4 Simple Steps to Protecting and Boosting Your Online Reputation
As wonderful and rich in information the Internet is, it can also be full of misleading information and untruths. When these untruths involve your small business, your reputation may be gravely at risk. Sites like Rip-Off Report do not spend time vetting the information they are fed or checking the sources it comes from. This makes it incredibly easy for competitors and other parties to publicise false information that could ruin your company’s reputation with one click.
What could be worse than a ruined rep, you ask? The fact that many of these sites will charge you money to defend yourself. That’s right! It’s completely free to leave a negative review but it can cost money to leave a reply. This makes it very easy for a disgruntled ex-employee or an unscrupulous competitor to ruin your company in a matter of minutes.
What the Research Shows
Research conducted by Bright Locals has shown that up to 79% of consumers have reported they trust online reviews. This means that having no reviews, or indeed having mainly negative online reviews, can drive your potential customers straight into the open arms of your competitors. How then can you ensure your brand has a positive image online?
Four Easy Steps to Protecting Your Name
There are four easy steps that you can take right now to not only build a positive reputation online, but to protect the rep you have so arduously built.
- Set up profiles on Social Media
- Build links
- Online reviews
- Google My Business
Create profiles on all the major social media platforms and maintain your profiles by keeping them up to date. Build company pages on sites like Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. After you have taken the time to build a profile, make sure you update it regularly with interesting and captivating content, content that your customers want to read. If you don’t know what they want to read, ask them. Spend a little time talking to your customer base and find out what keeps them interested, what problems they face, what makes them tick. Remember, having a stagnant presence on social media can be just as damaging as having no presence.
Update your pages at least once each week. This can involve anything from announcing you’ve launched a new product to expressing your view on industry changes, the economy, or even a case study about a happy customer who’s been loyal for years.
Respond to questions that you receive about your small business daily. And, if you receive negative comments, don’t delete them! Instead, use negative comments as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service and indeed improve your operation.
Find similar or relevant sites to your own and ask to guest blog for them from an expert’s perspective. Then include a link to one or more of your social media profiles. Link building costs you nothing but a small amount of time, making it the perfect solution for the small business owner without liquid capital. If you don’t have the time to guest post on other sites, assign the task to one of your employees. This method not only combats negative reviews, but it can help your profiles get more traction. It’s a win-win.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to leave a negative review when they have had a bad experience than to leave a positive review for a good experience. Give your customers incentives to leave positive reviews and make it easy for them to do so.
Many business owners find that by asking for feedback, they receive it. You may also choose to offer discounts as an encouragement for customers to leave positive reviews on the sites that you point them to. They reward you with positive reviews so you reward them with discounts, perks or anything you feel your customers might enjoy. Keep them happy and they will be happy to help!
No matter what you do, do not let negative reviews be the only thing people see when they search for your company online. Be proactive in your approach to combating negative reviews. This is the only way that you can ensure your company has a positive reputation in the virtual world.
Google My Business
Google My Business, https://www.google.com/business/, allows you total control of your small business listings across all of Google’s features from one single platform. This streamlines the process of controlling your brand and your reputation. One of the best uses of Google My Business is the posting of images, videos and virtual tours. Let your potential customers see exactly what you have to offer without setting foot in your store.
Google My Business also allows you to engage with your audience. In other words, you can both monitor and respond to reviews that your customers (or people posing as customers) leave on the web. Before you sit down to respond to any negative reviews, determine exactly how you will do it.
Any comments that you make in response to any type of review should be nothing less than positive. Keep in mind that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It may be cliché, but it’s true. Negative reviews are to be expected; it’s part of business. However, how you handle those reviews will speak volumes about your business to others. If you want to turn a negative into a positive, make sure your response is diplomatic, helpful and accessible. Make sure the author of that review knows that you are here to make things better and that any slip in that mission is something you will see to and correct if needed.
A Few Facts About Online Reviews
- On average a consumer consults 11 online reviews before making a purchasing decision.
- Negative reviews can help your business. 68% of consumers are more trusting of reviews that are a mixture of positive and negative than those that are all positive.
- Bad reviews that are based on facts provide a learning opportunity for you and your employees. Use them to your advantage.
- Responding to reviews shows potential customers that you care about exceptional customer service and will not turn a blind eye when there’s a problem. Nor will you try to brush it under the carpet.
Handling Negative Reviews and Protecting Your Reputation – The Right Way
You know that your reputation is pure gold. As a small business owner, your reputation means everything. When your reputation is stellar, you will not only win over your direct competition, but you won’t have to look over your shoulder for that large service provider coming to steal your customers away.
Handling reviews needs to be done well. But how do you define “well”? Here are four easy tips for handling negative reviews in such a way that will ensure your small business is firmly in the hearts and minds of not just existing customers, but brand new potential ones as well.
- Be professional – always! Show that you care and that you understand. Show that you are prepared to solve the problem.
- Actions Speak (even louder than words)! Show your customers that you are ready and willing to solve the problem and tell them how you will do this. Phone calls, emails or even a certified letter in response to a review will go a long way.
- Do it yourself! Do not delegate the task of handling negative reviews to an employee. Take matters into your own hands and give it your full attention.You will be very glad you did.
- Document it! When responding to a negative review, make sure you’re not limiting yourself to “your side of the story”, even if it is in a professional way. Outline the steps you have taken to try to remedy the problem. Let the customer know what will change, how and when.
Your main goal as a small business owner today is to build a strong online reputation. Just follow the simple yet very effective advice outlined in this article and you will not only build a stellar reputation, but you will have taken vital steps in protecting it. After all, your reputation is the lifeblood of your small business and one of the key ingredients to success.
Toni Fitzgerald is a best selling author, motivational speaker, marketing expert and PR specialist and founder of charity Rights of Girls.