Marketing 101: Why Your Online Reputation Matters (and How to Manage it)
When it comes to your small business, a good reputation goes a long way. A bad reputation can easily leave a bad taste in the mouths of potential customers. Thanks to the awe-inspiring power of the Internet, having a positive online reputation for your business is more important than ever. Even a slightly tarnished rep can be enough to drive your customers elsewhere.
The Importance of Your Online Reputation
Ever been out to a restaurant where the food and service were absolutely spectacular and you told your friends about it? Chances are, your friends went to that same restaurant and had the same wonderful experience, and they told their friends about it. Eventually, the restaurant builds up a reputation for having spectacular food and excellent service.
Long ago, that restaurant’s reputation would have been made via word-of-mouth and perhaps a spread in the local paper. Today, social media tools like Twitter and Facebook help spread the word faster and farther than ever before while review sites like Yelp give customers the ability to give their honest opinions. These sites offer a tremendous impact on sales and customer traffic. According to statistics gathered by Merchant Warehouse, a whopping 90 percent of Yelp users said that positive reviews impacted who they did business with. 44 percent of customers based their choices on text reviews, while 26 percent looked at business ratings.
Maintaining a positive online reputation has become so important that many small businesses are hiring outside firms to do most of the legwork. Much of this work involves controlling negative content that could hurt your business while promoting positive reviews and creating a dynamic social media presence. Recent guest appearances by the team behind Reputation.com; on MSNBC's Jansing & Co touched on the tremendous role social media plays in the reputations of the world's movers and shakers.
Strategies to Live By
Even if you decide to hire a company to handle your reputation management, it is important to know what steps you can take to bolster your positive online rep. Here are some reputation strategies to live by:
A complete website – The days of setting up a website and calling it a day are pretty much over. Your website must not only be user-friendly, but it must also provide ample, yet easy-to-parse knowledge about the products and services your company offers. It has to be easy for customers to find while also coming across as welcoming enough for casual visitors to eventually transform into paying customers.
An eagle-eye on online reviews – It pays to keep an eye on how your small business is being judged online. Any negative reviews should be monitored and addressed appropriately. Publicly apologize for bad experiences, and give thanks for the customers' attention to detail which will help the business improve in the long run.
Positive search results – Online reviews aren't the only thing you should worry about. The vast majority of customers often research companies through Google searches before they buy. Compromising photographs on your Facebook page, poorly written comments on a blog, or even a bad joke can leave a bad impression on someone looking for your products or services.
A loyal customer base – A reliable base of loyal customers can easily enhance your sales through positive word-of-mouth. If you haven’t already, consider giving your company a consistently-updated blog, Twitter account and Facebook page to work with. Reaching out to those in the social media sphere can help foster a positive view of your products and services, as well as your company.
Remember that moderation is also the key in your efforts to manage your online rep. Here’s a fact to chew on: According to Inc, 20 percent of U.S. Adults surveyed in the Digital Advertising Attitudes Report said they would stop using a product or service if they received too much advertising for it. Attempts to boost your online rep should never come at the cost of your customers.
When Reputation Management Goes Bad
One particularly nasty example of bad reputation management comes courtesy of San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera. Cabrera faced a 50 game suspension for violating Major League Baseball drug policy due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Cabrera quickly appealed the suspension, citing that he was unaware that a supplement he purchased from the Dominican Republic contained synthetic testosterone.
And this is where the story gets weird. Cabrera hired a fellow associate who then proceeded to create several fake websites containing doctored information about a fictitious supplement that had, of course, been spiked with testosterone. Instead of being absolved of any wrongdoing, the MLB quickly discovered the ruse through due diligence and a fact-finding trip to procure and test a bottle of the supplement. According to DigitalFireflyMarketing.com, this landed Cabrera in hot water and robbed him of the chance to play in the 2012 World Series.
About the Author
Jack's a small business owner by day who's writing the great American novel at night.