Developing and maintaining a stellar online reputation is one of the key ways for small businesses to gain advantage within an increasingly competitive SME sector, writes Benjamin Kluwgant.
In this day and age, it’s hard to keep things under the radar. Thanks to the internet, anybody can access endless amounts of data and information, and with just the click of a button, just about any question can be answered.
This being the case, it is more important than ever for small businesses to put an emphasis on the way they are portrayed online – or, in other words, investing in online reputation management.
Back in the day, it was very challenging for small businesses to create brand awareness and traction. They would heavily rely on word of mouth or traditional advertising (phone directories, newspapers, radio, television, and so on) which were often expensive or ineffective.
On the flipside, the simplicity of these advertising methods made it much easier to maintain a good reputation.
If the service that a business would deliver to a customer was of a low quality, while they might have lost the trust of that particular customer, their main client base would remain unaffected. The business owner could learn from the mistake and work harder on delivering the service at a higher standard.
Nowadays, it’s a different story entirely.
Through the use of the various digital marketing tools, (search engine optimisation or SEO, social media advertising, and more) virtually any business can put their product or service in front of their target market within minutes, making it easier than ever to generate traction.
But, with that power comes plenty of liability. Today, every customer has the ability to critique your offering and leave their thoughts for everyone to see – and once it’s out there, it is very difficult (and sometimes impossible) to take down.
So basically, plenty of resources need to be devoted to make sure that the businesses online reputation remains pristine – so here are four failsafe ways to achieve that.
One of the best ways to develop a stellar digital reputation is through an abundance of online reviews.
But, as the saying goes, if you don’t ask you don’t get – so you need to use every (appropriate) opportunity to encourage your customers, fans and general network to leave your company a review – and give them every reason to award you five stars.
Another important part of online reviews is which platform you ask people to leave them on.
For the most part, Google reviews attract the most views and are normally quite credible – so asking people to share their positive experiences on Google is especially useful.
In addition to Google, business owners should also encourage their customers to leave reviews on the more industry specific review platforms. For example, reviews for the travel industry are best left on a platform like TripAdvisor, while reviews for the food and hospitality industry always look good on Zomato.
The more positive reviews you have, the stronger your online reputation will be.
It’s important to show gratitude when people speak positively about your brand or service, so if someone leaves a positive review on one of your social media platforms, a good way to strengthen your reputation is by writing a non-generic response to that person’s feedback.
There will also be times that people won’t be entirely satisfied with the service you deliver and end up leaving a not-so-complimentary review on your social media page.
Part of building a legitimate and balanced digital reputation is responding to those reviews with grace and humility – showing your audience that you’re ready to own up to your mistakes.
Customer testimonials are worth their weight in gold and showcasing them on your website is a sure-fire way to strengthen your online reputation.
If you can manage to strategically gather several testimonials from well-known or high-profile clients who can vouch for your service offering or product, you will build trust in your brand, something which is likely increase your customer acquisition rate.
It’s also handy to refresh your testimonials about twice a year, just to make sure that they’re current and relevant – adding another layer of quality and integrity to your brand.
The fourth way to reinforce your online reputation is by actively engaging with those who show interest in your content. Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to create brand awareness, but it can’t stop there.
Once the content has been published, a great way to rise above the status quo is to write responses to those who engage with your social media content. If you can create consistency around that, your online reputation will be all-star.