Taking your small business online is a big deal. It means you're staking your claim in the digital world and letting the online masses know you exist, however you can't just set-and-forget your digital marketing. You have to actively manage your online reputation to ensure what people see when they search for your business is what you want.
In this post, we'll go over four ways to manage your online reputation, and keep your customers and potential customers coming back time and again, while strengthening your online credibility.
1. Secure your business name across all social media handles (and domain name)
First and foremost, claim your domain name and all social media handles.
If your ideal domain name is available, snatch it up ASAP. You want customers to be able to find you - not an imposter or competitor - when they type in your domain name or email address. If you can't get your exact domain name, find one that's closely related to your business name, so it's intuitive when customers search for your business online.
Then comes your social media presence. Having the same (or nearly identical) social media handles across different platforms - like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - is a must. This goes back to building a trustworthy brand, and when your social media handles match, it boosts your online reputation.
Now, it's not always possible to have the same handles given character restrictions, but you should aim to have your social media names be as similar as possible. Beyond adding brand consistency, it shuts out any potential competitors from taking your space on social media.
We recommend that you claim the social media handles you might use someday, but only launch them live on the platform or go public once you're ready. Dormant social accounts are not good for business, so think carefully about where your audience is most active and activate those social media profiles on those sites. When you feel ready to expand your social reach, you can launch your profiles on other platforms since you already have the handle reserved. We'll get into that more in a bit.
2. Get on and stay active on social media
As we mentioned before, having a social media presence is key for managing your online reputation - however, once you decide to make those profiles live, you need to stick with them. This doesn't mean you need to post 20 times per day, but find a cadence that feels right for your business and your bandwidth, and regularly post so your accounts are fresh and active.
Unsure what to post? Give your audience helpful how-to guides, funny anecdotes, or insider updates about your business. Unique and valuable content engages your followers and makes your social profiles (and online presence) seem more human. Social media is the medium to speak a little more casually, and to directly converse with your audience. Have fun and your customers and potential customers will take note.
How does this impact your online reputation? Stale or inactive social media handles make businesses look unprofessional, so by having an active social presence, even if it's only on one platform, it can increase your credibility and help build a positive online reputation.
3. Verify your Google local search listing
Much like your desired domain name and social media handles, claiming and verifying your small business's Google local search listing is another tenet of proactive online reputation management.
A Google listing is your business profile that pops up in relevant Google searches, displaying your location, hours of operation, and contact information all in one place. An accurate Google local listing can do wonders for a small business, as it gets your company in front of the correct audience at the moment when they're searching for local businesses like yours.
Controlling the information included in your Google local listing (and other local directory listings) means you can ensure what people see about your business is correct. 36% of consumers discover new small business online, so including relevant and updated contact and business information, such as hours of operation and location, are paramount to building an authentic online reputation. By regularly updating your business profiles on Google and other directories, your customers get the best impression of your business.
You can follow these simple (and free) steps for claiming and verifying your business on Google.
4. Monitor and respond to online reviews
If you're in business, your customers have something to say about you. Whether it's a glowing testimonial or a less than stellar product review, keeping an eye out for comments made online about your business is a necessary tactic.
Don't believe us? In a recent survey, 75% of respondents said it's important to read reviews before visiting a business. With three out of every four potential customers looking for small business reviews, tending to your online review reputation should be at the top of your to do list.
Depending on your industry and size, customers may post formal reviews on third-party review sites (Yelp, Open Table, etc.) or just simply mention your business name in a social media post. Wherever people are talking about your business, you need to be.
We suggest setting up Google Alerts and a regular schedule for checking Yelp and OpenTable for mentions of your business, so you can respond in a timely and professional manner. By responding to positive reviews, you're providing excellent customer service, which only enhances the sentiment and feelings about your brand. When you respond to negative reviews, it shows your customers and potential clients that you're open to hearing feedback and want to work with them to find a solution. Through timely responses, you can bolster your brand's online reputation and even turn a negative review into a positive experience!
Your small business works hard to create a positive impression on the world. Ensure it carries through by proactively managing your online reputation and showing your target audience just how great you are time and time again.