Just a few years ago, marketing your business online was very different. Businesses were not attempting to interact with customers, but were simply making an effort to acquire new customers using the internet. Consumers could not express their opinions nor could they be heard in a powerful way.

“The times they are a changing”
– Bob Dylan

Today, websites and social media platforms are no longer just brochures for your products and services. User-generated content, along with regular interactions on social networks is essential for any business to succeed online — especially small businesses.

No matter what type of business you have, how big or small your business is, or the products and services you sell, customers are talking about you online. They are tweeting, sharing, leaving comments on your blog, and posting updates and comments about their experience, and much more. Small businesses can’t afford to overlook any single online review, mention, comment, or mention. Here’s why…

Online reputation management for small businesses is important.

As a small business owner, you probably feel like you are jumping from one project to the next, with a zillion different things to do. You probably feel like there is no time to stop and breathe, let alone taking the time to monitor and control your online reputation (the things people are saying about you). But remember, monitoring and managing your online reputation isn’t a self-involved, or wasteful way to spend your time, it is actually critical and essential to growing your business and to solidify your brand in the marketplace.

The buzzword for effectively handling your social media is “transparency.” It means you need to open up your small business to criticism and feedback. I realize it sounds risky, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.

What exactly does being transparent mean?

  • Allowing employees to talk about your products and services, your culture, and your customers online
  • Communicating with customers when and where they want (e.g. social media, online review websites, your blog, etc.)
  • Always asking for feedback from your customers (and addressing all incoming customer feedback)
  • Not shying away from online criticism, nor ignoring negative online reviews

Small businesses need to monitor their online reputation constantly, and not just when a “situation” arises. You need to proactively monitor social media and implement online reputation management to make sure when someone talks about your small business online, you address their feedback, comments, or concerns as soon as humanly possible.

This gives you the opportunity to know exactly what your customers are saying about you, your products, and your customer service. By addressing all online feedback and comments, you can effectively manage and improve the online reputation of your small business.

When dealing with feedback, respond as often as necessary. People are pleasantly surprised when small businesses listen to, respond to, and follow up online reviews, mentions, and social media messages. Make your responses timely, valuable, friendly, and authentic. Constructive comments, whether they are negative or positive, should always be answered. Negative comments are tough for many small businesses, but it’s important to answer them. Apologize, direct the customer to a solution, or take the conversation offline to discuss matters further. Always keep a friendly tone and remember that your response can help turn a negative opinion about your small business into a positive one.