Why Reputation Management Matters for Small Businesses


Are you tapping into word of mouth for your business? How are you actively managing the reputation of your business? Here's why reputation management matters for small businesses:

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Before you understand the power of reputation management, spare a minute to look at the history of business and entrepreneurship in general. In the old days, a new businessperson knew that his or her business would grow with good referrals. In other words, people would trust a business if a friend or a relative recommended it. This is called word of mouth marketing, and it’s just as powerful now as it used to be. According to research, word of mouth alone can drive up to $6 trillion in consumer spending every year. In addition, it accounts for at least 13% of all consumer sales. On top of that, it is five times more likely to get you a sale than any paid marketing would.

Naturally, word of mouth isn’t the same as it used to be. With the advent of the internet, it grew and evolved beyond what it was. As early as the end of the last century, most companies would merely sell a product, and the audience would react, but not interact with them. With the internet, customers can directly talk to their service providers. Whether a product succeeds or fails now depends almost entirely on what the customers say.

So how has word of mouth exactly evolved online? Well, nowadays, people don’t just go around telling others about products, or at least not to that degree. They can post about it on social media, where it reaches hundreds, if not thousands of potential customers. In this sense, word of mouth has become a far more dangerous tool. News spreads like crazy online, and any bit of bad news regarding a product could easily cause a problem to a company making it.

Recommended reading: How to Maximise PR for Your Business

What Does This Have to Do With Reputation Management?

The answer to the question above is pretty obvious – this direct online interaction is what brought about online reputation management as a practice. Your online rep includes you improving the image of your brand and lessening the impact of negative opinions with positive ones. But bear in mind, online reputation management is not the same thing as monitoring social media. In fact, it goes beyond mere social media monitoring. Online reputation management entails you responding to both positive and negative reviews in such a way that your brand suffers no real damage. It’s important to deal with both types of reviews, especially negative ones, in an efficient way. Companies which do not deal with negative reviews like this can suffer sales losses, and their brands can fall out of favor with their consumers.

Dark Horse Café is a perfect example of how not to handle a negative review. One customer complained that they didn’t have enough electrical outlets. The company’s reply was to berate them by claiming they deal with coffee, not office business. Naturally, this sparked outrage on blogs and social media. It should be very evident to you why this is an example of a negative public relations reaction which can ruin the reputation of any business.

To React or Not to React

That’s right. It’s not just about how you react to comments, it’s also whether you should react at all. Some problems your business might face can be very small. If that happens, do not react, as it can make a small problem worse. Of course, a delayed reaction to a problem, no matter how small, can also harm your business.

In terms of intensity, you can split the bad reviews into two categories. The first entails complaints that pop up on social media. Those normally aren’t that harmful to your business. However, the second category is the one you should pay attention to. Within this category, you have negative user reviews, hate sites, and negative press coverage. These three can ruin your business in the long run and damage your reputation online.

Another example that fits into this category is the now infamous United Airlines incident. A musician traveling from Halifax, Dave Caroll, used this airline for his traveling purposes. However, baggage handlers damaged one of his guitars. United Airlines did not reimburse Caroll, so he decided to deal with the matter publicly. His song, called “United breaks guitars,” which has more than 18 million YouTube views, deals directly with this situation. As a result of what Caroll did, United Airlines lost 10% of its market capitalization. That amount translates to roughly $180 million, and all just because of a song!

Tips for Successful Reputation Management

The incidents you’ve read about above can show you just how dangerous and powerful customer reviews can be today. But even more than that, they illustrate how big of a voice everyone has today by using social media. Now more than ever, you need to learn proper online reputation management if you want to succeed in business. Listed below are just some ways in which you can maintain your online reputation.

1. Note the Sales

Nearly all of the consumers that want to buy a product read related online reviews first. Of those that read, almost half decide just from reading less than three reviews in total. According to one survey, the biggest factor that results in these purchases is the star rating of products. Take note of that.

Other research into this area showed that a consumer is ready to spend almost a third of the price MORE on a positively reviewed product. On the other hand, a negative review drives away more than a fifth of all potential customers. Those are huge numbers, especially if your business generates millions of dollars. All of these surveys and research papers show one primary cause for these numbers. That cause is the online reputation of a business. Whether you’re a good or a terrible salesman, the product reviews directly impact your bottom line. Have this in mind when working to improve your reputation management.

2. Observe Search Rankings

Not only will online reviews impact your business, but they’ll also have an effect on your ranking on search engines. YOTPO conducted some research into 30.000 online retailers for roughly nine months. Their results show that organic traffic to a number of these sites began to increase when they decided to add user reviews. It’s not exactly a mystery why they decided to do this. Google algorithms tend to rank unique, fresh content better. Naturally, reviews present a great source for this type of content, and Google promotes anything that includes any kind of online review.

