Online critics should not be silenced

Somebody, somewhere does not like you. Tough, but true. Sure, we would all love to be loved by everyone, but it just is not going to happen; live with it.

It’s the same for business. I think Tesco is a great company, but I know people who detest it. Equally, I reckon that Marks and Spencer is rubbish, but there are clearly people who think it is great. That means, there must be people who think that your business is dreadful as well; perhaps they don’t like your methods or your prices, but there will be people who think your business is pants.

Gaining universal acceptance for your business is just not going to happen. However, before the event of what is loosely called “Web 2.0” (blogging, forums etc.) you would have been blissfully unaware of the fact. People could have been at dinner parties up and down the country berating your products and services, but you would have been none the wiser.

Now, thanks to the Internet, people can post their thoughts about your business in blogs, in forums, chat rooms and so on. And that means you can find out about it. Criticisms you were previously unaware of are there now in black and white for you to see.

Many businesses don’t allow comments on their blogs because they don’t want negative remarks posted. Equally, other businesses who find negative comments about their firms posted somewhere on the Internet try to get it stopped. This was the case in Massachusetts recently, where a gym owner got lawyers involved in her attempt to stop a disgruntled customer from saying negative things about her business.

But this kind of action could have the reverse effect; it might show your customers or potential customers that you are heavy handed, that you are not prepared to listen or that you are arrogant. In other words, you may be able to get lawyers to stop the negative comments, but the psychological impact on your potential or existing clients could be negative as a result.

Far better to allow the negative comments but to swamp them with positives. If you create so much positive content about your business in hundreds of different places online, the negative comments will disappear into the background. Indeed, take this approach and those dinner party conversations will turn to how positive you are.

The Massachusetts gym owner may have silenced her online critics, but now she’ll never know what they are saying at dinner parties about her. Better to let your business critics have their voice – just make sure your voice is louder.

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