Reputation management tips for small businesses
Have you Googled yourself or your business lately? If so, are you happy with what you see? For many consumers, off-line shopping generally starts with online research. According to Andy Beal, a leading online reputation management expert, all your radio, TV, and print ads will be wasted money if someone then types your name into Google and sees that you have a questionable reputation.
We spoke with Andy, whose passion for reputation management lies in the idea that the practice levels the playing field for companies of all sizes, impacting not only businesses but individuals as well. “Your success is going to be built upon a foundation that has a solid reputation,” says Andy.
The small business advantage
The amount of time that a small business owner spends engaging with their customers face-to-face is a real advantage that larger retailers often do not have, so don’t forget to maximize those in-person opportunities to make sure your customers are happy. For small business owners, the challenge in online reputation management is that it can be time-consuming. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. Just spending 20 minutes each day searching your business and personal name in Google, monitoring your Facebook page, and making sure there aren’t any tweets that need a reply will improve an online reputation. The key to maximize these 20 minutes is to check that there are no unhappy customers out there that are being ignored.
Tips on how to build an online reputation
- Go where the customers are. With all of the social media channels that are out there, realize that you don’t need to be involved in all of them. Understand where your customers tend to discuss your specific business or your industry. If you find that your customers are hanging out on Facebook, then that’s where you need to be. If it’s Yelp or TripAdvisor, then that’s where you should spend your time. You can use automated tools like Google Alerts to stay on top of your customers’ conversations or software tools like Trackur.com to monitor your brand and business to see if there are any positive or negative conversations out there that you need to join.
- Own your online brand. In terms of your domain name, register not just the name of your company, but also your own personal name, because that really helps to position you as the owner of the company. At some point, you’ll need to show other people that you’re trustworthy, responsible, educated, and serious. Having your own personal online resume of your experiences is helpful in achieving that.
- Become one with the brand. When writing any kind of profile or bio about your business, use the third person. Don’t use personal pronouns like “I,” “we,” or “us.” In order to spell it out to search engines, your pages and your profiles need to be all about you. For example, saying “Andy Beal is a reputation management consultant” as opposed to “I am a reputation management consultant” is more likely to show up when someone searches for “Andy Beal.”
- Interact with the customer base. Explore opportunities to help your customers get the best experience possible through your social media channels. Instead of selling the brand all of the time, look for ways to pass on valuable information and share things that you think your customers would enjoy. It could just be a story that you think they’d find interesting, or a video that you think is relevant to your audience.
Three words to remember
Sincerity, transparency, and consistency. Andy says the first step in repairing your reputation is being sincere. When you make a mistake or have a reputation problem, be sincere and apologize; it’s not a time to hide. This is the time to come forward and take responsibility for the situation. Let your customers know that this is not something that is typical of your business and that you want to make it right.
Transparency is also essential. How did you get into this situation? What caused it? Let your customers know if there were any mitigating circumstances that created this isolated incident so that they see you are self-aware and that you are conscious of the problems you need to fix. Assuring customers that you’re going to correct the problem helps to build their trust.
Consistency comes when you’re able to demonstrate that you have learned a lesson and put in place new policies or new staff training — whatever it may be to avoid the same situation occurring again.
Practicing these three values can fix most reputation issues. Customers generally just want to know that you heard them, that you sympathize with them, that you understand that they are owed an apology, and that you’re going to make the experience better the next time.
A final takeaway
“Your reputation is only as good as your character, so make sure that your character is solid. Make sure that you offer a great service, that you have taken care of any issues that might affect your reputation, and that you learn from your experiences to build a better product and a better company.” – Andy Beal
Want more tips from Andy? Download a free copy of his book Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation here.