Online Reputation: Managing Your Online Image

Review sites and social media have been reshaping the world of small businesses for years now, bit by bit becoming the new faces of our work. They are the one stop platform for customers to find businesses, and to critique their performance based on their experience with us. Welcome back to #TechTuesday where we are going to teach you about managing your online reputation!

Your Reputation Precedes You

Managing your reputation online can be a terrifying task to some. The idea that negative reviews can be a black cloud over your business if they show up often seems like a scary prospect for those looking to keep their business afloat. The time and skillsets needed to manage your presence are a whole new category of work for you to learn. The neutrality and civility needed to communicate with a community can be tiring for many.

But the flip of that coin also holds benefits too. Good reviews are often the major source for new business, for example. Think about how often you try to find a provider and just scroll through those good reviews to make your choices! To add, with a bit of practice that skillset can be mastered and used to generate far more leads than before.

Reputation is everything when you are working against the corporate giants. Establishing yourself and maintaining a relationship is half the battle of keeping your business booming. Utilizing tools such as the availability popularly of social media and company listings takes you a step further. But how do we keep your reputation clean?

Monitor, Manage, Maintain, and Promote

The first step toward establishing your identity and reputation online is through the feedback provided by your customers. Their reviews are often littered with suggestions and opinions, all awaiting to be heard. The question is more if you are hearing them yourself. If you did a search of your business right now through the eyes of a customer, would you know where to begin looking? What kind of image do you present to them via the current status of your webpage, and any reviews left for you? Do you have feedback strictly from a single source, or is it coming from websites such as Yelp, CitySearch, etc?

Knowing your influence and where it extends from and to will help you take your next steps into conquering your reputation. That step is the management of your presence. Start by establishing systems that help you stay on top of the buzz surrounding your business. Setting up a google alert can automatically inform you whenever your business is mentioned somewhere on the web, for example. This allows you to more easily see what people are saying about you, allowing you to take that into account.

Claiming the local listing of your business on many local search sites can also be a drastic gamechanger that is often overlooked. The more detailed you make your profile, the more your business will appear in search results. Responding to reviews establishes personality, though can be a dangerous undertaking for those with a short temper. While some can get your blood boiling, its always good to remember that civility and constructive feedback are far more valuable than a snarky response. Remember that it is better to say nothing at all than to respond in a rude or insulting way to your customers. In fact, you do not even need to respond to -every- review either! Generally you can target solely the negative ones simply to combat their negative experiences with personal touches, or you can touch upon many of the positive experiences to bolster your community presence.

Taking the feedback of your customers also makes them feel valued and more likely to spread the information of your business to others, and help you see positive reviews. Take that advice they give you, and look for patterns in what they are saying. If there is a special trait about your service that you can emphasize, don't be afraid to bring it to the forefront and emphasize it. If there is something that is repeatedly complained about, then perhaps look into resolving that complaint and inviting customers back for a new experience.

Finally, the most important part of creating an online reputation is to put it to work. Face it, we don't create these personas for fun and games, we create them to draw people in to see what our company is about. These platforms do more than just protect your name, they serve as fantastic tools for targeted marketing and analytics. Promote yourself, and utilize the advertising tools that many of the sites such as Yelp offer, which may allow you to feature reviews on your page, or to mine information from your customers to advertise to them directly based on their browsing habits. Knowing the availability of services on the websites you maintain your online identity through, be it Yelp, Facebook, CitySearch, or whatever you might choose to utilize, is critical to seeing the full potential of what that online reputation may do for you.

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