Ignorance is bliss, so they say. So, if you’re not reading negative reviews about your product or service they don’t exist … right?
As a business owner, you have to expect that people are going to be talking about you. Whether it’s over the side yard fence with a neighbor, through email, on Facebook, on Yelp, on Google, people have more ways at their disposal than ever to help – or hurt – your business by sharing information with others through a myriad of channels.
What you need to decide is how much time and space you or someone on your team has to monitor the online reviews and conversations that regard your business. The reality is, you can’t control idle gossip or private email mentions. But there’s a lot you can impact as far as the web is concerned. That’s where reputation management comes in.
If you’re a small brick-and-mortar business owner, whose business relies on local traffic, here are some steps you can take to manage your business reputation.
Start by Claiming Your Business.
Several online services such as Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc., offer directory style services for people to learn a little about your business, including finding your location(s) and seeing what sorts of reviews you have. These listings don’t magically happen, though. In most cases, you have to go through the process of claiming your business, so these services know the information they’re presenting about your business is truly authentic and accurate.
Additionally, by claiming your business, you’ll be able to address any reviews people may post to these services, so you can have one-on-one conversations with your customers. Which means you can show appreciation for great reviews and try to address the bad ones. Customers like to see a business take an interest in resolving issues publicly. It shows you care and customers are more likely to come back to you, even though they may have had a negative experience.
There are tons of directory services out there. Here are most of the major ones you’ll want to engage with:
And of course the venerable Better Business Bureau »
Audit Your Online Reputation.
Okay, you’ve claimed your business. But there’s a worldwide web out there of places your name may come up that has nothing to do with directory listings … like news sites and blogs. And you’re going to want to know about it. So do you have 24 hours a day where you can Google the web for anyone who mentions your business or brand? Didn’t think so.
Google Alerts is a free service that monitors the web for you, based on criteria you supply. If it can be Googled (and it;s fresh information), Google Alerts will find and tell you about it. For example, you can make an alert to let you know when your business or brand name is mentioned anywhere online (except for social posts). Utilizing Google Alerts is much more efficient than taking time to manually do searches.
Once alerted, you can go to the online reference and decide if there’s anything you need to address. Typically, the most common thing might be to acknowledge an online review – whether positive or negative. Or you may just want to bookmark mentions in posts to keep tabs on how people are talking about you in the media.
Paid Services Can Do the Heavy Lifting.
We’ve recommended Google Alerts for you because it’s free and fairly easy to set up – always a plus for busy small business owners. But as we mentioned, Google Alerts doesn’t follow social media, where surely your name will come up time to time. But, boy, you didn’t get into business to spend all your time trying to find the needles in the chatty haystacks of information that may or may not reveal information you need.
For that reason, you may want to consider some paid online reputation management tools, where you can listen to the conversations taking place on social media and elsewhere. This is especially valuable in the case where neither you nor anyone on your team has the time or expertise to manually root out the kind of information you’re looking for. From this list, you’ll have more options to consider, depending on what may fit your needs and/or budget.
To Sum Up:
- Pay attention to online reviews and stories to see how you’re doing and how the public perceives your business. The feedback you glean may be critical to your business success or failure.
- Think about the best way to go about reputation management. Are you going to monitor the web? Will someone on your team? Or does it make sense to enlist a service to help monitor the web for you?
- If you’re going to monitor your reputation, commit to it. This is not a one-and-done proposition. As long as you’re in business, you’re going to want to stay on top of what people are saying about you.
- Above all, don’t be afraid to ask your customers to leave reviews online. Make it easy for them by sending a link to your Google My Business or Yelp listing. Chances are, most people who welcome your invitation will likely be inclined to leave a favorable review based on your personal connection.
Always remember, as Oscar Wilde said:
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Your job is to just put in the effort to participate in the online conversations that will result in improving your overall business success.