Thirty years ago, small businesses heard from customers in person or via snail mail. Twenty years ago, they relied on the phone to learn what their customers thought of them. And ten years ago, businesses had realized that email was now the mode of communication of choice. But in the last decade, social media has taken over our world, and customer interaction with small businesses has turned what was once a private interaction into a public one. The result, of course, is that any smart small business needs to not only create a powerful online presence,but manage it well. And part of that management is reputation management. All over the web, in the bright white lights and in deep dark corners, your customers are talking about you. Here’s how to make those conversations work for your small business, more often.
The most important part of managing the online reputation of your small business is ensuring that, first, you actually know what your online reputation is. For a small business, this can sound like a weighty task necessary of outsourcing to a fancy firm – and thus far outside the bounds of many a small business budget. The reality, in fact, is quite different. Reputation management is easier than business to take on, no matter where you are and what work you do. The key lies in searching for what others are saying about you. it sounds, and more doable for any small
Thankfully, the tools you need are straight forward. Set up Google Alerts for the name of your company, founder, and potential key employees. Then, create the attendant social media search equivalents for the same search queries. Remember to include words, phrases, and social media handles, as when customers reference you it may not be in the way you think it will be. (i.e. You may be @EdsCheapEats on Twitter, but folks might be typing that in without the username as “Ed’s Cheap Eats”, “Eds Cheap Eats”, or even “Eds Eats”. You’ll want search queries set up for all variations.) Make these searches as automatic as possible per the specifications of each particular platform, and ensure that there is a streamlined system so that reading and reviewing the results of these searches happens in one fell swoop, by one particular employee or small team. (Reputation management will never work well if different employees are seeing different online comments or complaints, preventing them from acting with complete knowledge. Additionally, processing your online comments at distinct times throughout the day or week makes it a more manageable process.)