As a small business owner, most of your customers are likely people who reside within 25 miles of your establishment. Naturally, the limited nature of your business’ scope makes online reputation management an afterthought for you, right?
If that’s the case, then you’re terribly mistaken—ask any local search marketing professional and he’ll tell you the same thing. Advertising giant Weber Shandwick released a special report called The Company Behind The Brand: In Reputation We Trust, which states that any type of disconnect between a company and its online reputation facilitates a sudden consumer reaction; one that’s more often negative than not. What this means is that regardless of how excellent your customer service is, any kind of slip-up online can hurt your company image.
Why, you ask? According to researchers, people who get conflicted about a company or its offerings immediately go online to know more about their prospect. This is because they want to associate themselves with a brand which they think will best represent their personal interests. Think of this: virtually any athletic person wants to stick with brands like Adidas, Nike, or something similar, because they feel that these brands embody who they are—bold, daring, tough, and determined.
Online reputation management means a lot for your small business because of several factors. For one, it helps you connect with your customers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: would you want to associate yourself with a faceless brand which sounds too robotic and lifeless to care for your suggestions, let alone represent you? By connecting with your customers through avenues like social media, you are essentially “humanizing” your brand—that is, you give them a sense of assurance that somebody is willing to help them solve their problems and find answers to their questions.
Further down the road, let’s assume that you’ve cultivated a good online reputation. Now what? All that’s left for you is to maintain your connections, and if they do fail, act immediately. The best defense to a bad incident online is to resolve customer issues as soon as they appear, quick enough to prevent a customer from posting a negative review. Remember that even a single piece of negative feedback could send your otherwise soaring online reputation crashing, making you lose dozens of new patrons in the future.
Of course, there’s still a lot more to effective online reputation management than these. To know more (and subsequently protect your business from such issues), you need the expertise of a trusted small business online marketing firm like Reputation Local to help put and keep you on the right track.
(Source: Why Online Reputation Matters To Small Business, SmallBizTrends.com, January 25, 2012)