Here’s a great article from my colleague, Mike Zammuto, on a very important topic of our time: online reputation management and what a busy small business owner can do about it.
Measuring and Monitoring Your Brand Reputation
A positive online reputation is worth its weight in gold — for small businesses, in particular. This is a direct result of changing consumer behaviors, as well as technological advances: As mobile phones become more ubiquitous, online review sites more wide-reaching, and online search more dominant as a source of consumer information, more and more individuals are using the Web to check up on businesses and brands, before committing to spend any money. What does this mean for your company? It means that a positive online image will help bring in new customers, while a bad online reputation will have consumer fleeing to your competitors!
As such, it is not unreasonable to call online reputation make or break for small business owners — and if you doubt it, consider this thought exercise. You are looking to book a hotel for an upcoming business trip, and you Google the name of a particular hotel. The Google search reveals a litany of scathing, one-star reviews for that hotel — but there is also a sponsored ad for a hotel that is just across the street, has comparable rates, and comes with glowing five-star endorsements. Which hotel are most consumers going to choose, and which one is probably going to lose business as a result of its lackluster online image?
This is not meant to sound alarmist; it is simply meant to underscore the important of online reputation — and the urgency with which businesses need to monitor and measure their online image!
Reputation and Influence
As it happens, there are numerous online tools that are sometimes said to be useful in online reputation monitoring, among them FollowerWonk, PeopleBrowsr, and particularly Klout. Here, though, a word of distinction is in order. Each of these tools is effectively used to measure a person or brand’s sphere of online influence — that is, how much weight the person or brand carries among social media users. This is not irrelevant, especially for journalists, bloggers, and those in sales, but it is not quite the same as true online reputation monitoring.
Online reputation monitoring comes down to this and this alone: What are people saying about your brand on the Internet — and, more to the point, what are your clients and customers saying about your brand on the Internet? This is not a matter of your brand’s influence or authority so much as it is a simple reflection on whether people want to buy your products and services.
Measuring and Monitoring Your Brand’s Online Reputation
So how does a brand effectively keep tabs on its online image? It begins with simple online searches. As a small business owner, make it a matter of habit to conduct regular Google and Bing searches for your brand name. If your company name is something fairly generic — that is, if there are many other companies with the same name — then you may wish to do a search for your brand name along with geographic signifiers (i.e., “Ace Widgets Tampa FL,” or “Star Small Business Services New York”).
A couple of further tips: Remember that you can automate this process by creating Google and Bing alerts, which will let you know the minute a new listing or review of your business appears on the web. Another tip is to periodically search for your brand name on Facebook, which is where there is likely to be a fair amount of online chatter about various companies and brands.
It is also important for small businesses to keep tabs on their online reviews — on sites such as Yelp.com, Angie’s List, and so on. Make it a priority to check out your consumer notices on a regular basis, and to stay aware of exactly what people are saying about your company on these review sites. Knowing where your small business stands, reputation-wise, is of the essence in today’s review-driven world.
Of course, small business owners need to make peace with the fact that they cannot control their online reviews 100 percent — and that, from time to time, a negative review may arise, as the result of an unreasonable customer or even a disgruntled employee! You cannot control these bad reviews, but there are a couple of things you can do. One is to make sure that your company profile, on Yelp or on the applicable review site, is accurate and up to date; ensuring a professional presentation for your brand can go a long way toward curbing the effect of those occasional unflattering reviews! Second, you can go to your most faithful clients and ask them to submit some positive reviews of your small business — reviews that will counterbalance and hopefully drown out the bad ones.
The bottom line for businesses is that online reputation is critical — and knowing what people are saying about you is something you cannot afford to neglect.
Mike Zammuto is the COO of https://www.reputationchanger.com. The company provides services for online reputation management, which in turn gives people and businesses full control over their online search results.