your potential customer, fix any issues that arise, acknowledge the issues and ask for suggestions.

Do good for your community.

Being socially responsible is something that every company and human should work toward. Having a public corporate social responsibility program (and following through with it) can improve not only your brand’s reputation, but also the bottom line. In a recent study, 55% of global consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a product or service if they knew the company was committed to positive social and environmental impact. Get creative and get involved!

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” and we agree. If your brand is in the dog house for one reason or another, start by addressing issues you can control, one day at a time to get that reputation in line once again.

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