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Monitoring Your Digital Reputation: A Must in the 21st Century

By: Chris Martin

 

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Small business owners have a hard enough job in the 21st century. They have to navigate local, state, and federal laws and regulations, which become more complex every year. They’ll soon have to provide health care for workers or pay a penalty to the government. And they have to address a myriad of problems and obstacles just to keep their businesses running smoothly on a daily basis.

 
In short, small business owners have enough real-world issues to deal with. But these days, they must also concern themselves with things that happen in the virtual world.
 
Why an Online Reputation Is Important
 
All of the information about a small business that can be found in cyberspace makes up what is known as a company’s online reputation. And sadly, its online reputation may or may not bear any resemblance to its “real-world” reputation. This can be problematic for small businesses, since so many consumers turn to the Internet to gain information about their shopping and service provider choices.
 
Small businesses that completely ignore their online reputations do so at their own peril. If even one or two negative comments, blog posts, or articles appear online, they can result in lost sales to retailers, fewer consumer inquiries for service providers, and increased market share among competitors that have positive online reputations.
 
How to Maintain a Small Business’s Online Reputation
 
So how can small business owners keep this from happening? By monitoring the online reputation of their business. Here are some ways to do that:
 
  • Google themselves. This is the simplest way to get a snapshot of a business’s online reputation. If a few negative entries appear on the first page or two of a search engine, the company’s online reputation may be suffering.
  • Check social media sites. Obviously, this means keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other sites on which the small business has a presence. But consumers may make comments about a company on any one of a host of social media portals. Luckily, there are software programs available that can monitor a large number of social media sites.
  • Look at review sites. Yelp!, Google Places, and other portals let people post a review of their experience with a certain company—and consumers looking to patronize businesses often check these sites before spending any money. So if there are negative reviews floating around in cyberspace, it behooves a small business owner to find out about them.
  • Address complaints in a timely manner. Once these complaints are discovered (either after being posted on review sites or submitted directly to the company), they should garner a quick response. The issue raised should be addressed, an apology should be given if appropriate, and everything should be done to “make it right” with the customer. Responses should never be angry, sarcastic, or condescending.
  • Accentuate the positive. If requests for negative reviews to be removed from the Web aren’t heeded, it’s important to drown out the negativity to improve your small business reputation. This is done by making sure positive content like glowing reviews, promotional blog posts, and news articles about the business finds its way onto the Internet, and is shared by as many people as possible.
 
There are companies out there that can help small businesses bolster their online reputations. But no reputation can be repaired if the business owner doesn’t know about the problem. And a negative online reputation can mean the difference between success and failure in the 21st century, which is why it is essential to monitor it constantly.
Published: November 14, 2013
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