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Unfortunately, the Internet is full of misleading information and untruths. When these untruths involve your small business, your reputation can suffer. Sites like Rip-Off Report do not spend time vetting the information they are fed. This makes it incredibly easy for competitors and others to leave false information that can ruin your company’s reputation.
What’s worse than a ruined rep? The fact that many of these sites will charge you money to defend yourself. That’s right! It’s free to leave a negative review, and it can cost money to reply. This makes it very easy for a disgruntled ex-employee or unscrupulous competitor to ruin your company in just minutes.
What Research Shows
Research conducted by Bright Locals has shown that up to 79% of consumers report that they trust online reviews.
This means that having no reviews online, or having only negative reviews, can drive your potential customers straight into the waiting arms of your competitors.
So how do you ensure that your brand is a positive one among the online community?
Four Steps to Protecting Your Name
There are four easy steps that you can take to not only building a positive reputation online, but to protecting the rep you build.
1. Set Up Profiles on Social Media
2. Build Links
3. Online Reviews
4. Google My Business
1. Social Media
Create profiles on all of the major social media sites and maintain your profiles. Build pages on sites like Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. After you have taken the time to build a profile, be sure to update it regularly. Having a stagnant presence on social media can be as damaging as having no presence.
Update your pages at least once each week. Respond to questions that you receive about your small business daily. And, if you receive negative comments, don’t delete them. Instead, use negative comments as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service.
2. Link Building
Guest post on other sits and include a link to one or more of your social media profiles. Link building costs you nothing but a small amount of time, making it the perfect solution for the small business owner without liquid capital. If you don’t have the time to guest post on other sites, assign the task to one of your employees. This method not only combats negative reviews, but it can help your profiles get more hits. It’s a win-win.
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3. Online Reviews
Studies have shown that people are more likely to leave a negative review when they have had a bad experience than to leave a positive review for a good experience. Give your customers incentive to leave positive reviews and make it easy for them to do so.
Many business owners find that by asking for feedback, they receive it. You may also choose to offer discounts as an encouragement for customers to leave positive reviews on the sites that you point them to.
No matter what you do, do not let negative reviews be the only thing people see when they search for your company online. Be proactive in your approach to combating negative reviews. This is the only way that you can ensure your company has a positive reputation in the virtual world.
4. Google My Business
Google My Business, https://www.google.com/business/, allows you total control of your small business listing across all of Google’s features from a single platform. This completely streamlines the process of controlling your brand and your reputation. One of the best uses that you have of Google My Business is the posting of images, videos and virtual tours. Let your potential customers see exactly what you have to offer without the need to step foot in your store.
Google My Business also allows the small business owner to engage your audience. In other words, you can both monitor and respond to reviews that your customers (or people posing as customers) leave on the Web. Before you sit down to respond to any negative reviews, determine how you will do so.
Any comments that you make in response to any type of review should be nothing less than positive. Keep in mind that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It’s cliché, but it’s true. Negative reviews are to be expected; how you handle those reviews will speak volumes about your business to others.
A Few Facts About Online Reviews
- On average a consumer consults 11 online reviews before they make a purchasing decision.
- Negative reviews can help your business. 68% of consumers are more trusting of reviews that are a mixture of positive and negative than those that are all positive.
- Bad reviews that are based in fact provide a learning opportunity for you and your employees.
- Responding to reviews shows potential customers that you care about exceptional customer service.
Handling Negative Reviews and Protecting Your Reputation – Doing It Right
You know that your reputation is gold. As a small business owner, your reputation means everything. When your reputation is stellar, you not only beat out your direct competition, but you don’t have to look for that big box store or large service provider hanging over your shoulder.
You understand that you need to handle reviews properly. But what is properly? Here are four tips for handling negative reviews in a way that will leave your small business shining in the minds of your potential customers.
1. Be professional – always! Do show that you care and do show that you are prepared to solve the problem.
2. Actions Speak! Show your customer that you are ready and willing to solve the problem. Phone calls, emails or even a certified letter in response to the review speaks volumes.
3. Handle it yourself! Do not delegate the task of handling negative reviews to an employee.
4. Document it! When you are responding to a negative review, be sure to not only tell your side of the story in a professional way, but detail the steps you took to try to remedy the problem.
The small business owner’s goal online should be to build a strong reputation. When you follow the advice outlined in this article, you are sure to not only build your reputation but to protect it. After all, your reputation is the lifeblood of your small business.