What is being said about you online?

heads-speak-bubble-960Do you know?

Whether you actively participate in social media, are an observer or if you don’t pay any attention to it,  it is important to manage and keep track of your business’s online reputation.

Why? Because your customers are talking about you and people are listening.

Local review sites are playing an important role in how customers are connecting and learning about your small business. These sites offer easy access for customers to locate your business as well as read independent reviews of your business’s performance.

So how do you manage your reputation when anybody and everybody has the opportunity to provide their opinion?

Negative reviews can hurt your business particularly if they appear prominently in search results.  The good news is that referrals from happy customers are traditionally the best source of new business and these online forums are powerful.  According to a survey completed by Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent surveyed indicated that online reviews influence their buying decisions.

So what should you do?

Monitor

Listen and monitor online customer reviews.

Do a search of your business name and see what is generated.  Conduct this same search with different search engines because you might get different results.

Study what reviews come up and what sites those reviews reside on.

Then evaluate. What kinds of reviews are you getting?  Are they positive or negative? Is there a consistent problem that comes up in the negative reviews?  Can it be fixed?  What can you learn from these reviews?

Look at your online business presence from your current and prospective customers’ view. Ask others to do the search and observe and then ask what they think.  Preferably this group does not know your business and is not associated with your business.

Look at local search sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo Local, insider pages, goggle, Yellow Pages and Amazon to name a few.

Put together systems to stay on top of your online presence.  A Google Alert will automatically alert you when your business is mentioned in a review, blog or online platform.  Sign up to get reviews sent directly to your email.

Twitter is a very popular microblogging platform and you can keep track of what is being said by searching Twitter or using TweetDeck.

Manage

Once you have completed the initial monitoring of your online presence then develop a plan to manage that presence.

On local search sites make sure you have a detailed profile.  This profile will give your customers more information about your business as well as allow your business to appear in more search results.

Respond to reviews graciously while maintaining the best customer relations face in your responses.  Remember you don’t have to respond to every review particularly if the reviews are positive.  If the review is negative begin by trying to learn from that review and respond with what changes will be made.  Do a little research before you respond to see if you find the reviewer to offer legitimate criticism.  Some reviewers complain about everything and are destined to be negative.  Think carefully if you need to respond to those comments.  Don’t argue with your customer.  The important thing is to listen to your customer and let the customer know you are listening.

Depending on the review and contact information provided,  consider contacting the customer directly first.  See what you can do that way.  You probably should post some reply but talk to the customer first and see how that works.

Don’t post fake reviews to enhance your business and trash your competition.  This has come back to haunt some businesses because you can be caught.

Summary

  • Set up automatic alerts to contact you when your business is mentioned online.
  • Periodically conduct your own online search of your reviews as well as reviews of your competitors.
  • Make sure you are listed and have a complete listing and profile on local search sites.
  • Respond to reviews to show readers you are listening and that you care.
  • Use discretion with how you respond to negative reviews if you respond at all.
  • Monitor online reviews as a way to learn more about your business and your competitions.
  • Don’t write false reviews.  You can damage your reputation by writing or having your employees write misleading and false reviews.