By TJ McCue
It should come as no surprise that your customers research before they buy. But many small business owners don't believe in managing their brand and reputation online. Every business, from doctors (yes, even doctors) to lawyers to retail stores is judged online.
Lisa Barone, at Small Business Trends, explains in her post: Why Online Reputation Matters to Small Business that "consumers are using social word of mouth, online reviews, and other online content to form a judgment about your company. The judgment they form is then strongly tied to whether or not they decide to purchase your product (or service)." How do you keep up?
- Set an email alert. This is one of the easiest ways to monitor if and when your brand name, product names, specific keywords, or your personal name are being used on Twitter, Facebook, or other review sites. Most alerts can also be sent as a text message (SMS) to your mobile phone.
- Sign up for a reputation tracking service like the Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard. It allows email alerts, plus it gathers your ratings, reviews, and mentions from up to 8,000 online sources and gives you a glimpse at your two most recent reviews and mentions. You get both specific customer feedback and trend data so you can be more responsive to customer needs and gain a complete picture of your online reputation.
- Get involved in social media. It takes a great deal of work to do it right, but if you build a loyal following on Facebook and Twitter, those fans will often tell you when they read a blog post or review about you. Plus, they'll come to your rescue if someone says something that isn't true.
- Don't behave like the proverbial ostrich and stick your head in the sand when a negative review happens on a site like Yelp. Go in there and defuse the situation. Don't argue with the customer online. Apologize for the experience (even if you didn't do something wrong) and try to make it right. I'm not saying that the "customer is always right"; however you have to weigh the potential fallout from an argument online. Take a look at Marsha Collier's book: The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide if you need more help.
Customers are quick to go online and figure out the truth about products and services. People are looking for trustworthy companies. People buy from people and brands they trust. Every interaction online is a chance to build your reputation and small business.
TJ McCue writes about the tools and technologies to help small business succeed. You can find him at Small Business Trends reviewing products and services and on Forbes writing about inventors, makers, and startups.