In today’s plugged-in, tech-savvy culture, managing your online reputation will almost certainly be an essential component of your small business strategy—even if you don’t sell your product or service online.
Intimidated by the prospect?
Don’t be. Here are a few simple, impactful steps you can take to improve your online reputation in the short and long-term.
Update Your Google Business Listing
These days, your interaction with a potential customer frequently occurs long before she walks through your door—whether you’re aware of it or not. She may have visited your website, scanned its social media feed, or sought out the sort of “crowdsourced” online review sites that can have a profound effect on whether she chooses to do business with you or not. Three or more negative reviews can cause a business to lose 59% of its customers.
The best way to put your best foot forward? Keep your free Google business listing—which features prominently in Google’s search results, particularly on mobile—up to date and customer friendly.
This means ensuring your business hours, address, phone number and website URL information are all up to date, of course, but don’t stop there: Add photos to give people a feel for what to expect before they visit as well as information on upcoming special events.
Though you may feel a bit shy about doing so, it is possible to ask for reviews from customers both new and old without coming off as pushy. If you don’t feel as if you can slip a verbal “ask” into your conversation, a postcard tastefully displayed near the cash register can be a great way to let people know you value any feedback they might be willing to share online about their in-store experience.
If a customer offers up glowing feedback in-person, by phone or via email, promptly respond to thank them and ask if they would also sing those praises on Google or Yelp.
Increase Positive Visibility
Want to drum up newsworthy positive buzz about your business?
Contact your local business bureau to find out the local and regional competitions or community sponsorships for which you might qualify. Take home a trophy and you’ve got a readymade news peg to pitch local reporters always in search of great community copy.
Or consider sponsoring a local fundraiser or annual event in your community. A donation of goods or funds usually includes mention of your business in their online marketing efforts, potentially boosting your online presence and attracting new eyes to your business.
Time for a Website Update?
Even if brick-and-mortar is your bread-and-butter, a customer-friendly website makes an impact. Customers have come to expect them. Not having a website might lead them to think you’re not a legitimate business.
And now, with the prevalence of smartphones, Google prioritizes websites with “mobile-friendliness” in search results. Type your URL in their mobile-friendly test tool to see how your website stacks up.
Website-building platforms such as Squarespace, Wordpress and Wix make it easy for anyone to create a professional and mobile-optimized website. Choose a template and enter in your own content—no coding or design skills required. (Phew!)
Depending on the complexity of your needs, however, it may prove worth the cost and time savings to outsource your custom website to a freelancer or agency for a unique design and layout.
Social Media is Here to Stay
Many customers reach out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with questions or feedback—and they expect prompt responses. Social media also lends itself to promotions, events and product launches, which helps keep your business top-of-mind with those who follow you online.
If social media isn’t your passion, consider asking one of your employees if they’d like to help. A regular customer might be willing to manage your social media accounts in exchange for a small fee or even store credit. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to hire a social media-specific agency who can manage and respond to tweets, direct messages and comments.
If your online presence is nonexistent or needs work, it’s not too late to make improvements. Start small. Begin with the low time investment, big-impact steps such as updating your Google listing and asking for reviews before moving on to larger tasks like awards, website and social media.
Your business wasn’t built in a day; Neither will your online reputation. In the end, however, the effort to spruce up your online reputation can pay major dividends.
Need help? Find your nearest Fifth Third Business Banking Relationship Manager to get started.