Online reputation management is a growing concern for practices around the country. Social media, consumer review sites, and specialized “rate your doctor sites” have become a fact of life. While the reviews may be virtual, their effects on your business can be very real. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of negative online reviews and ratings.
Monitor your digital reputation
A “head in the sand approach” is a huge mistake when it comes to dealing with negative online attention. If you don’t know about it, you can’t do anything about it. Googling your practice, scanning social media for mentions, and checking your entries on the most prominent review sites are tasks that should be undertaken on a regular basis. Many sites will give you the option to respond to negative reviews, or to contact complainers to offer a formal grievance mediation process. If this workload sounds intensive or intimidating, consider hiring a professional reputation management company.
Optimize your own online information
Offense is the best defense, even online. If you create and optimize a robust online presence for your practice, you can control which information patients see first (to some extent). When your own website or social media channels show up early in search results, prospective patients are more likely to get the first impression you’d prefer. If the idea of dealing with SEO and online marketing gives you a headache, this is one place where bringing in experts may pay off for your practice.
Know the definition of defamation
You may have some legal options for dealing with untrue negative statements or ratings online, but you must be able to distinguish between opinions and legally defamatory statements. Defamation is defined as a factual statement that can be proven true or false. Check your own office records to see if you can identify the poster and verify the alleged incident. If you suspect that you have a provable defamation case, or if you think that you are dealing with fake reviews left by a disgruntled employee or somebody else with a negative agenda, it may be time to contact an attorney.
When you’re trying to keep a busy practice running smoothly, dealing with issues of online reputation management can seem a million miles removed from real life. It’s important to think of these sites as merely an extension of the oldest marketing strategy in the world: word of mouth. Be proactive about your online presence, but don’t panic. Although the conversations are happening online, they have as much potential to be a positive force for your practice as an in-person recommendation from one patient to another.