Maintaining a Better Online Presence: A Guide For Your Small Business

Whether you even have a website or not, customers are actively reviewing your business online. Make sure you're engaged

Maintaining a Better Online Presence: A Guide For Your Small Business

As a very wise man, Socrates, once said:

“Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” 

We’re not going all the way back to ancient Greece though, we’re just starting this topic before the days of the internet. The reputation of a business was based almost solely on word-of-mouth. Comments and feedback from customers, clients and suppliers would eventually work their way back, where the business would take them on board. That’s pretty much how a reputation was managed.

Reputation with the internet

Nowadays things are different. Using the likes of social media, review sites and more, people spread their opinions online for all to see. The possible reach of online commentary far exceeds that of spoken word-of-mouth, and it’s clear how important it is to not only understand an online reputation, but to proactively manage it as well.

Even if a business doesn’t have an established online presence, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have an online reputation. Businesses are often added to maps, reviewed and rated or spoken about. This can come from internal sources too – sites exist for employees to blow the whistle or simply give their personal opinions on how it is to work with or for companies.

People will likely look at online reputation before making purchasing decisions. Whether using a search engine to find ‘reviews on x’, or locating the social media accounts belonging to a business to look at customer interactions and complaints, prior research is strikingly common in the data age.

Those who research aren’t going to want to buy from someone with overwhelmingly negative reviews. They’re going to want to buy from the places with the best reviews – for the price they can afford. If a company has no reviews at all, then that isn’t necessarily a bad business of course, but typically, if a prospective customer is concerned enough about reputation to be conducting a search in the first instance, it’d be reasonable to assume that having online reviews could influence purchasing.

An online reputation important, and it can be online even if the business isn’t. When customers can seek out online reputation information before buying or entering contracts with a business, it matters. If there’s no information online about the business, a brand may not be getting the same attention as competitors.

Reputation can be scored

The reputation score of a business is a measure of its online reputation, which can be calculated through a combination of online customer reviews, as well as overall online presence.

For example, how well does the business appear in search engine results and is it listed accurately in all online directories? It’s clearly a significant concern; so taking research-driven action is a wise move.

What action?

  • Research where you are now: Use a variety of platforms, such as search engines and social media to establish exactly where the business is mentioned or has a presence. Look for reviews and find the different elements feeding into the decision-making of prospects and customers.
  • Establish and grow an online brand presence: Get the company name online and out there – promote it sensibly and honestly! Look for bad reviews. Ask why they are bad. Work out how to address the points made and think how to get more of the good stuff out there. Encouraging satisfied customers to leave genuine reviews on popular platforms is good practice.
  • Review and repeat: How the business envisages an online reputation strategy developing will probably dictate how much resource is channelled into the process, but whatever is decided, it will need periodic reviews to confirm it is working.

The reviewing process could be simple and manual, like repeating the research phase every month, or monitoring using online reputation management software. Whatever method, ensure that insights are used to create an advantage, drive business decisions and shape strategies.

There are services that monitor a business’s credit and reputational profile in real-time. For example, My Business Profile. Such services also offer the chance to easily monitor competitors too.

So whether one sees reputation as Socrates’ jewel, like a fire that can’t be extinguished, the modern business has more extreme threats and benefits alike to contend with when managing it. The situation has not necessarily changed, rather it has grown in importance, timeliness and relevance.

Reputation. Manage it, massage it – just don’t ignore it.

Ade Potts is managing director of Experian’s small business

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