Why Online Reputation Matters to Small Business
A small business, especially one with a physical location serving a local community, may underestimate the importance of a positive online reputation. You are not looking for nationwide or worldwide customers, so what’s the big deal?
Considering 82% of online searchers follow up via an in-store visit, it is clear that local customers are using the internet to find information about local businesses. Any business lacking an enticing web presence is risking losing business to well-positioned competitors who manage their online reputations.
The Importance of Creating a Positive Web Presence
Internet searches, social media, review websites, and complaint forums are top of mind activities and destinations as consumers search for the best service at the best price. Your company can provide a great product, with exceptional customer service, and at unbeatable prices, but if it is not perceived as such online, and social signals show any negativity, new customers will hesitate to give their trust or money.
Most consumers are using social word-of-mouth, search results, and online content like review and comparison sites to make informed spending decisions. When Customer Joe searches for the type of service or product you provide, in your city, does your company show up in search results? Does he see a professional provider with great reviews? If the answer is no to either of these questions, chances are high you just lost a customer.
The Benefits of Online Reputation Management
Ensuring a positive web presence has many benefits for small businesses starting with establishing your credibility as a reliable business and giving your company a competitive edge over others in your industry. You need to position yourself as the first and best choice when customers are researching online before making a decision about where to spend their money.
Your online reputation also serves as 24/7 advertising, getting the word out about your company to customers searching on the internet, specifically consumers in your community searching for your specific service.
Additionally, online reviews, business social media profiles, and company websites rank higher in searches when good reputation management techniques and tools are used, providing exposure to a wider pool of prospective customers.
What a Small Business Can Do to Build a Positive Online Reputation
Don’t assume that your marketing efforts are managing your online reputation. Your website and the advertisements you send out locally or online do not encompass your web presence. Your online reputation is made up of everything online, including things like unsolicited reviews, website comments, complaint forum entries, "best of" and "worst of" lists, blog post mentioning your business, social media comments, and photos tagged with your company name.
Building a positive online reputation for your small business is vital to your local success and future revenue. While this may sound like a lot of work, a business should look at concentrating on just a few impactful activities to start.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Monitoring your online reputation today is not an option - It is a necessity. You can outsource your reputation management or do it yourself, but you need to know what Customer Joe sees online and go to work fast on handling any negative information. With so many options for services and products, there is just no reason for a customer to trust you or chose your business if there is negative information showing up online about your business.
Get More Positive Reviews and Handle Negative Reviews
Online reviews are huge as they not only show up in many places online and rank high in internet search results, but more importantly, consumers trust these more than any web content or advertisement you could create and disseminate.
Think of how many times you have seen a one-star review and decided to purchase from that company. I would guess close to never. You must incorporate a system for soliciting, monitoring, and responding to online reviews.
Get on Social Media
Keep it simple and select just two or three social networks to focus on to avoid being overwhelmed in the beginning. The key is to find which platforms your prospective customers and audience prefer and establish profiles on those sites (Twitter and Facebook are general front runners). Claim your company name, completely fill in your profile, and get a great photo to start to establish yourself.
Using social media for reputation marketing is an activity that can greatly enhance your online reputation, but it can become time-consuming. First things first, establish your company’s presence and as you learn the ins and outs of your preferred networks look at starting a manageable social media marketing campaign for each.
Leveraging Your Online Reputation
You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears (or at least a considerable amount of time and money) into your business. Don’t jeopardize all you’ve invested by neglecting to build and maintain a positive online presence.