As a small business owner, you’ve poured your heart and soul into your business. You’ve stayed up late to put the finishing touches on a project due out the door the next day, you’ve poured over resumes for hours in the desperate search for the right employee that could help, and you’ve scraped and saved money where you could so you could pump it back into your business. So I can imagine your dismay when you found out that someone was attacking you online. Your heart raced, and every single pore in your body seemed to open up and release cold rivers of sweat. You were angry, and you were scared. You couldn’t figure out how to make it stop. I get it. In fact, I’ll bet that hundreds of small business owners are dealing with the very same thing right now. While recovering from an online attack certainly isn’t easy, you’re about to learn my favorite tips that could help you to rebuild your brand name and undo some of the damage that’s been done. I’ll even give you some quick tips and tricks you can use to build a firewall around you to prevent further attacks. Sound good? Let’s get started. #1. Assess the Damage All reputation attacks aren’t created equal. For example, a former client who writes a screed about your business on a personal blog that gets only 5 hits per day can’t hurt you as much as a former employee who writes a damning Yelp review and shares that review all over social media sites. One is small. The other is huge. Sometimes, just watching what pages come up when you type your business name into Google can give you a great idea of the panic level that would be appropriate. If the nasty bits show up on Page 8, 10 or 12 and they’re not repeated, you have only a tiny bit of cleanup to do. If the first page of results is full of horrors, you have a bigger issue to resolve. Looking at your social media sites may help, too. Running searches on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can help you to see just how much chatter is happening, and how much traction a particular problem seems to be gaining. #2. Examine Your Options Once you have a good handle on the scope of the problem and the major players involved, you can begin to strategize and plan. If you’re lucky, you might even kill off an attack right here. Some reputation management problems spring from out-and-out lies. I’ll give you an example. If you’re running a restaurant that serves only soup and an online critic suggests that your soup is made from dirt you’ve pulled out of your garden, that’s libel. It’s a lie, and it can hurt you, but these things are super easy to fight. In many cases, you can simply contact the site administrator that’s hosting this bit of tripe and provide proof of your innocence. Moments later, down the content will come. But if the comments have even a tiny glimmer of truth, you might have more work to do. To go back to my original example, if your restaurant is under assault from a patron who suggests that your soup is “icky” and “not tasty,” that’s a personal preference, and while it might hurt you, you can’t prove that it’s wrong. If this is the case, back to work you must go. #3. Explain and Contain You might feel helpless in the face of a nasty attack, but you do have options. In fact, you have a whole arsenal at your disposal. Each and every social media site you participate on can help. Have a photo of your mouth-watering soup? Put that on Pinterest. Client compliments you on Twitter? Re-tweet, coming right up. You could even share a recipe or two on Facebook or on Instagram. On your blog, you could write about how long it takes for you to make your product each day, and how much your customers love the food you serve. You could also ask your customers to help you by sharing their opinions on Yelp and on other social media sites they use. All of this sharing and talking takes time, but you know what? Each time you do reach out, you’re proving the worth of your business and refuting the nasty statements others have made. It’s good work to do. #4. Monitor and Repeat Once you’ve successfully buried one attack, another might be headed in your direction. It’s sad, but it’s certainly true. The best way to skip Steps 1 through 3 is to stay on top of your company’s reputation, 24 hours a day. Monitoring tools can help. By setting up electronic monitoring, you can keep track of any new mentions of your company that pop up online, and you can refute any lies you see. Have you dealt with something like this at your company? I’d love to hear your story. Share with me in the comments section! 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