Websites. Social media. Review sites. Google. Your online presence is how people get to know you nowadays. This means the online reputation of your small business is your reputation. Of course, an online presence is necessary for any small business to stay competitive. That’s why understanding how to manage your online reputation is vital.
Let’s look at some simple ways to implement a strategy for managing the online reputation for a small business.
Google yourself: The first step to online reputation management
To monitor your online reputation, there’s one crucial first step. You need to know what type of digital first impression your business presents to potential customers. The easiest way to do this: Google yourself.
Searching your business involves more than typing your first, last, and company name into a search engine. Here’s how to get the most accurate results:
- Use quotation marks as modifiers in the search bar. Example: “FirstName LastName” or “YourCompanyName” or “FullName” AND “BusinessName.” Do the same thing with any aliases, nicknames, maiden names, past businesses, and social media profiles.
- Dig deep. To get the full picture of the online reputation for a small business, look beyond the first page of search engine results. Check at least four pages to make sure you find everything positive, negative, or inaccurate.
- Repeat all the above using other search engines and any social media platforms that your potential customers frequent.
If you are a business with customers that are primarily local, you can check locally based searches happening in the neighborhood on Nextdoor. Nextdoor is a private social network for neighborhoods; members must be verified before joining the neighborhood in which they live. Members interact with their real neighbors that reside in the same neighborhood, with 67% of them sharing recommendations. Businesses that have at least one recommendation will show up on neighbors’ searches on Nextdoor, so claim your Business Page (it’s free) to check if you are already recommended.
Don't worry if you found a less-than-stellar online review. We'll cover how to handle that below. Now let's look at some ways to develop an online management strategy.
Monitor your online reputation regularly
There are plenty of free tools available to help small businesses keep tabs on their online reputation.
The first is Google Alerts. Go to google.com/alerts and plug in the keywords for which you want to set up alerts. You'll receive email alerts anytime your name or company is mentioned online, including social media platforms.
On Nextdoor, your business will automatically be notified when a neighbor leaves a new recommendation on your Business Page.
For a detailed breakdown of more free (and inexpensive) online reputation monitoring tools read: “15 Leading Online Reputation Management Tools For 2019” or search for “free online reputation management tools."
Be prepared to respond to every online review
People will talk about you. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's downright snarky. If you're a small business owner these can all be good things as long as you actively manage your online reputation.
Every local business owner dreads negative content like that undeserved one-star online review. The Golden Rule for mitigating a bad review is timeliness. You should respond to all online reviews right away, but the faster you respond to negative reviews, the better chance you will have to remedy the situation.
An effective reputation management strategy involves preparing responses for negative comments before you get one. Create a few outlines covering complaints that may be common in your industry. You’ll be able to respond quickly, and this approach also curbs an overly emotional response.
For responses that appear professional and uncomplicated:
- Apologize: This is necessary. Net net, your customer had a negative experience with your business – even if you weren’t in the wrong. The worst thing you can do for your brand name is to get defensive or make excuses.
- Offer a solution to move forward from this: An honest attempt to fix the customer's issue shows you care about your customers' experiences and value all feedback. Look at it as a valuable opportunity to turn a grumpy customer into repeat business.
- Ask for a second chance: Offer the customer a direct phone number or email address. Then, ask them to contact your business directly to discuss a “do-over.” After this, the conversation should continue offline.
When responding to negative reviews remember that other potential customers read them. How you handle it can make the difference between impressing a potential customer, in which case they disregard the bad review, or turning them off, in which case they might move on to your competitor.
Always respond to positive reviews, too. Positive reviews are inherent endorsements from your customers. Typing a quick note back to the reviewer serves two purposes: It shows you care about your faithful clients, and it’s a simple and free way to boost SEO.
Build a positive online reputation for your small business
By now, you’re beginning to realize that to build a positive online reputation you need online reviews. Business owners who don't take time to leverage customer recommendations as powerful (and free) marketing tool are missing out.
To build your review repertoire, ask! Most customers are happy to write a review if you ask them.
Another way to develop a strong personal brand is to present yourself or your company as a valuable local resource. This includes posting informational content on social media accounts. Post thought-provoking or helpful posts on Nextdoor to position yourself as the local expert if you are in the real estate business.
Don’t underestimate the power of your offline presence to enhance your online reputation, either. Be active in your local community. Attend events. Host events. Get to know your neighbors by name.
If you haven’t already, a great way to strengthen your local reputation is to claim your Business Page here on Nextdoor. Jumpstart your reputation management strategy by joining the social network neighbors trust for local recommendations.
What are you doing to develop and maintain a favorable online reputation for your small business?