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The direct selling industry has been going strong for years, with 118.4 million people involved and $193 billion in sales worldwide in 2018. However, just as the internet and increased consumer knowledge are impacting traditional business models, direct sales must also evolve in this digital landscape.

Managing your online reputation is vital. In fact, studies prove that consumers will likely do some online investigating about your brand before they decide whether or not to do business with you:

  • 91% of customers read online reviews
  • Even in a store, 8 out of 10 customers will look online before purchasing
  • 93% of internet searchers never go past the first page, so the first 10 search results primarily influence their impression of your business, product, or service

Have you Googled your business lately? Anyone can say anything about you online. Unfortunately, the direct selling industry is too often targeted for criticism by people poised to cry “scam” or disgruntled former distributors with an ax to grind. It’s very possible that some of those critics show up on the first page of your search results. And chances are, they are hurting your business.

How Your Reputation Affects Your Bottom Line

Your online reputation is essential for business success. Just look at how potential customers are affected by negative hits on the first page of search results:

  • 1 negative article = risk of losing 22% of customers
  • 2 negative articles = 44% of customers may be lost
  • 3 negative articles = 59.2% lost customer risk
  • 4 or more negative articles = loss of 70% of potential customers

You can see how crucial it is that you take control of your company’s online reputation, especially if you’re in direct selling. It’s not only important for you, but for your distributors who rely on the company’s reputation to succeed.

Yes, it’s true that much of your online presence is influenced by outside forces. It’s also true that effective online reputation management can be complex and time consuming, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of negative sites or reviews. (That’s why many companies hire online reputation management services.) But the good news is that there are things you can do to build up and protect your reputation. These 5 reputation management tips can get you started:

1. Mobilize Your Field

The most visible ambassadors for your brand are your independent representatives. Every interaction, every conversation, every presentation, and every social media post reflects on your company and reputation. They can be one of your best tools in reputation management, or one of your biggest hurdles.

Provide your field with the tools, training, and guidelines to reinforce your brand message and show the positive aspects of your company. That doesn’t mean that they have to be inauthentic or over-the-top positive, but if you give them what they need, they can spread the online reputation you want faster and wider than you can do yourself.

2. Track Your Progress

A valuable component of any reputation management strategy is tracking your progress. Conduct an online search for your brand name and make a list of the negative, positive, and neutral results. Monitor and update the list regularly so you can see if your efforts are making a difference, even if it seems small at first. This can also help you adjust if there are techniques that seem to be more effective than others.

3. Stay Active on Social Media

One of the best ways to protect your online reputation is through social media. Develop proper profiles and link them together, as well as link to them from your main website. Make sure that your profiles and pages have complete descriptions about your company and products, with relevant keywords for search engines. Then keep your social posts fresh with regular updates. The more information you put on social media, the better chance you have of them ranking higher in search results than negative content.

4. Expand Your Online Presence

In some ways, online reputation management is a numbers game. Search engines see how many times your company is mentioned online and ranks the top-performing pages higher than those with less traffic and engagement.

Bottom line: Make sure search engines see more high quality, positive results (that you control) than negative results (that you don’t). A great way to do that is to use third-party and/or review sites to boost your reputation and expand your presence online.

5. Build Brand Positivity

You can also push down negative search results by, in effect, drowning them out with positive content. You can share success stories, give back to the community through service days (and share widely), or highlight the good things your reps are doing. Hold contests that help spread positive messages and experiences with your brand, catch people doing good in the office or at events, or launch social media campaigns that reinforce the good things about being part of your company. This also has the added bonus of motivating your field at the same time.

Along with these five reputation management tips, make sure you aren’t doing these other four things that might accidentally put your reputation at risk.

Realize Reputation Management Is a Long Game

There isn’t a short-term or one-time fix in reputation management — especially in the direct selling industry. Cleaning up your reputation takes time and continual effort, but the results are well worth the struggle. Have patience, don’t get discouraged, and celebrate the little victories along the way. Six months from now, you’ll be glad you started when you did.

Got a bad rap and not enough time to fix it on your own? Let the reputation management experts at Big Leap help you put your best foot forward online and reap the rewards — just like we did for this client.

Jaime Theler
Jaime Theler is a published author, freelance editor, and content writer at Big Leap. When she isn't writing or volunteering in the publishing community, you can find her running, reading, or hiking. She loves to drag her family on "nature-cations" and has been accused of the inability to sit still.