What exactly is Online Reputation Management (ORM)? Well, there is no solid definition of this term but I'd like to call it the online version of public relations.
The easiest and quickest way for most people to get to know a small business is through the internet. It's almost like magic when you open a browser and do some research about almost anything. You can become aware of what's good and bad about a person, an experience, and a business very quickly.
People aren't just visiting company websites any longer either. They are looking at directory sites, review sites, and social media for additional information. One bad comment or review can turn potential customers away from your business and you won't even know it.
If you own a small business, keeping an eye on what is being said about your business online needs to be part of your marketing strategy. Ignoring what is being said about your business online isn't going to make it go away, so you mine as well take control where you can and manage your online reputation.
“Our reputation is more important than the last hundred million dollars.” - Rupert Murdoch
Online reputation management means controlling your online image to protect the growth and success of your business. It's how you "bury the body" in terms of negative comments, reviews, materials, and feedback people can find about your business online.
Whether you like it or not, people will talk about your business. Sometimes, a single negative review can define how you do business and ultimately destroy what you built altogether. Isn't that scary?
Well, it doesn't have to be. You will never please everyone and taking an active role in your reputation online will help negate the impact of negative reviews and highlight the positive.
In the rest of this article, I am going to give you all the tools you need to start managing your online reputation.
I hate to break the news to you, but the internet spreads news faster than wildfire. It's like riding a bullet train without knowing when it stops. Social media platforms are great examples of how word of mouth can become lethal to small businesses. Look no further than the hot water United got into last year (2017) for removing a passenger from a plane.
Customers can leave your business a 5-star or a 1-star rating depending on a lot of factors like customer service, product quality, delivery, response time and sometimes, their boredom. It's incredibly easy to share their experience with the rest of the world in a few clicks. Remember that word of mouth is very trusted so it is really important to monitor your online reputation consistently.
We might not live for a hundred years but our reputation surely will. The internet has evolved into a public archive of all things, living and non-living, both known and unknown to man. What does this mean for your business? Simple, you are what people say you are and it will be challenging to change it.
Even if what a customer says isn't true or is only half the story. Simple comments like "Scam!" and "Don't buy!" will change how customers look at you and your business. It's sad, but it's true. Once someone posts a comment about your business, what's done is done. The only way you can highlight or counteract comments about your business is proactively managing your online reputation.
Were you ever given a chance to make things right? How did it feel? What are the things you did to correct your mistakes?
Online reputation management can turn around the negative perceptions of the public towards your business.
Negative feedback can be constructive in a way that gives you an opportunity to improve your products and services. Hearing bad comments about your business is tough, but it is a way to listen to customers and create healthy conversations you can use to improve your business.
Now I am going to start getting into the nitty-gritty of online reputation management.
The image below is a great visual of the different parts of online reputation management we are going to cover. You've got online reputation monitoring and online reviews. Where the two intersect is online reputation management.
Online reviews are mostly written by customers that are intended to influence small business owners and potential clients. They are left on websites which eventually appear on search engines like Google and Bing.
You must have both high-quality reviews/ratings and a lot of reviews to succeed. Your reviews can play a huge role in a potential customer's decision-making process.
Here's an example from a Google search for "Colorado construction companies".
Having a 5-star review rating means nothing if you only have a couple of reviews. You must have a decent quantity of reviews in order for people to feel your rating is credible.
Which one of these 3 companies would you contact first? I think most people would reach out to the company in the middle with a 4.9 rating from 59 reviews. Their other two competitors in this search aren't even close! The top listing is out with a 2.5 rating from 10 reviews and the bottom one has a 5-star rating but there are only two reviews.
Want to know how to grow your business with the help of online reviews? This resource about online reviews will help.
There are two main types of online reviews: social media and review sites. Let's look at both in a little more detail.
Social media reviews are left on social media sites like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
Social media is one of the two main places you will find reviews online. Some social media reviews will actually show rating levels, but they can also be something as simple as a customer leaving a comment on your page or posting a status update with a #yourbusinessname.
Not only do you want to monitor your social media pages for activity and engagement, you want to monitor social media for mentions of your brand.
A review site is a website where reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. I have listed a few examples of some of the top review sites you should check out.
You'll notice some crossover with social media sites as well.
The way to get more online reviews is to put a system in place to consistently ask for reviews. I know this seems way too simple, but most small businesses don't ask for reviews which is why they get very few or none at all.
You can certainly do this manually, but it's much more difficult to scale and a lot easier to have things fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are ways to automate review requests (check out some options in the list of tools near the end of the article).
No matter how you choose to do it, requesting reviews must become part of your sales and customer service processes. I would highly recommend automating your feedback process. It will save you and your customers time and it makes the process a lot easier.
Brand monitoring is defined as following online conversations about your company, product, or service by monitoring keywords relevant to your business. It’s also known as social media listening or web monitoring.
Proactively monitoring online conversations about your business gives you a real-time view of your online presence. You will know what is being said and where things are being said so you can proactively participate in the conversations.
You can also learn a lot from comments like what you are doing well, what you are not doing well, why do people do business with you, and a whole lot more valuable nuggets about your business.
In the tools section below I've provided you a number of choices to help you monitor your online reputation. This is not something you want to do manually and will need to employ tools to automate and make the process easier.
Monitoring your online reputation is the second piece to the online reputation management puzzle along with online reviews. You must have both for a comprehensive reputation management strategy.
Online reputation management can require hours of dedication without the right tools. Fortunately, there are many online tools that can make your life easier.
You don't need all of these tools. Pick the 1-3 that suite your needs the best and run with it. You'll be well on your way to having an awesome online reputation.
There are three things you should consider when managing your online reputation:
My intention with this article is to provide you with the expertise to manage your ORM yourself if you so choose. But, you must ask yourself if you have the time to gain the expertise and employe ORM in your business.
If the answer is yes, then have it. If the answer is no, then you've got to ask yourself if you can afford to pay an expert to handle it for you.
As a small business owner, you are incredibly busy and can't handle everything yourself. Hiring someone will free up time and allow you to focus on other areas of your business.
If you choose to hire someone, make sure you ask the right questions to properly qualify the provider or consultant.
Online reputation management is both a science and an art. It may take time for you to master the ins and outs of this online strategy, but it will absolutely be worth every penny you invest and the effort you put into it.
In the end, your goal is to build a solid online reputation that communicates a strong brand and a place people love doing business with. Your business will reap rewards year after year for the effort you put into online reputation management.
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Header image courtesy of Pexels.
Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Mobile Marketing. At Rialto Mobile Marketing we create marketing systems to help small businesses achieve simple, sustainable growth. We help small businesses differentiate themselves from the competition, work with more ideal clients, command a premium for their products and services, and make marketing easier with consistent, repeatable results.