Online, anyone can say anything anonymously. What if someone says something about your company? How can you defend against it?
Sites exist on the Internet for the sole purpose of providing angry consumers a place to vent and slam your business. Some of the anger is justified. Some is not. Some can be over the top vindictive. It may be completely fictitious and thereâ€™s nothing you can do to force the site owners to remove it.
Sadly, our legal system has proven inadequate in dealing with this aspect of Internet libel. Courts have ruled that website owners are immune to civil liability based on user generated content, even if the material is false and the site owners failed to verify its veracity or remove it when notified it as false.
As a business owner, what are your options? You can pay the site owners a â€śfeeâ€ť to act as an intermediary between your company and the original poster, if he can be found. Even this transparent form of extortion has, so far, been protected by the courts.
Your other option is to bury the slander. Less than five percent of Internet users click on the second page of search engine results. Your job is to create enough higher ranked listings in the search engine to push the slam to the 11th position (since most search engines default on ten results per page).
Hereâ€™s ten things to do:
1. Update your website. If you havenâ€™t updated your site lately, do it now and keep doing it weekly. While no one knows exactly what the search engines use for page rankings, recent information does take priority over older information. Time alone can help push the slam to the second page, though itâ€™s still better to nudge it along.
2. Record videos, embed your company name in the title, and upload them to video hosting sites. The search engines love video. Buy a $100 flip vid and record an installation, talk about IAQ, explain why people should call you, and so on. Each of these can help drive the slam listing lower by taking precedence.
3. Create a blog and link it to your site. You can create a free blog at blogger.com or wordpress.com. Post to it every few days.
4. Claim your company listing on Google Places, Bing, and Yahoo. Fill out all of the information about your company.
5. Create a Facebook company page. Invite your friends and get employees to invite their friends. Post updates weekly.
6. Open a Twitter account and start tweeting. Use your company name in the Twitter account and complete the full profile. Tweet once or twice a day.
7. Create a company profile on Linked In.
8. Claim your listing on Yelp! Fill out all of the information on your company.
9. Look for sites to list and link to your company, such as the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, manufacturer listings, etc.
10. Consider creating separate micro-websites. Focus on separate issues, like IAQ, solar, geothermal, etc.
You should also monitor your reputation. Set up a Google news alert for your personal name and your company name. Once a week, search your company to see what pops up.
Donâ€™t take on everything at once. Take your time. Be methodical. Not only will these actions push the slam to page two or three, they will raise your Internet presence and bring you more business. So why wait for a slam that will hopefully never come? Why not act proactively to defend your reputation and build your business simultaneously?
Matt Michel is the CEO of Service Nation Inc., which operates the Service Roundtable, Retail Contractor Coalition, and newly launched Service Nation Alliance, which offers exclusive territories, global best practices, multiple exit strategies, and lucrative rebates. To learn more, call toll free 877.262.3341.