Today’s world of reputation management is not to be ignored. Big companies are called to task by bad PR blunders but often small businesses have the greatest stake when it comes to managing their business and brand online.

An amazing 72% of consumers trust online reviews as reported in the 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey. Just a few bad reviews can spread quickly. Be vigilant in monitoring and avoid the most damaging mistakes (sign-up for our free UpCity Daily Tips newsletter to learn more about managing your reputation).

Mistake #1 — Thinking your business is too small.

Business owners that think they are ‘too small’ to be impacted by online reputation management could be in for a rude awakening. Our connected world makes it easy for everyone to share their thoughts on services and products. People talk, especially when they love you or something goes horribly wrong. Take time to manage your reviews.

Solution: Increase your workforce!

You have a voice, too. Monitor every word via social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite. Do you have a teenager in the house? A niece or nephew that lives on Facebook? They are probably happy to earn a few dollars to help with social media monitoring. Sign them up and pay a small amount for each comment they respond to. Task-based compensation works well, especially at minimum wage. Be sure to provide parameters on how to respond on your behalf.

Mistake #2 — Ignoring Bad Publicity

This cannot be overstated. Do NOT ignore a bad review or hope an unhappy customer will disappear. It doesn’t work that way. So how do you respond while keeping your cool?

Solution: Start with the words…

“Thanks for your feedback.” This lets people know it’s okay to be unhappy and you are open to constructive criticism. If it’s blatantly bad and not constructive at all, still start the exact same way. It smooths ruffled feathers. Next, ask for specifics of their experience. Getting details will help you discover the breakdown in customer service, shipping, or product defects.

Mistake #3 — Letting Your Personal View Override Business Objectives

Completely understand that it hurts when your personal efforts and hard work are being criticized. But, this is business. They don’t know you and it’s easy to voice a gripe online. Let it roll off your back.

Solution: Put yourself in their shoes.

Remember how you felt the last time a bad experience happened to you. It might have been a rough day with extenuating circumstances. We’ve all said things we were sorry for. Find links that support your point of view or product claims. Share them with the customer in a non-confrontational and logical way.

Mistake #4 — Creating Fake Reviews for Your Business

It’s tempting to go in as an anonymous reviewer to say how wonderful you are. It seems easy to pump up those reviews but really bad news if you get caught. Review sites have created filters to determine authentic reviews, Yelp’s strict guidelines are a great example. Once they filter you, all legit reviews can disappear (forever).

Solution: Don’t try to manage it.

Customer feedback happens. Good service will be rewarded but making it up never works. Be sure your customers know you have have a place online where they can talk.

Mistake #5 — Not Being Authentic

Don’t pretend to care or want to resolve the problem, if you don’t intend to follow through. There’s nothing worse than promise of satisfaction if you’re not prepared to stick to it. Have an honest voice and let your customers understand what you stand for and why, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Be authentic AND respectful.

Solution: Set ‘best practice’ customer service policies in place.

Post it prominently on your website. This allows you or your team to reference the policies so customers can understand what you offer. Don’t offer a 30-day money back guarantee with outlining the exact rules of what applies and always honor your word without exception.

You are your business and vice versa. Always think how you want your business perceived and manage your reputation to meet those goals.