It wasn’t so long ago that the internet was new. Companies like Yahoo and Microsoft were among the few with any real presence online, and while big companies quickly started claiming their websites, there was no need for the local plumber or electrician to be online.
These days, the situation is completely different. The phone book is almost completely extinct, newspaper ads are less important than ever, and word-of-mouth recommendations are now more word-of-keyboard than word-of-mouth. Every type of business now gains – and loses – customers online, as potential customers do Google searches for different types of services and read reviews on websites.
That means that you need to be proactive in handling your business’ reputation online – no matter what line of work you’re in. But how can you protect your business’ reputation in a place as unruly as the internet? Here’s how.
A social media profile is an absolute must for a modern business, and not just in order to help customers find you. Social media can help you manage your business’ reputation in a way that a good website can’t, because social media is a place where your customers can speak to you.
Your website should be your best advertisement, full of details about your business and calls to action for the customer to click on. But your social media profile is something different: it’s your best customer service tool. If your company has a Facebook page, you may be lucky enough to get some positive feedback posted to your page. You may also, however, meet with some criticism – and that’s good.
Why good? Because criticism on your Facebook page means that you have the chance to make things right for your customers. You can reply promptly to their comment and let them – and anyone else reading – know that your business cares about the customer experience and about making things right.
You can also think of a Facebook or Twitter page as an early-warning system. A customer may come to your Facebook page to complain before they post a negative review on a different site like Yelp. By quickly responding to the issue, you can help protect your good reviews on sites like Yelp.
Speaking of those online review sites, they’re absolutely vital for most types of businesses. Contractors should keep their eye on both Yelp and Angie’s List, among others, and restaurants should pay attention to Yelp and to their scores on delivery service apps like GrubHub and Seamless.
Managing all of these online review sites can be a pain, but it’s vital for any type of business. Reviews pop up right away on Google (in fact, this is another reason to hav ea website and a Facebook profile – without them, the first hit in a Google search for your company name will be a third-party site like Yelp, inviting customers to make a judgment before they even hear what you have to say). Customers absolutely do make their decisions based on review sites like these, so do not take them lightly.
And it’s not enough to just avoid bad reviews – you’ll want to get good reviews, too! If you’re polite about it, you may be able to get your customers to leave you good reviews by asking. Consider adding a call to action somewhere in your business’ advertising or other literature that invites customers to leave feedback. You can even hire an outside company to help you encourage customers to leave good reviews.
Review sites and social media are the most important things in online reputation management for small businesses right now, but the landscape of the internet is ever-changing. Don’t be old-fashioned – try to stay up on the latest internet trends! The internet revolution left a lot of small businesses behind, and you don’t want the next big change to leave you in its wake.