The importance of managing online reviews and ratings for local businesses has been emphasized by marketing experts on a regular basis. But, a crucial fact that every business must know is that reputation can have a much broader impact than the ratings and reviews you receive on Google and Yelp. Almost every business out there will occasionally have an issue with a customer. Ideally, they choose to resolve things before they come to a point when a customer believes they can only vent out their frustration on a public forum or consider it their duty to warn other people about the business.
Thanks to the internet, the communication barriers between people have been reduced so word-of-mouth can be very effective nowadays. However, if a business has planned and prepared itself for handling the criticism it receives online, the impact one of a couple of customers can be considerably reduced and you will be able to give an effective response that minimizes monetary impact. The problem is that most of the local businesses are not proactive about reputation management and this leaves them vulnerable.
When you only have a website for representing you online, you can end up in a precarious position if anyone decides to target them or post about them on social media because this can have an impact on its ranking in search engines. If you are an established local business, people will regularly search you by name and a low ranking can lead to problems for you in the future. Therefore, online reputation management has become extremely necessary for businesses and it has burgeoned in the area of online marketing for the last few years.
Any business that doesn’t proactively develop their online reputation and presence will pay a lot of costs later on in terms of repairing abrupt damage, lose revenues and developing the presence they had neglected. The only thing that’s actually worse than under-engaging in online reputation management is dealing with social media badly. No one can damage your business reputation as much as you can damage it yourself if you don’t know what you are doing. The key is to know how to manage your online reputation. Listed below are some of the top tips that can help:
- Establish a presence on all relevant web properties
At the minimum, every business needs to have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ accounts. When you are in a highly competitive market, you should also be active on social platforms that are specific to your industry. For instance, a B2B, professional or high-tech business should ensure that its employees and executives are integrated with LinkedIn. Likewise, in case of video marketing, websites such as Vimeo and YouTube, are essential.
- Never neglect your social media accounts
You need to work on your social media accounts. It is not enough to simply just have a page on major social networks; you have to develop them for your target audience. With constant effort, you can develop your social media accounts to be able to interact with customers and to boost their engagement and influence. If a business doesn’t focus on this, their presence will not be strong enough to outrank comments if a customer starts to post negative things about the business.
- Take your brands and products into account
Yes, you have to build your social profiles and online materials, but it is not just for your company name. If you have products and brands that are not directly related to your company’s name, you have to develop content that can rank these names too. This means developing websites, social media profiles, webpages and collateral materials for these names.
- Protect people who are associated with the business
It should also be a priority to develop social media presence for the business’s founders, executives and owners, especially if they are distinctive. It is a mistake to keep a low online profile just because you wish to preserve your privacy because it will leave you open for defamation by anyone and everyone. You can find a variety of businesses where the identity of the business is fairly entangled with its executives and having a sold online reputation management strategy is vital in this case.
- Focus on blogging
This tip often comes as a surprise because it seems more suitable for online marketing and local SEO as it is designed to boost a website’s rankings and provides support to your social media accounts. In the case of reputation, not only does it rank for your name, but it also provides you with considerable advantage as you can respond directly to any assertions that are made about your business, if required.
- Don’t forget to listen
When you are responding to bad reviews online or complaints, you should consider that your own process may have some weaknesses, which need to be dealt with. This is particularly true if you are frequently getting negative feedback for a specific product or service. While the adage ‘customer is always right’ may not be true in every situation, you shouldn’t be inflexible. Instead of being adamant and not listening to what customers are saying, you should come up with a creative way of giving customers what they want without developing any friction.
There are businesses out there that don’t have proper processes in place or charge service fee. Just because it is possible to pressure customers into paying more doesn’t mean it should be done. This is due to the fact that you will drive existing or potential customers towards your competitors in this way.
- Always apologize
If you or anyone working for your business makes a mistake, they should immediately own up to it and apologize. Make sure you make a genuine apology to those who were affected by your actions. When you are being transparent and real in giving an apology, it can go a long way towards diffusing a difficult or explosive situation. Furthermore, it can also help in moving the process along towards a reconciliation or at least bring a crisis scenario to a close. When issuing an apology, it is a must to ensure it is authentic. If the customer realizes that it is nonsense, it is going to do more harm than good. In addition, don’t just stop at an apology and try to make amends in one way or another and do it unconditionally.
- Don’t get involved in online arguments
It is very easy for anyone, not just a business, to get sucked into an online argument. However, it is essential to bear in mind that even if you are technically right, arguing will not help your case. As a matter of fact, you will lose out as a whole because your business will come off as harsh, petty and very unprofessional. It gets even worse if you are wrong as this will damage your reputation considerably. Moreover, if you get riled up emotionally during the argument, you will end up saying and doing things that can harm your reputation in the long run.
The ideal approach is to diffuse the situation instead of making it worse and it is recommended that you should take the communication offline to bring about a reconciliation. In the case of your online interactions, you need to be as nice as possible. This is due to the fact that your professional responses can help you win more customers instead of just being ‘right’ in any online argument. If you feel as if you are being drawn into an escalating conflict, it is better to walk away.
- Invest in it
Online reputation management requires an investment, both in terms of money and time. Most of the local and small businesses are either taking the task of managing the reputation on their own, which means it is either on a short string or on an as-needed basis or they are ignoring it altogether. With the increasing power of social media platforms, proactive online reputation management is no longer a nice-to-have. It has now become vital for every business to learn to maintain their online reputation in order to thrive in the long run.
It should also be noted that if you don’t have any experience in interacting with the communities online, it may not be a good idea to do online reputation management on your own because this might exacerbate the situation. Therefore, such businesses should make the investment and hire a service such as http://www.intername.media/, for their online reputation management.
The advantages of hiring professionals is that they are aware of what needs to be done to establish and then improve your online reputation management. Plus, since they are third parties, they are able to stay objective when responding to any negative feedback and can use a professional approach for dealing with difficult situations so they don’t escalate. They are also familiar with the latest tips and tricks that can assist a business in online reputation management effectively.