Reputation matters. The credibility of your brand and business builds an essential trust factor between you and your customers so that they’ll be inclined to choose you over your competitors. Whether it’s selling designer shoes or providing a speedy oil-change, a growing business finds continued success by building a great reputation.
But what about your online reputation?
The modern accessibility of the Internet and social media has made it easier to be transparent with your customers. It can also leave you exposed at the click of a button. Therefore, it’s important to understand why your online reputation matters and what you can do to manage it the right way.
The Internet Equals Information
The way we interact with people and businesses has changed dramatically over the course of time, thanks to the Internet. If you are currently a business owner, not having a well-curated online presence is a surefire way to lose customers.
If someone is considering using your service or buying your product, you can bet that they’ll search for your business online before making a decision… And why not? Information is so readily available online that this has become a common practice for most consumers. Even if the information is untrue, a significant percentage of online adults believe that information on the Internet is unbiased—66% according to a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
From potential investors and banks to your average Jane and Joe, anyone with internet access can endlessly search and collect information—true or not—about you and your business. It’s their first impression and if it’s not a positive one, you’re less likely to see success. On the other hand, if nothing about your business can be found on the Internet people can draw a negative conclusion. They may think that your business is not real, or that you aren’t a credible organization.
Consistent planning, development and management of your websites, domains, and social media channels are a priority for your business. Do a Google search on your company and find posts, blogs, or websites that are associated with your business. Dispose or amend anything that does not match your company identity. Set up Google Alerts to get notified when your business’s name or keywords come up in a new search result. Curate your personal social media accounts as well by posting more professional things related to your industry. Remove personal things like family photos and your relationship status. Consider hiring an online reputation management agency to assist you, but beware of fraudulent agencies and make sure to check their credentials.
Online Presence and Activity
A professional website with an easy-to-type domain is a must when it comes to having a powerful online presence. However, over the past decade, social media has exploded on the scene as the ultimate marketing and communications tool. People spend more of their time online, browsing different social media platforms. Ten years ago you could get away with not having an active Twitter handle. More recently, to have the same reach as your competitors, it’s become a necessity to cover your bases by acquiring and/or creating social media handles on each of the different social media platforms available.
Imagine owning a brick and mortar store on a busy city street with absolutely no windows. You’re less likely to attract people to your store because they can’t see what’s inside. Social media is like the window display of your business. You want to provide transparency for your potential customers. Show them that you’re active on the same platforms that they themselves are using.
Many consumers will scour Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get a better idea of your business’s reputation. If you aren’t active and engaging on these platforms, then you’re most likely missing out on a lot of potential business. If you are active on social media, do what you can to increase your follower numbers and engagement levels by uploading quality content on a consistent basis. Quizzes, animations, infographics and interactive tools related to your industry like calculators or maps are more likely to spark engagement. Doing this will also prevent your current followers from forgetting about you.
The Viral Nature of the Internet
The miracle of the present-day Internet comes attached with an unwanted exposure of information about you and your business. Any mistakenly uploaded tweet from you or your company could go viral, even if you delete it. People take screenshots all the time. A mistake online could ruin your reputation and cost you a lot of business. Anything uploaded to the Internet can end up being permanent, so think twice before you click that “post” button.
As your following grows, so does the public spotlight on you and your business. Whether you are responding to an unsatisfied customer in a private chat or engaging with other business’ social media accounts, be prepared to have your online actions judged by millions of people.
Social Proof and Reviews
In digital marketing, social proof is the phenomenon where a potential customer—or a prospect—uses the behavior of others to justify their own behavior in order to make a decision. Online reviews, one type of social proof, are a powerful tool you can use to build up your reputation. According to a 2017 BrightLocal survey, 93% of local consumers used online reviews to figure out if a local business is good or bad.
Having zero reviews on your business or product is not ideal, but having negative reviews is even worse. In both cases, the likelihood of converting potential customers is low. Collecting positive reviews on your website can be difficult and time-consuming. You can accelerate this process by sending friendly reminders to your customers—sometimes a politely written email request is all it takes. Most people forget to leave a review even if they had a positive experience so it’s important to follow-up and provide them with a fast, easy way to share their experience with others.
Google, Yelp, and Facebook
Google has recently become one of the top review platforms online. Google’s business listings and reviews platform allows local businesses everywhere to gain an edge online. If you search for a local business on Google or Google Maps, the customer reviews of that business will show up right next to the listing. This makes it fast and easy for potential customers to make first impression decisions about your business. Because many people still reference Yelp and Facebook reviews, try to encourage your current customers to leave reviews on those platforms as well.
But it doesn’t stop at reviews. You can use social proof to build your reputation in many ways. Ask your customers to post photos of themselves using your product or service, for example, but make sure they tag you or mention your business!
The strategies to safeguard and develop your online reputation are many. If you feel like it’s too much to handle on your own consider using a professional digital marketing agency. In the end it’s about being proactive instead of reactive. The Internet may seem like an endless expanse, and it’s impossible to control every single thing out there. That’s why it’s so important to take control over everything that you can.
Is your online reputation up to par? Have you ever made a first impression decision based on an online reputation? Drop us a comment below and spark the discussion.