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The first point of contact that a consumer has with a brand is most likely to take place online.

With the exception of special business categories that are few and far-between — think gas stations or convenience stores — consumers today prefer to use online tools to discover a new product or service, or to find relevant information about a given brand or business.

  • According to BIA/Kelsey, 97 percent of consumers use online media to shop locally.

This is why companies need to establish and grow a solid brand presence on all kinds of online channels. A website is a great place to start, but to truly stay competitive, brands have to be present on third-party websites, business listings and directories, social media sites, and online reviews and feedback channels.

The democratized and crowd-sourced nature of social media and review websites — such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook — makes these sites an ideal and natural place to extend and grow your company’s brand presence.

Read MORE: 5 Facts About Online Reviews that Every B2C Marketer Should Know

Let’s take a closer look at how a solid brand presence on online review sites, social media, and customer feedback channels can help your business grow.

Connect With More Customers

One of the most effective ways to amplify your brand reach and have more eyes on your brand is by making sure you are present and active in as many social media and online review sites as possible — including industry-specific ones (OpenTable for restaurants, say, or Cars.com and Edmunds for automotive dealerships).

By planting your flag on these digital properties, you are able to connect with customers whose search habits are not necessarily search-engine dependent.

Another advantage is having the ability to ride on the SEO strength of popular review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, the listings of which typically appear on the first page of search results.

On your own, it may take extremely intensive work and investment to get your brand website to rank for relevant keywords. With a strong brand presence on third-party digital channels, however, you gain a significant advantage and quickly distribute brand information to thousands.

Enhance Your Credibility

One of the most important things you can do for your business is to humanize your brand persona and connect with your customer at an emotional level.

Having active brand profiles or business listings on online review sites — complete with review responses and complete, up-to-date business information — puts your business on the fast track for increased credibility.

After all, customers are far more likely to trust and believe in a brand that is committed to follow-up and follow-through on matters that are relevant to their most loyal customers.

Read MORE: 3 Search Engine Results that will Destroy Your Online Brand Reputation

Highlight Your Best Features

Businesses and brands that are intentional and thoughtful about filling out the About section are often quick to see results.

Consider your social media and review site profiles as a place to write a pitch that highlights your best features. This helps you better connect with shoppers that are seeking specific products and services. (And it helps you rank higher for relevant search results, too.)

By focusing on highlighting features, rather than resorting to marketing buzzwords and hard-sell messages, you gain a better chance of converting leads into customers, as well as transforming customers into brand advocates and satisfied patrons willing to share great word of mouth and leave excellent ratings and positive customer reviews.

Increase Your Brand’s Visual Appeal

Most consumers make purchasing decisions based on multidimensional queues. Images and videos have a proven record of serving as a tool to educate consumers and provide sufficient information to turn a shopper into a customer.

Don’t miss out on the opportunities for multimedia display made available on popular review sites. Your videos and photos, as well as the multimedia provided by your customers, add richness and extra visual appeal to your brand and provide potential shoppers with insights not normally conveyable through the written word.

Did you know? People searching Yelp for great local businesses spend 2.5 times more time on a business page with photos than on a page without photos.

Measure the Customer Experience and Respond To Customer Needs

You’ll find that in the cases of some brands that failed, there was a misalignment between products or services and the true needs of customers.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of having strong brand presence across social media and online review sites is the ability to leverage these sites as customer feedback channels: a place to listen to the voice of the customer and measure the customer experience.

WIth the right tools for monitoring, managing, and analyzing customer feedback from these channels, you can discover what your customers really want. Having this information enables you to make swift adjustments to your business plan and operational practices, as well as foster service improvements. And the quicker you respond to the true needs of your customers, the more effective you will be in maintaining a high level of customer loyalty.

Improve Your Ranking In Relevant Local Searches

Online reviews and reputation management can help result in a brand presence that ranks highly in relevant local searches.

Reviews are considered as an important ranking factor in searches on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook (among others). So it makes sense to take a more proactive approach in asking customers for online feedback, generating new reviews, and improving your brand or business’ ranking.

For more best practices, check out our guides for building your brand presence and improving your search ranking on Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

Reinforce the Power of Word of Mouth

There is no denying that word of mouth is essential to the growth of a business. In fact, according to a recent report, customer referrals and word of mouth are considered the most effective sales and marketing tactic for SMBs and local businesses around the world.

Social media and review sites have become among the most popular means by which consumers can share and access word-of-mouth referrals with their peers. With a strong brand presence, as well as happy customers doing the talking for your business, you can enhance the credibility of your content and boost consumer trust and confidence.

Read MORE: Why You Should Incorporate Online Reviews into Your Website

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.

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