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Findings from Clutch revealed that 88 percent of small business keep an eye on their online reputation on a quarterly basis, and that number is growing.
The same research showed that 69 of millennial and 57 percent of Gen X small business owners use digital solutions to help monitor their online reputation.
You probably already know that it’s important to join this growing group of brands in monitoring your own online reputation, but knowing how and where to start the process can be intimidating, even more so for small businesses with just one person or a handful of staff.
With this guide, we take the guesswork out of small business reputation management and give you five clear-cut steps to get the ball rolling on your reputation management strategy:
- Claim your listings
- Be a thought leader
- Be active and engaging on social media
- Monitor, generate, and respond to reviews
- Participate in community events
Small Business Reputation Management Step 1: Claim Your Online Listings
The best way to start efficiently monitoring and controlling your online reputation is by claiming your listings on search engines and review sites starting with “The Big Four:”
Claiming allows you to update the entries with the right information including your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. Unclaimed listings won’t always have the correct information listed in their entries, which can make you seem untrustworthy and tells customers to look for another business.
Claiming these listings also helps you stand out in local search. A 2017 report revealed 58 percent of small businesses aren’t optimized for local search engine optimization, which is surprising when you consider that 35 percent of all search queries are local.
By simply claiming your listing and filling it with as much accurate information as possible, you not only make it easier for people to find you but you also put yourself in an early lead against your local small business competitors.
Small Business Reputation Management Step 2: Be A Thought Leader
In addition to promoting your products and services on your website, you can also use it to create content that is not necessarily directly about the brand, but more on your industry as a whole.
For instance, a local pottery shop might shoot and publish a how-to video on how a vase is made while a small bakery might provide a list of baking ideas for the next big holiday party. These content pieces raise your online exposure, but more importantly, it establishes the brand as a local thought leader in the industry topic.
Over time, customers will know you as more than just the “cool store down the street.” With enough relatable and insightful content, you can be a major source of information to interested parties.
But how do you promote this content and engage with customers on a frequent basis? Glad you asked.
Small Business Reputation Management Step 3: Be Active and Engaging on Social Media
Social media is arguably a ubiquitous part of people’s daily lives to the point where 40 percent of consumers will use social networks to look up new business or products. Make sure that these people find your brand in their feed on a constant basis.
This means that you’ll need to cast a wide net by being an active member of multiple social media platforms. In addition to promoting content, deals, and special events, you can use social media to answer questions from customers or even provide customer support.
Because of the ever-growing popularity of social media, many customers are using it as a primary source for customer support, and you’ll need to be ready to respond and help with their issue in a timely manner. You can make sure that everyone is deserving of your time on multiple platforms by utilizing social media listening tools like Hootsuite.
Providing stellar support in this manner goes a long way. Statista research revealed that a global average of 59 percent of consumers had a more favorable view of brands that used social media to engage with customer complaints and questions.
But as 42 percent of small businesses will tell you, social media is just one part of the overall online reputation strategy. To get the full scope on the brand is perceived online, you’ll need to have a firm grip on your online reviews.
Small Business Reputation Management Step 4: Monitor, Generate, and Respond to Reviews
In order for a small business to grow it needs online reviews. Not only do these help bring in more customers, but it also reveals pain points in the customer experience that you can improve in the future.
If you claimed listings on “The Big Four” sites listed above then you’re off to a good start in terms of monitoring reviews. Make sure you pay special attention to your Google listing, which is a major source for customer research. In fact, 63 percent of consumers check Google for reviews before visiting a business.
Monitoring your many listing sites on a daily basis will eventually become difficult and time-consuming. To save yourself from headaches and gain back valuable work time, you should invest in a review monitoring service that lets you track all of your review on one dashboard.
Respond to Reviews
A survey showed that 94 percent of consumers avoided a business because of a negative review, but if you respond to the review and act on the feedback, you can still attract customers in the long run. Research shows that responding to negative reviews makes it more likely for 45 percent of consumers to still visit the business.
Responding to customer reviews also shows that you care about the reviewer’s opinion. A majority of people who write online reviews (63 percent) never get a response from the brand.
These customers took valuable time out of their busy day to sit down and provide you and other customers with valuable feedback. Make sure you take some time out of your day to acknowledge their efforts and respond to negative and positive reviews.
However, it’s best that you have a review response plan in place before responding en masse. Doing so gives your responses a calm, collected, and professional tone whether the response is a simple “Thank you” or if you’re helping a previous customer with an issue that they experienced at your location.
You can check out our list of template responses to get an idea of how to appropriately address both positive and negative reviews.
How to Generate Reviews
With reviews ranking as one of the top three major factors in local search, you’ll need to have a constant flow of reviews to build up the trust and social proof needed for future customers to convert, and there are a few ways to get more of that valuable feedback.
- The most popular option is email. In fact, up to 70 percent of online reviews come from emails sent by businesses after the customer makes a purchase and leaves a store.
- If email doesn’t work, you can take a shot with SMS messaging. Mobile devices already account for 56 percent of local search so you can easily reach out to customers on their phones with a quick message and a link to submit a review.
- Speaking of links, make sure that the landing page for these review requests are easy to understand and use. Any complications to the process will only discourage customers from leaving feedback.
- If you prefer the in-person approach, you can always print handouts to give to customers during the transaction. After all, it’s harder to ignore a physical item than another notification on your phone or inbox.
- You can also set up a review request system on your point of sale system so that you can get near-instant feedback on the customer experience.
Small Business Reputation Management Step 5: Participate in Community Events
A report from Cox Business showed that 27 percent of Americans visit a small business at least once a week, and you can increase that number by simply taking part in local events.
If there’s an annual fair, charity event, or a major holiday celebration in the center of town make sure that your business has some sort of presence. This could be in the form of a booth, sponsorship, or promotional materials. This not only raises awareness of the brand, but it shows people that you are doing more than just selling products and services in town; you are an active part of the community.
The report also showed that the main reason why people choose small businesses for their purchases is because of “local support.” With an active presence at events, you establish yourself as a major part of the community, which will encourage people to support the brand as a way of showing local pride.
Slow and Steady Wins the Small Business Reputation Management Race
Every community has plenty of local businesses so it might seem like an uphill battle to control and increase your online reputation. However, the time and effort put into it are worth it.
By having control of crucial information about your business, becoming a thought leader, and actively engaging with customers through social media, reviews, and community you can create a reputation that is well-known around town and has the potential to attract tourists and visitors through your doors on a daily basis.