You had to create a business plan before starting your business, right? And that meant outlining strategies for growing your business. There is no doubt that business marketing was somewhere on that list . . . and in this day and age, you simply cannot ignore the Internet when marketing your business. One thing you might not have thought of is the need to protect and grow your online presence. Your business’ online reputation can go a long way in determining the success of your business, and so you must be proactive about creating the reputation you want – and that, too, requires strategizing. Where do you begin? Here are the top three online reputation management strategies:

Use the right tools. There is perhaps no reputation management strategy than prevention, and a very powerful way to nip detrimental gossip in the bud is to monitor the web closely for anything and everything people are saying about your business. There are a number of tools out there that exist to help you monitor your online reputation. No one tool can monitor every online outlet. You should therefore make use of social media tracking tools like Hootsuite and Socialmention, as well as web monitoring tools like Google Alerts and blog monitoring tools like BlogPulse.

Identify the influencers. Influencers are big names that have a strong pull in the virtual realm. They may be celebrity endorsers with huge Twitter followings, popular bloggers, or industry experts with major websites. Use your monitoring tools to identify who the influencers are when it comes to your online reputation. Then take good care of those influencers. How do you do this? Make them privy to interesting information about your business before anyone else, so they can break the news, or allow them to provide their followers with your products at a discount (or for a commission). It’s a “you pat my back, I’ll pat yours” kind of world, so be creative.

Ask for reviews. Customer reviews are one of the best ways you can garner attention from new customers, and grow the loyalty of existing customers. Ask your satisfied customers to post reviews on review sites like Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, and Google Places.