Reputation can make or break a small business. The great business mogul Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” One bad review can cause irreparable harm to a small business.
With mobile devices and connected apps, it’s easier than ever for consumers to learn about your business, voice their opinions about your business, and see what others are saying about your business online. So how do you make sure your business is accurately and positively represented? Read on to learn how to build and protect a solid online reputation.
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Protecting your business reputation is a proactive effort. In particular, you should focus on building a widespread online presence. This way, one negative review or comment on one channel can’t break your business. For example, a potential customer might come across a negative comment or review of your business, but if they’ve also seen your blog with quality content, social channels where you engage with happy customers, and positive reviews on Facebook, they are less likely to let that one negative review affect their decision to engage with your business.
While you want to have a widespread presence, it’s important to make sure that your core channels, such as your business website, are operating to their fullest potential. For example, employing search engine optimization tactics can place your business website at the top of search engine results, earning you trust with your audience and helping more people to find your business. The more visibility your website has online, the easier it is for your audience to learn about your business’s value and discover other channels where your reputation shines.
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Blogging is a great way to both build and protect your reputation because it puts positive content about your business on the internet. It serves to proactively show your audience that you are a trusted resource in your industry, and your increased online presence can boost familiarity and brand awareness. Use your blog to provide tips and information related to your customers’ needs, share news and updates in your industry, talk about your involvement in charity or community events, and to show your support for causes you care about. A blog helps you to build a library of reputation-friendly content that benefits your audience—it’s a win win!
Although it is important to be vocal about the causes you care about and add personality to your business brand, be sure to keep posts on your blog and social media channels neutral and positive. Keep in mind that both a business owner and his or her employees are a reflection of the business. It’s best to refrain from taking polarizing viewpoints that might turn off potential customers. Before posting, ask yourself if the information you’re about to share is something that all of your customers would like to read about. The information you share should be relevant to your business and interesting to customers.
Another way to build a positive reputation and protect against negative reviews is to include a testimonial section on your website. You can conduct interviews and write customer success stories that you publish to your site, or use direct quotes from reviews written by real customers.
Your employees are the face of your business, so how they act and what they post on social media could negatively impact your business. Establish a policy or expectations around appropriate behavior for social media while representing your business. The Twitter hashtag #boredatwork is a prime example of employees being unprofessional on company time. One year a waitress at Applebee’s was fired after posting a picture of a dinner receipt which included the diner’s personal information. Applebee’s is a large company that was able to recover from their employee’s mistake, but something like this could break a small business.
Protect your reputation by staying aware of what’s being said about your business online. Regularly search your business name or custom hashtag on social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter, and see what comes up.
Set up Google Alerts or one of these Google Alerts alternatives to monitor your business reputation across the web. This will bring up any posts that use a specific keyword or even hashtag. You can filter the results for posts that are geographically close to your business.
Monitor your reputation on Facebook as well by reviewing posts on your Facebook business page. Delete any spam posts—ones that invite you to like another business page or check out a special offer. Respond to any Facebook feedback by answering questions, thanking someone for a compliment, and addressing any negative feedback.
What is the result when you type your business name into a search engine like Google? What about when you type in your industry and town? If your business isn’t appearing on the first page of Google, you’re missing out on potential customers. A search engine optimized (SEO) website is critical to establishing and maintaining a good online reputation. The words of your business should be the the first thing someone sees.
Search for more than just the name of your business. Perform a search with your business name and “review” or “feedback” to find out if someone is posting a review of your services and products on another website. This will broaden the search to include blogs or review websites that people may be using to say things about your business.
If a customer asks you a question on social media, responding quickly will show that your business is proactive and customer-focused. Re-tweet positive reviews or mentions from customers and thank them for their business. Having a positive, active, and engaged presence on social media not only builds your reputation but also promotes positive reviews.
The internet is the first place where potential customers turn when they hear about a business. If you’re not online, you’re losing out. If you’re not proactively building and monitoring your online presence, you’re putting your reputation at risk. When you care about what your audience thinks, they will think positively about you. When you show them that you care, they are more willing to share that positive view.
This post was originally published September 23, 2014 and updated on January 29, 2018.