Most business owners would agree that your reputation is one of your most valuable assets. You can put a price on your stock, materials and premises, but it’s hard to quantify exactly how much your reputation and goodwill are worth. Even if your business isn’t focused on the Internet, your online reputation is just as important as that of your name in the local area. Customers now have unlimited access to information, and they are increasingly carrying out research online before making purchases or placing orders.
The widespread use of smartphones and tablet computers means we live in a connected world. As well as being able to instantly research your business, customers can now share their views and opinions about it via social media, blogs and forums. There are many positives to this world where every customer has a voice, but all business owners have to take an active role in online reputation management or suffer the consequences.
Whatever type of enterprise you are involved in, consider the following key facts about online reputation management.
1) Most small business owners don’t track what’s being said about them online.
Checking comments and online reviews is becoming more widespread in the hotel and restaurant industries, but many business owners still have little idea what customers are saying about them. A simple search on Google is all it takes to start the process. In most cases, your own website should appear on the first page of Google along with a few general comments or reviews. Unfortunately, some business owners face a few nasty surprises when they start researching their business or brand name.
2) You can exercise control over what customers read about you online.
The Internet is largely unregulated, and people are free to say what they like online in most cases. However, it’s possible to exercise control over how your business is perceived by the process of online reputation management. Large corporations have teams of experts working to develop their brand identity and online reputation, and you may not feel you can compete in this world. However, there are simple things you can do to reduce the risk of harmful comments impacting your revenue. Online reputations are formed by a combination of websites, blogs, forums and social media, and you can take an active part in all of these.
3) Your website is your first line of defence.
If your website ranks well with the major search engines, it’s a very powerful tool for protecting your reputation online. If it’s nowhere to be seen, you should seriously consider some search engine optimization. You can use your website to communicate positive messages about your business and the way you deal with your customers. Posting customer testimonials is a great way to convince visitors that your business can be trusted.
4) Building a reputation takes time.
Just as it does in the real world, it takes time to develop a good reputation online. It’s the things you do every day that matter. Fulfilling orders on time, supplying good quality products and pleasing your customers in their dealings with you are the foundations of success. Having a team of motivated, well trained staff and listening to feedback from customers deliver returns over time.
5) Outsourcing may be your best option.
If you don’t have the time, interest or expertise for online reputation management, consider outsourcing the job to someone else. Employing a consultant doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s a sound investment in the future of your business. It’s better to have someone managing your reputation for a fee than having to deal with a crisis when it could be too late.