Businesses are starting to realize that consumers make decisions based on their online research. We don’t just find companies in the yellow pages anymore! Now we type our needs into Google, and the search results tell us what is close, what is convenient… and what other people think about it.
Your “place page” on Google (for example, here’s ours) is the collection of knowledge Google has gathered about your business. Any reviews that customers have posted online (even on other sites like Yelp or CitySearch) will show up, along with a map, contact info, and a link to your website. Monitoring search engine results like this is what Online Reputation Management (ORM) is all about.
Creating An Online Reputation
What happens if you have no reviews? Users who are unfamiliar with your company will assume that previous customers didn’t feel strongly (positive or negative) enough to review you, meaning they’ll probably go for a competitor that has one or two starred reviews. Encourage your existing customers to review your business – send a newsletter with a link to your Place Page, and ask them to give you feedback. Offer an incentive (like a small promo item) if you like!
And negative reviews? Once a review is out there, it’s out there – you can’t delete it, but you CAN address it. Comment on the review, thank that user for their thoughts, assure them you’re taking their concerns to heart and will do something about what made them unhappy. The web is all about transparency and communication – let commenters know that you are reading what they’re writing, and that you are the kind of company that cares about what customers want.
ORM can also be accomplished through blog entries. You want to be an authority in your industry, a trusted source of information on the web. Write entries about current trends in the industry, or an interesting customer experience that needs sharing. Tout a new product!
Facebook and Twitter are also terrific resources for ORM. Your business’s Facebook page also has a Reviews tab (here’s ours) where people who “Like” your company can leave feedback and give you a star rating. Try to post something new on your Wall at least once a week, to keep your traffic up and your content current. Make your post something relevant – talk about the special deals you’re featuring on a particular day, or invite Facebook users to do something (like “we’re giving away FREE bread! check out our website for more details!”). Interact with your Twitter followers. If they tweet @you, tweet back!
Just stay vigilant. Every couple of weeks, pretend you’re a customer and search online for your business. Try to see it for the first time – what’s your impression, based on the search results? If it needs work, it’s time to start really cultivating your online reputation.