When you are a consumer looking into companies to provide a good or service, what's one of the first things you do after looking at price tags? You ask around about what others think of the company. Whether they have quality products or services, whether they have a reputation for trying to scam their customers and so forth. With the internet, this information has become even easier to find.
And yet, also because of the internet, the information is far more unreliable. Negative reviews are more amusing to read and carry quicker than positive ones after all, and one little incident can be blown far out of proportion. But what can be done about this?
The first step is to find out what your reputation on the world wide web actually is. This can be done a number of ways. Perhaps the most reliable is to get another company to do the legwork for you, such as by being able to review job listings at Reputation.com. Failing that, you can enter your company into a search engine, search for posts about it on Facebook and so forth and dig through to see how many negative versus positive comments there are, and how much attention each of these are getting from others. Needless to say if the negative comments are numerous or getting a lot of attention, that will scare a lot of customers away. In some rare cases there might be organized movements to disrupt or boycott your company.
A reputation is not easily fixed. If you want to have a positive reputation, run a PR campaign, preferably organized by a third party with experience. Be more open with your customers by organizing company forums or a Facebook page for you and them to talk. Try to swing the positive comments to attention and the negative ones to less a one by liking and disliking reviews while reporting overly offensive ones to the relevant authorities so the post could possibly be taken down. Even if you already have a good reputation doing all of this can seriously increase your flow of customers.
Being aware of what others think of you will help guide your policy and actions. Knowing what people think will make you aware of what they want, which will in turn lead to being able to provide quality goods and services without having to worry about smear campaigns.