8 Strategies for Small Business Reputation Managment
Whether you are active online or not, chances are people are talking about your business online. Consumers use the internet to review businesses and vent about poor experiences. If you don’t track and control these reviews and mentions you could face a storm of poor reviews and complaints online that can ruin your business’ reputation.
There’s hardly a business out there that doesn’t have an occasional issue arise with a customer. By actively tracking these issues that pop up online, you can resolve things before it reaches a point where a customer believes they can only get satisfaction through a public forum or feels they ought to warn people about your business. The internet has made it so the barriers between one customer and another are far reduced — word-of-mouth can now travel almost literally at the speed of light!
If you prepare and plan for handling online criticism of your company, the impact of one or two complaints can be much reduced, and you may be better able to respond effectively and rapidly to minimize monetary impact. Here are 8 strategies for building and maintaining your online reputation.
1. Create A Strong Online Presence on Any and Every Site you Can!
Your company should already have Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts, at minimum. However, if you really want to stand out and keep track of any online reviews, there are many other sites that you can use to tack your reputation online.
For many B2B businesses, having employees on LinkedIn may be valuable. For visually-oriented products Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr may be useful to track. Most businesses will also benefit from some number of videos shared through sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.
2. Build Out Your Social Media Pages
Merely having a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account/page for your business is not enough — you need to develop and track your audience on them, too. By constantly adding more content and tracking your customers online, you can build your social media accounts in order to interact with customers and to increase your influence and engagement scores. If you don’t do this, those accounts may not be strong enough to outrank the postings if someone begins to post negative things.
Blogging is a SEO secret weapon. Writing and posting consistent blogs on your website helps with a site’s rankings on good keywords (if done properly) and provides fodder for one’s social media accounts.
For reputation purposes, it not only get you higher rankings, it can give you a solid base where you can express your apologies if something bad should happen and you need to address it. Blogging also help get across to your customers that you are the authority in your field, further building out your reputation.
When you are reading an considering responding to a customer complaint online, remember the adage that “the customer is always right.” Listen to what the customer has to say and come up with a creative way to give customers what they’re wanting without creating too much friction. By not listening and understanding where the customer is coming from that you could be driving existing or potential customers directly into the arms of your competitor.
If you or your company messes up, fails or otherwise does something wrong, own up to it. and make a genuine apology to those who have been affected. Believe me, for anyone venting about a bad experience, apologizing should always be your first step. Being real and transparent in apologizing can go far toward diffusing a situation and moving the process along toward reconciliation.
When you are making an apology, make sure that you actually mean. Weaselly and airy apologies can actually hurt the situation rather than. Making unconditional amends and offering to fix the situation never hurts either.
7. Don’t Get Into Online Arguments
Getting sucked into arguements online is very easy. A consumer has no problem fighting with you online, they KNOW they are right. Arguing with a customer out in the open online can absolutely ruin your online reputation. Worse yet, you might actually be wrong… and once you get emotionally riled up, you could end up saying and doing things that damage your reputation.
The best approach is to diffuse situations and take communications offline to try to reconcile. Be nicer in your online interactions than you even think you need to be. Your professional responses may win more customers than being “right” in an online disagreement.
8. Make The Investment
Reputation development requires an investment, both in time and money. Social media and proactive reputation management tools should be considered vital elements, not nice-to-haves. Further, if you don’t have experience in interacting with online communities, doing it yourself may not be good enough or may exacerbate any issues that can arise. So, make the investment — and if you don’t have the time to do it, don’t know how, or just aren’t getting the job done, hire someone to handle it for you.