What are your customers saying about your business, product and/or services? What are your potential customers reading about your business practices? Where do your customers talk about you? Knowing the answers to these questions are the first steps towards building a positive reputation on the web.
If customers aren’t talking about your business online (that you know of), why should you even bother with online reputation management (ORM)? Being left in the dark when it comes to your online reputation can be compared to collecting customer comment cards at a brick and mortar store and tossing them in the trash without reading them. Stay active with your company’s online reputation.
Proactively monitor your online reputation, be ready to take action and you will find yourself sitting in a better spot should negative information about your business arise.
Looking forward to 2012, below are a few online reputation management tips for the New Year:
1. Know What People are Saying: first and foremost, you have to know what people are saying about your business. If you aren’t aware of what’s out there, how can you manage it? Browsing the web for your brand and setting up email alerts are just a couple of actions you can take towards knowing what is being said about your business. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts and be informed via email when new occurrences of your brand show up on the web.
2. Be Active in Your Online Community: whether it’s via blogging, forum participation or physical community outreach, being active in your community will help give your brand a positive image. When it comes to the online actions, the more involved you are on industry related blogs, forums and other websites, the number of positive occurrences of your brand will increase. Physically participating in your community helps create positive press that you can use online and in turn, contributes to a positive brand image. The more positive citations and sources of your brand you can create on the web the better.
3. Use Social Media to Your Advantage: the following infographic shows how companies are integrating social media as a form of communication and a medium for customer support. Consumers are turning to social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) more and more as a way of reviewing their experiences, both positive and negative. Below is a screenshot of an individual dissatisfied with an experience they had with a company:
Below is a positive Twitter mention.
As a business owner, what do you do when someone shares their experiences with your company publicly? There are a number of different approaches you can take when responding. Based on my ORM experience, the worst thing you can do as a business owner or employee is to ignore these complaints. Whether it’s a negative or positive mention, respond! Below is a screenshot of a tweet I made on behalf of my SEO firm to a less than pleased customer:
At the very least, this is showing the customer and the public that we are aware of the issue and are willing to resolve it. Simply ignoring a negative mention on any social media site will not go unnoticed.
All in all, social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with your following and one of the easiest ways to get feedback on your product or services. Use social media to your advantage.
4. Promote Customer Reviews: As I mentioned earlier in this post, potential customers are going to turn to the web in search for reviews of your business. Promoting customer reviews is the best way to keep your information fresh and accurate. Business citation sources such as Google Places will pull information and reviews from a handful of 3rd party review sites. It is not uncommon to come across poor reviews, submitted years ago and in certain cases, they may no longer pertain to your business practices.
Handing out comment cards, including links to your business profiles in newsletters and adding links to your business profiles on your website are just a couple of actions you can take to promote and generate new customer reviews. Be careful how you ask for these reviews though. Business directories are smart enough to detect fraudulent reviews and most of the time, do not promote businesses coming right out and asking for reviews.
To conclude, if you don’t already realize the importance of managing your online reputation, don’t wait any longer to get involved with it. With consumers spending more and more time and money online, every review counts. Even if you don’t offer products online, potential customers looking into your products or services are going to turn to the web as a source of information. They will read what people are saying about your business and they will make decisions based off of this. Know what’s out there, know how to react and never take your foot off of the gas when managing your online reputation.