By Rich Gannon, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Rural Business Advisor with the Great Falls Development Authority.
If your business isn’t actively managing its online reputation, it’s time to start. A recent survey by an internet marketing firm found that 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year. Over 80% of consumers surveyed said they read online reviews for local businesses before they make a purchase. These numbers continue to trend upward every year. Armed with that information, it’s time to start actively managing your online reputation.
If you’ve never done any online reputation management here’s a basic tip, start small and stay engaged, to do that – follow these 3 simple steps:
1. Create Business Social Media Profiles – There are many social media platforms out there, but I’d recommend starting with 3 of the largest and most used for businesses; Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp. All of these platforms are free to use and will cover most basic searches for your business.
2. Stay Engaged – After you create your business profiles, stay engaged with them. Keep your hours up to date, post photos and create status updates. Staying engaged on these platforms is a signal to customers that your business is active and open. Think about it is this way, what would you do if you found a restaurant’s Facebook page and their last post was from 2014? If that’s all you knew about that restaurant would it influence your decision to stop and eat there?
3. Respond to Reviews – Monitor and respond to reviews. Thank customers for positive reviews, and don’t just ignore negative reviews. Try to handle bad reviews with grace and professionalism. Getting into an online shouting match with a customer is no way to handle a poor review or rating. Instead, address the issue and try to fix the problem. At some point it does become a judgement call when to stop engaging with the rare customer who cannot be satisfied. Most reasonable people who read reviews and your replies will be able to see that you made an effort to address the problem – which will give them confidence that you take customer service seriously.
Here’s what one of our clients told us recently about just one aspect of online reputation management- creating a Google My Business profile, “With the help of the folks at Great Falls Development we setup our Google My Business listing and are we glad we did! In the last 3 months our listing has been viewed over 4,000 times!” Dr. Kate Kennedy, Great Falls Holistic Health Clinic
It may seem like a daunting task to manage your online reputation, but it is becoming increasingly important. Remember, start small and stay engaged. If you don’t handle your own reputation, someone else will! If you need a hand setting up any of these profiles or any other help with online marketing please email me at RGannon@GrowGreatFalls.org, all of my business coaching services are free of charge.
Rich Gannon is a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Rural Business Advisor with the Great Falls Development Authority. The Great Falls Development Authority (GFDA) a nationally recognized economic development organization. For more resources visit https://growgreatfallsmontana.org/, https://sbdc.mt.gov/, and https://www.sba.gov/.