Consumers are increasingly turning to the internet, social media and online reviews before making a purchase or signing up for service. It’s great that so much information is freely available, but this also means that a single bad comment or review can have a devastating effect on small businesses. So it’s no wonder that both small businesses and mid-sized businesses reportedly spend $700 million each year to protect their identity and reputation online – according to David Lazarus from LATimes.com.
Most small businesses simply don’t have the know-how or the time to dedicate to monitoring their reputation online. Therefore a new industry has emerged to help them. Some businesses and consultants offer a packaged service charged monthly or annually. Others offer businesses the tools and software to help them manage their reputation easier.
These services can cost as little as $30 a month or upwards of $10,000 per year. BrandYourself.com offers some easy to use tutorials for free or businesses can choose to let BrandYourself handle everything starting at merely $80 per year. But even at the low end, many businesses won’t want to or simply can’t invest money into it. In that case, it doesn’t necessarily mean all hope is lost.
If investing in ORM services isn’t something you foresee doing, there are still lots of things you can do yourself. Here are just a few ways you can help keep your business shine online…
Claim your name everywhere you can
The very first thing you should do if you haven’t already is to buy the domain name for your business. And don’t stop with the .com. If possible, get the .com, .net, .info, etc. You might also want to grab some domains that simply include your business name. i.e. If your company name is “Blue Investments” then grab blueinvestmentsonline.com, blueinvestmentsnews.com, etc… This just gives you more opportunities to control what shows up in an online search for the business.
Use social media to your advantage
On top of this, sign up on all the top social networking sites and fill out your profiles with company information, images, videos – whatever you might have. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest.
The more places, the better. It’s a one-time time investment for the most part. Even if you aren’t active on all of them all the time. Pick one or two to focus on and with the others simply add a comment, photo, article or some sort of update when you have time. Just make sure your profiles are optimized so they have a better chance of showing in the search results when someone searches for your business. Orange Fox has a complete walk through plus reputation repair tutorials on how to do this effectively.
Other online tools like KnowEm and NameChk can help you identify places online where you can set up profiles. SocialMention is another that goes a step further, by helping you keep an eye on when your business is mentioned across a number of social platforms and can even help you identify potentially negative mentions.
Know what’s being said about you
It’s important to keep up with mentions of your business. Doing so gives you an advantage over competitors who don’t. It allows you to respond promptly and hopefully derail any potential negative views of your business. A single negative comment can erupt quickly, with thousands of people seeing it within hours. So knowing when it’s posted and responding quickly is vital. According to a report by Harrison Interactive, if you respond to their online comment or complaint, there’s a one in three chance they’ll end up changing it and adding a positive review. But how you respond is just as important as when you respond. Jayson DeMers has some helpful advice on that.
There are cases when no matter what you do, you just can’t please them though. There are also cases where it’s a completely false allegation, review or statement about your company (likely from a competitor or someone a competitor hires to do so). If something like this ends up on a high profile site like Ripoff Report or Scam Book then you’re probably in for a long fight to have it removed.
Traditionally, posts on these sites are hard to remove and there’s even controversy about some of these sites basically resorting to extortion – making companies pay to have the post possibly removed. Today though, there are ways to get them removed, but it’s far from easy says David Lynn from Profile Defenders whose services guarantee to remove these listings. While it may take the services of a professional and it may take time, there is almost always a way to at least make sure that post isn’t found by your customers using one method or another.
The bottom line is customers and potential customers are often going to form opinions of your business based largely on what they find online. Don’t leave it up to fate. Take action now to ensure that what potential customers or employers read online creates a good first impression.