"Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes," Age of Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire famously said.

If you or your clients have received unfavorable online comments or reviews, you know exactly what he meant: Years of reputation-building can be toppled by negative online commentary.

But the reality is you can't run a business without having customers and others providing online ratings or comments. It's an expectation in the Age of Transparency. And, as a marketer, you know that hiding from troubling commentary won't do much good in this century, in a time of freewheeling online opinion.

People love to leave comments and ratings: A simple box of Bic Round Stic pens on Amazon has received nearly 1,900 comments. Chances are that you and your clients have also rated or reviewed a product or service in the past year, or added a comment to someone else's comments. And, even if you haven't, you've surely read what others have said online.

Granted, online reviews are particularly worrisome for professionals who never expected that they would be subject to virtual opinions.

Such professionals include professors who are reviewed on ratemyprofessors.com, which invites university students to assess their professors on helpfulness, clarity, easiness, and an optional assessment of "hotness." Religious leaders, too, have their sermons and services rated on Yelp. And, in the healthcare profession, where I work, physicians now have a multiple of rating sites, such as Vitals and Healthgrades, as well as Yelp, Angie's List, and other sites for consumer services.

How to help your clients or your own business in this age of rampant rating? Here are four tips.

1. Build it yourself

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image of Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon is a healthcare marketing vice-president in Southern California and a marketing instructor at four universities. She was a Fulbright scholar and she has written extensively on marketing, branding, and social media for more than a decade.

LinkedIn: Susan Solomon