Manage your online reputation!

In the dim and distant past, the reputation of a small business was all about word of mouth. With no internet, reputation was based on you…how you conducted business, how you interacted with your customers and how your products hit the mark. If you got a negative comment, you would soon know about it, as most businesses were local, and you then had the chance to fix it.

stock-624712_640Nowadays, most businesses, even very small businesses, have an online presence – be it a website, social media page or advert. Because of the internet, small businesses are not limited to local business; we can sell worldwide and reach millions of people at the click of a mouse…and businesses are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although this is fabulous, in that you can reach millions of potential customers, it’s harder to manage your business’s reputation. If someone has left a negative comment somewhere on the web, you won’t always see it, but it can be just as damaging as a word of mouth negative remark. So how do you manage your online reputation?

Google your name

Have you ever googled your name or business name? Try it and see what pops up…you will be surprised…when I did it, there was information about me and my business, but bar-621033_640also various events I was involved in years ago when I was employed in the UK. Also try entering your name into google images – that surprised me too!

Every single day, thousands of people are looking online for information about businesses or just a particular person, simply by typing their name into a search engine. With information about you and your business in the public domain, managing your reputation is crucially important. It’s not difficult to manage, but it does take time.

What if you find a negative comment online about your business? You’ll probably want to remove it. If the comment is something someone has said about you on their website or blog, contact them direct and politely ask them to remove it.

Set up Google Alert

You can go into Google Alert and request that you get an email notification every time your name is published online. Simply type google.com/alerts into your browser and open the site. Type your name or business name into the search box. Choose ‘show options’ to narrow the search to a specific language/source/region. Then select ‘create alert’ – you can choose to have alerts sent to you daily or weekly…and you can cancel at any time. I’m doing it for a month just out of interest to see who searches my name…could be interesting!

Be active on Social Media

Not all of us want to do this or have time to, but it is worth joining a few social networks – even if you just use them to fully fill out the profile pages. You don’t have to be ID-100167081completely active on them all the time, but if you add content once a month, this can help your online reputation. As well as the usual sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, there is also Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube, which are great channels to be a part of. I belong to a few of them, but am mainly active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. One of my goals for this year is to be more active on these and a couple of other sites…even if only adding the odd article or adding a comment to something and why it is interesting to me.

If you do go onto new sites, fill out as much information as you can, especially your name – make sure you use your full name, not nicknames.

It’s also very important too, that if you do set up social media sites and potential customers contact you or ask questions, that you reply promptly. If you’re on social media sites, people expect you to be sociable! By posting regularly, asking questions, answering questions and giving advice, you’ll be engaging with people and eventually you will find you have a good and lasting relationship with your audience.

Be careful about what you post

There are times when we all take photos on a night out and post them to Facebook … but be wary of doing this as it could seriously affect your business reputation. The problem with social media is that other people can take photos of you and post them without your permission. If you do post pictures, remember to put a privacy setting on them so only attention-303861_640your friends can see them. There is still a problem with this as social media sites are always changing their rules and regulations, so you can’t be sure that privacy settings are really private…or will be in future. I always used to tell my children when they were teenagers – don’t post anything that you wouldn’t mind your grandparents seeing or, for that matter, the whole wide world! After all, it is the World Wide Web!

If someone does post an embarrassing photo of you and ‘tags’ you in it, you can remove that tag … and there is nothing stopping you from contacting the person who has posted it and asking them to remove it.

Encourage reviews

The upside to having an online presence, such as a website or blog, is that you can encourage reviews of your products and services. This is great for your reputation as those that love what you do tell the world about it when they write a good review. feedback-1978036_640However, there will always be the odd person who will give you a bad review or say something negative about you or your business. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the knee jerk reaction is to delete negative comments, but in reality, if you can address the problem publicly, taking a proactive feedback-3683068_640approach, apologising if necessary and offering alternative products or solutions…or asking the person making the comment to suggest how you can address the problem. Often, this shows you listen to your customers and take action, which can only show you in good light. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it and hope it will go away, or delete it. My advice would be to always reply and try and address any issues. Often this turns a negative into a positive.

If you don’t monitor and actively improve your online reputation, you are missing an ideal opportunity to grow your brand, earn respect from your customers and hopefully question-mark-1751308_640build your business.

I hope this article has helped address some of the issues around managing your online reputation. If you have any other tips, please let me know – what would you add to this list?

How to promote your small business online

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In this day and age, where technology is easier than ever to access and where most of the population use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ or one of the many other social media platforms, you can’t afford not to have your business online. If you have a small business, it’s also worth considering setting up a website. These are the two online vehicles I’ll be talking about in this blog.

Why have a website?

id-100249653Having an online presence not only puts your business in front of a huge, global audience, it can help you get more sales and enable you to become more ‘real’ to your customers. The internet never takes a nap, gets distracted or falls asleep, so once you have your online presence, your business has the potential to be working for you 24/7. Customers can see your products and services in their own time, whenever they feel like it, so whether they work 9-5 and go online in the evening or whether they are night-shift workers and search for what they want during their break (at three in the morning), they can find you. More importantly, if you sell products and have an online store, a customer can order from you as soon as they feel the urge…they don’t have to wait for a shop to open at 9am, by which time they might have changed their mind. And they don’t have to travel to get what they want – whether you live in their neighbourhood or whether you lives hundreds of miles away, they can still buy from you.

A website gives potential customers the chance to check you out. What do you sell? What services do you offer? What is your business all about? What are you like? Your website builds your brand – online reviews from satisfied customers conveys the message that you are trustworthy; that your products or services are good; fills them with confidence in choosing you above your competitors. Your website can do all this…without you having to be there!

If you haven’t got a website yet, but would like to, click here for a very helpful site, which takes you through the process, step by step.

Social Media

id-100255669Using Social Media is the most common way to let people know your business exists and to build your brand. Social Media networks have millions of customers passing through them every single day – some of them will be your new customers. If you run a social media campaign for your business, or publish useful and high quality content on a regular basis, you can slowly, but surely build your online reputation. I don’t mean constantly bombarding people with images of your products with the hard sell, but taking the time to tell your audience what your product or service can do for them. Solve a problem, answer a question, show them that your products or services are worth buying or using and why.

However, Social Media is not a quick fix for your business – it’s an easy way to promote what you do, but it takes time and effort on your part to make it work and to build up your businesses reputation. Also, once you are on a particular social media platform, you need to monitor it to make sure you answer any questions or queries someone may have posted and to deal with any potential complaints or negativity.

Top 10 sites   

id-100282617Once you have decided to go the social media route, you just need to decide which one or two to go for. There are loads to choose from, but here are the top 15 sites, compiled in September 2016 by eBizMBA Rank – a US company. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

  • Facebook
  • You Tube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • VK
  • Flickr
  • Vine
  • Meet-up
  • FM
  • Classmates

You don’t need to use them all – it’s better to pick a couple and be brilliant at knowing how that one works for you, than to be on several that you know little about.

Email Marketing 

Email marketing, simply put, is the method companies use to send a message to a group of people using email. Sometimes it is used to send out adverts or maybe to inform id-100426841customers about a new product. However it is effective for small businesses to use this method to send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. This can be written in a friendly, chatty way and is a great way to stay connected to your customers. You just need to collect email addresses of new and existing customers and, most importantly, ask them if they would like to receive your newsletter. You MUST have their permission to do this, so good to have a form they can complete online on your website to ask to subscribe. You can then use it to let them know about any special offers or discounts, inform them about new products and generally tell them a bit about your business and how it works. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and build customer loyalty.

These are just three ways to promote your business online. Which method do you find the most effective for your business? Please comment in the box below.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net