We’ve often talked about the endless benefits and opportunities of the internet for building brand awareness and establishing thought leadership for your accounting firm. Vulnerabilities exist there, too.
The wonderful thing about an internet presence is that it’s always there, reaching huge audiences every minute of the day with everything you do. The horrible thing about it is…exactly the same. Websites, online reviews, social media feeds – they never stop! This fact is generally an asset to your marketing, but it brings with it responsibilities and vulnerabilities as well. What if someone says something that isn’t fair about you or your company? What about fallout after you (or someone else that works at your firm) indulge in an uncharacteristic binge of ranting or partying and share the moment on Facebook, Twitter or (God forbid) LinkedIn? These are valid concerns, and there’s no way to avoid them. Maintaining your online reputation matters for your business, and Marketing Profs’ brief slideshow addresses four ways to help keep it positive:
- Do the website work. Small firms may not have a lot of manpower or other resources to put into website maintenance. Even so, if you have a firm website you need to make sure it says good things about your firm’s diligence and commitment. Do whatever it takes to get the pages complete and working correctly so that clients don’t run into partially functional sites that give the impression you may or may not be open for business.
- Avoid engaging with malcontents. Sooner or later you may face an unreasonable, untrue and unfair accusation made in the public sphere. When this happens, you won’t help matters if you respond with indignant anger or fact-based denials. Calmly offer solutions, if there was actually a problem, but do not get down on the level of the attacker. Ignoring flamers is a reasonable strategy, and often their claims will be rebutted by other audience members who know the firm better. As upsetting as these incidents can be, it’s really better not to become over-involved with nutty or extremely exaggerated complaints.
- Show good sportsmanship. In the course of debating relevant issues, things can get out of hand. While lively discussion and even arguments have a place in analysis among thought leaders, personal attacks do not. Always check your comments before posting to make sure they’re something you’d want to stand by in a calmer moment. Putting your foot in your mouth when your fingers do the talking is just as uncomfortable as it is in person, only this time there’s a bigger audience and your lapse in judgment is there in black and white forever.
- Avoid controversy. This one can be the hardest, and brings the most significant cramping of your personal style. Unfortunately, social media linkage means that what you share on your personal pages is sometimes seen by professional contacts who may be offended by your stance on an issue or your behavior while out of the office. Your friends will live with it, obviously, but business acquaintances may not be as tolerant as the people with whom you once shared a nice jar of paste. Does that mean you lose the right to express yourself fully on your personal social media pages? Maybe. Or not the right, but the freedom to do so without consequences that affect your business. Many of us struggle with this blurring of the lines between Work Me and Real Me, but it’s something to consider when you post.
However you feel about social media and the internet in society, they have a huge impact on your firm’s reputation and bottom line. When you choose to use them, remember that your words will go a lot farther and last a lot longer than they did in the old days. Even personal communications have a way of affecting your work eventually. Remember Congressman Weiner? Think twice before you type.