One particular benefit of reviews is that they boost SEO for you, and you don’t have to lift a finger. Most reviews provide long-tail keywords and links related to your content. In addition, every automated search engine normally uses “spiders” that look for user reviews and honest testimonials for site evaluation. But it’s not all automatic. Teams consisting of search quality raters manually sift through many thousands of websites to check how authentic and professional they are. Their authenticity is earned via quality user content. In other words, if your web page has lots of user-generated content, it will be more legitimate. Moreover, you’ll get lots of SEO surges from these ratings.

Naturally, any online reputation management is hard work. You need to constantly monitor your digital footprint, as well as talk to customers and try to get as many positive reviews as possible. The next three steps will explain how you can do this.

3. Remember to Monitor

If you want your product to grow, people need to talk about it. But that’s not enough. If they talk, you must listen. That’s the first step of your online reputation management. Make sure to observe what your customers post about you. You might see your business as successful, but put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They might disagree, and when they do, you must pay attention.

Of course, you can’t really pay attention to everything. The internet is huge, especially when it comes to social media. Even if you have a presence on these platforms, and even if you have a team to do this for you, tracking every comment is hard. Yet, it’s especially hard for a small business, considering that it has limited to no marketing budget and a lack of human resources.

However, these difficulties are no reason for you to quit. In fact, it is crucial that you continue to pay attention, as feedback can elevate or destroy your brand. As you know, the majority of people base their shopping decisions on customer feedback.

There are good ways to do this. You can start by performing a quick Google search for your business. Pay attention to what comes up on the first page. Take a good look and ask yourself “what kind of impression does this search leave on me?” More than likely, that’s the impression most people will get if they google your business name. Beyond this, you can monitor your situation if you turn on alerts on every related review site via automated tools. Any one of these two options can help you monitor. Naturally, negative reviews can sometimes help (more on that later). But remember - too many of them can ruin your brand, and do it fast.

4. Respond to Reviews and Comments

Bear in mind, this is the more difficult part. The moment you see where you stand when it comes to reviews, it’s time to manage them. Remember not to panic when you see a negative review. In the paragraph above we mentioned that a negative review can help your business. If you have nothing but positive reviews on a product, a customer will think you’re doing something suspicious. Several negative reviews will give your product a sense of authenticity. In fact, more than half of the customers buy a product if it has a few notable negative reviews.

You absolutely must NOT delete negative reviews. Avoiding criticism will do more harm than good. The best thing for you to do is to be as transparent as possible. If you actually respond to negative feedback, the customer will think that you’re taking them seriously. A responsible businessperson talks to their clients and admits to their business mistakes. In addition, if you talk to the customer honestly enough, they can even promote you, despite not liking your service in the beginning.

Take proper timing into consideration as well. Try to respond to your users as fast as possible, within a day or two at most. Not only will that show your customer that you care about their problem, but it will also help you stop a potential problem before it escalates. The biggest benefit of this is that you learn how to improve your work directly from the shoppers. That way, you will have fewer complaints in the future and will develop a dedicated user base.

5. Try Getting More Reviews

Much like monitoring, getting more user reviews can be really difficult. Ideally, every satisfied customer will already promote you by word of mouth. Of course, it’s never that easy. Oftentimes it happens that a satisfied buyer just forgets to post a user review. Either that or they just don’t feel like doing it. Naturally, the most important thing for you to do is to maintain a high quality of your brand. That way reviews will come by themselves. If and when you earn permanent and loyal customers, you can even ask them for a few positive reviews. Remember, you have to time these review requests right and don’t do it too often. Otherwise, you’ll just appear desperate.

The more of these reviews you get, the easier it will be for you to reach more customers. Naturally, your marketing strategy plays a big role here. Try to post those reviews on your website, so that any potential visitor can see them. Also, don’t forget your social media platforms. Leveraging your reviews there is extremely important, not to mention very beneficial. More people will share links from these platforms than from your own website. But don’t worry. If you cross-promote, new customers will eventually come to your web page and generate more traffic.

Tools that Can Help You

You’ve learned how to improve your reputation management, and now you know how hard it is. And not only is it hard, but it also takes up a lot of time. Yet, there are lots of online tools which can help you automate the process. Brand Grader, for example, provides a quick and short overview of how your brand is doing. You’ll see every important influencer, sources of every mention, as well as sentiments people express about your brand. The tool is free, and it provides you a short summary of what you need to know.

If you use Twitter, make sure to get TweetReach. TweetReach can show you how strong your tweets are. Furthermore, you’ll be able to find followers with the most influence. You can target these followers if and when needed.

A great tool to use across numerous social media is Mention. Not only will it work on these platforms, but it will also cover news sites, review pages, and forums. With this tool’s Boolean alerts, you can get the results that you need. That way you won’t have to sift through thousands of posts about your product by hand.

The last tool you’ll want to use is Ureview.me. This website will look over many review sites. When it does, you get alerts when any customer reviews your product. You can then use that review as you see fit.

Managing your reputation is crucial for your business, I hope this has shown you why and how you can monitor and manage it more easily. 

Over to you now. How have you gone about reputation management for your business? Tell us your experience in the comments below. 


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