Through various digital platforms, users can share their views and opinions on any business or brand. Online reputation management—monitoring the digital platforms for both positive and negative mentions—becomes essential for a small business.
However, managing your digital reputation requires more than passively responding to comments and reviews. Many businesses monitor their reputations online, but are their actions enough?
There are several ways small businesses can reclaim control over their brand’s online narrative:
- Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews
- Having a crisis communications strategy in place for dealing with negative and fake reviews to maintain a consistent brand voice
- Using social media to actively promote positive content about their brand
- Utilizing a variety of communication channels to connect with customers (being accessible)
These all combine into a holistic approach that can help a small business maintain its status in the digital community, thereby positively affecting revenues.
Turning Happy Customers into Positive Reviews
For any small business, it is imperative to keep customers happy. If they aren’t satisfied, sales and revenue suffer.
But with the popularity of online reviews, keeping customers happy isn’t enough; you also need to make them vocal (digitally) about their experience.
Consumers are paying more attention to online reviews, with a majority requiring anywhere from 2 to 6 positive reviews before they will patronize a business.
Still, many businesses don’t put emphasis on getting positive reviews. According to a Manifest survey, more than half of small businesses (60%) don’t encourage customers to leave positive reviews.
Simply put, your satisfied customers are your best source of advertising, so give them the guidance and encouragement they need to “toot your horn” on social media.
Dealing with Negativity
Face it—nobody likes criticism, especially when it is particularly negative. And some people just live to write scathing remarks, whether they had a bad experience or not (i.e., fake reviews).
Yet, addressing those negative reviews can have positive impacts. While you can’t change the reviewer’s experience, you can show other potential customers that you take the critique seriously and are willing to make things right.
According to the Manifest survey, businesses take the right approach when it comes to negative reviews:
- 53% publicly respond to negative online feedback
- 48% privately reach out to the negative reviewers to make amends
It’s important to have a crisis strategy in place to give your staff the guidance needed to avoid knee-jerk reactions and deal with negative comments constructively (and not defensively).
A written policy, complete with examples and key phrases, will help your business maintain a consistent voice when responding to negativity.
The Art of Self Promotion
Online reviews are nice, but sometimes you just can’t depend on someone else to tell your story. For the small business owner, one of the best forms of marketing is to use social media to share positive stories about your brand.
For example, if a particular customer interaction is outstanding, you can create a post stating just how happy the customer was and the reason for the positive interaction. (“A customer just told us that she would walk a mile through broken glass to get our products. We don’t recommend that, but we’re thrilled to make her happy!”)
Additionally, people on social media love having their posts shared. To that end, a good strategy is to share positive comments and reviews, being sure to add your own comment to make the poster feel special.
Spread the Digital Love
There are a lot of avenues for people to provide feedback, with certain platforms being more popular with certain age groups. For instance, baby boomers love Facebook, while millennials prefer Instagram.
Monitoring multiple social media sites can be time consuming, but the effort spent can pay dividends by not missing an opportunity to respond.
There are free or low-cost monitoring tools that can help, especially when you consider that a dissatisfied customer may take to several platforms to share a bad experience.
Finally, utilize all of the communications tools available to interact with customers, both positively and negatively. Never be afraid to take a conversation offline through phone, PM, or email. Sometimes a bad situation can be made worse by engaging in a public debate online.
Hard Work Pays Off
Monitoring your online reputation can pay off for a small business, especially one that relies on word-of-mouth promotion. While negative reviews and comments can sting, dealing with them quickly and constructively can make a huge difference. Partnering with an outside firm can help manage your marketing and reputation.
Taking a holistic approach to monitoring, responding to, and encouraging online reviews can help a business gain followers, attract customers, and increase revenues. The effort required for online reputation management will be well worth it in the end.