Each year, more and more people are using the internet to find local businesses, and their next step is inevitably looking at online reviews. Customers today are always doing their research and looking to see what others are saying online for products and services.
According to Burke, a marketing research company, a March 2017 report showed that eight out of 10 survey respondents said they used an online search engine as their top choice for finding information on local businesses.
Online reputation management, or ORM, means you’re monitoring and reacting appropriately to reviews, ratings and customer questions across different online platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, search engines like Google, and review websites including Yelp and Home Advisor.
Keep a few things in mind to get the most out of the benefits of social media for your business:
- Complete your online business profiles accurately. For example, make sure your location, hours of operation, and information about parking and accessibility are clearly and accurately stated.
- Use high-quality photos to spotlight your products or services to their best advantage. Remember, the online world is a visual place and a well-photographed bouquet of flowers or wedding cake can do much to promote your flower shop or bakery!
- Determine which platforms are best for your business. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are among the most popular, but don’t forget about sites such as Home Advisor or Amazon, if that’s how you sell your products or services.
- Get active on the platforms. Not only should you have a presence on various platforms, but you should also be aware of their individual policies on what you can state and how you can state the information.
- Create a formal process for reviewing and responding to comments, both negative and positive. Review comments at least weekly and have a professional, gracious response to comments both negative and positive.
- The importance of responding to negative comments: Don’t leave negative feedback unanswered. Acknowledge if you made a mistake and offer to make things right or explain what you will do differently going forward. This type of response shows you Once you’ve acknowledged a problem, move the discussion offline to resolve it privately. Remember, other prospective customers can see your response, so handling criticism gracefully is important.
- Encourage positive reviews but be careful and follow proper protocol for each social media platform. You can’t buy positive reviews or incentive customers, as this violates the terms of service of many review sites. It may also violate Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules, as well as state regulations on deceptive trade practices. One simple way to increase your positive reviews is to give a brief reminder to happy customers about review sites and how much you’d appreciate their help.
- Use software to seek out feedback and encourage testimonials. While there are many easy and free techniques you can use to manage your online reputation, there is also software designed specifically to manage your online reputation. Many are cloud-based platforms that help businesses manage customer experiences through monitoring and responding to client feedback, and may include features such as social media metrics and monitoring, data mining, and campaign management. You can find software at different price points and designed for different sizes and types of businesses. A simple keyword search such as “online reputation management software” will bring up a variety of sites that compare features and prices for you.
In the end, remember that how you manage your social media presence is an on-going process that needs to be flexible and changeable and is just one more way to help your business grow. Your online presence allows you to reach new customers and keep existing customers happy.