The Internet and social media have accelerated how rapidly reviews — whether positive or negative — are shared. They also serve to raise the online profile of your company.

Customer reviews provide potential clients with an insight into your company and make them feel confident to hire you. Though business owners can’t completely control their company’s online profile, they can use social media to influence their brand’s reputation and respond appropriately to customer comments. But creating a balance between promotion and protection can be tough.

First, start by claiming your profile on multiple business sites. Then make it convenient for customers to review your company. And then, once your company receives reviews, respond to them — both the good and, most importantly, the bad.

Ask Chris Marentis, CEO of digital marketing firm SureFire Social, why it’s crucial for companies to have a consistent flow of reviews and he’ll answer: If they do, then a negative review isn’t the only item potential clients see.

Marentis says that, in some ways, negative reviews “make you more real,” and how you handle those reviews provides potential clients with insight into your company culture.

Maximize Your Profile

6 Tips To Deter Negative Reviews

• Improve customer service and quality to prevent bad experiences that customers want to share.

• Check in with clients at the end of each part of the remodeling process so you can pinpoint areas that need improvement.

• Include a complaint process on your website and be open to criticism from customers in person.

• Ask all clients to post reviews so you give voice to all your customers — not just those who are dissatisfied.

• Let your staff know of any complaints so they are not caught off-guard by a client.

• Conduct your own survey at the end of a project so you can resolve any issues.

Most online directories that allow customers to review businesses also provide a place for business owners to create a free profile. One of the first things Marentis does for his clients — in addition to setting up a profile for their company — is to make the most of that profile by using every tool provided by the directory. “Make sure the profile description has name, address, phone, keywords, consistent categories, service area, pictures, logos, and video,” he says. “More-complete profiles contribute to your reputation, so a review is more likely to get published.”

If owners don’t do this, he points out, the directories will populate a profile by pulling information — which may not be accurate — from other sites.

Be aware of each directory site’s rules and guidelines. For reviewers, some sites require that they fill out a profile before they can review a company; some allow any visitor to review a company; and others have review filters or use an internal algorithm to post and order the reviews.

Most of these sites offer tips for how to respond to reviews, which can provide insight into the directory’s process. There are sites that require companies to create a profile before permitting them to respond to reviews. And some offer a basic, free profile with the option of paying for an enhanced profile with additional features.

For example, once a company creates a free profile on Yelp, the site provides tools including the ability to upload photos, add up to 3,000 characters per description, message customers who have reviewed their business, and track traffic to the business listing. Businesses can also set up a Yelp Deal or gift certificates, Yelp’s PR specialist Rachel Walker says.

For company owners who have created a business profile on Judy’s Book, the site notifies them of any new reviews, says general manager Ali Alami. The directory allows those with a free listing to send one response to a user review. Companies that pay for a listing can respond as many times as they like. “We send out a package to coach the owner on what they should do,” Alami says.

Judy’s Book does allow anonymous reviews, but reviews are not automatically posted. The company uses a fraud filter, and in addition, “we have someone read through the review to make sure it follows our terms and conditions,” Alami says. The company captures the reviewer’s email and Internet Protocol address so it can contact them for clarification.

Marentis notes a trend on some review sites: They give priority to comments by reviewers who actively participate in social media sites and have a strong online presence. Another trend: encouraging consumers to read their friends’ referrals and reviews.