Even if you are a small business owner, who doesn’t have much to do with the internet, you cannot afford to ignore it any longer. This is because over half of your customers find out about you from Google, that’s how they get to know about your business and decide whether to buy your product or not, depending on what they see.
You should make yourself visible online, and ensure that your online reputation is always positive. Most prospective customers use user reviews from old customers to decide if they would like to buy your product or hire your services. Basically, they look up local businesses on sites such as Yelp, Google Places, TripAdvisor and so on.
The problem with online reviews is that most customers who are happy with your business don’t bother to leave any reviews online, while those who are unhappy for some reason, unfailingly leave negative reviews, which influences other potential customers against frequenting your business. And then there are the trolls to do with – who are impossible to handle for anyone.
So, it is clear that protecting and managing your online reputation is important for your small business. In this article, you will find some clues on how to do that.
Stay Within Ethical Boundaries
The #1 rule in online reputation management is not to do anything that is unsavory or illegal, which goes against the ethical standards of behavior that are expected from you. Know your limitations, never cross your boundaries. Encourage old and happy customers to leave reviews about your business online, but never pay anyone for positive reviews.
It is easy for Google or sites such as Yelp to identify paid reviews. They hire specialists whose only job is to find out which of the reviews are false and paid for. And when you get found out, you will get punished severely. Your business listings will be removed and no sign of your business will be left on the internet. This can effectively kill your business, so it is a risk you definitely should not take.
What You Can Do…
Apart from encouraging customers to leave a review about your business online, without explicitly asking them to write a certain way or paying for the reviews, there are a few important things you can do. You should work on your content management; write a compelling story behind every product or service. Explain what you do with interesting blog posts, work on your social media interaction, engage with your customers, release videos of your business on YouTube along with an informative “how-to” guide and so on. There is so much you can do to give a prospective customer who looks for your business online, a glimpse into your business.
Benefit from Online Reputation Management Tools
You can hire a professional online reputation company to take care of your social media engagements for you, to track what is said about you on the internet and social media and reply swiftly and efficiently. If you don’t have the monetary resources for this, you can do your own online reputation management by making use of free or low priced online reputation management tracking tools like Google Alerts, MonitorThis and Social Mention. These tools alert you every time there is a mention of your business on the social media or on the rest of the internet, and tell you if it is in a positive context or in a negative context.
Actively Interact with the Customers
You should engage with your customers. If someone says a good work about your business, be sure to thank them. If someone leaves a bad review, don’t get angry or irritated, investigate the reasons for the bad review, directly ask the customer if there is something you can do to help him or her get over the bad experience. Offer a free service or a free product as compensation.
Also, take bad reviews as constructive criticism to improve your business. However, there will be some people who are just internet trolls, who just want to hurt you and take delight in your pain. How does one deal with trolls? You can complain to the review site owners about them and have them removed. But whatever you do, don’t feed the trolls – that will only make it worse.
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