As you are busy and “just don’t have the time” to care about this internet stuff as you have “a business to run” I’ll try to give you some advice how you can set up some basic online reputation management in 20 minutes or less.
Reputation management is an awful word for something that’s naturally at the heart of every business man/woman – work hard to get a good reputation. So if you do a great job for Suzanne, installing her new kitchen she will very likely tell her friend Carie about it. Carie will tell Joe at the dinner party about this awesome company… you know what this ends up to.
And as you have to be curious and careful about what customers say about your business in your neighbourhood and as you have to stand up if someone tells untruth about you – you should do the same in the internet. That’s bad news as this may end up in work – but its good news as well as it will help you get customers, maybe even happy customers.
Listen to what the People say about your Business Online – Alert system
In the offline-world this is the barkeeper or hairdresser in your town. These are the people that do hear about everything that’s going on and are happy to talk about it. You go for a drink and you know that Bob is getting divorced and you get yourself a haircut and know that the local bakery is facing hard times…
Online your good buddy is the search engine. You can go there and type in your business name and location and the engine will tell you straight away who is talking about you and even better will tell you where to go to actually read what they are saying! That’s good news as you will not have to spend some money on getting Bill drunk to get him to tell you the truth. It’s out there you just have to grab it.
So for example if your business name is plumbertomi and your business location plumbergoldcity you would search for plumbertomi in plumbergoldcity and look at the first couple of pages in the results at least on Yahoo! Google MSN and Ask.
Not to forget set up a search for your domain name as well – if you got one – like e.g. plumbertomi.com.
Basically you just tell them what to look for and they will send you an e-mail, or even a message to your mobile for free whenever there is something new they find.
That’s the kind of buddy you need – someone helping you out all the time but refusing to take money – YAY.
So how to get this set up? Easy – just go to the news search of Google News Search and Yahoo! News Search search for “Plumbertoni in Plumbergoldcity” and for both you will see links to help you set up these alerts. You will need to set up a free account with Yahoo!, if you don’t already have one. The Google service works with no signup.
So now you will be asked to add some more information on how frequently you want to receive these alerts etc. – Once you have done this you are finally set up and all is good to go.
You will get all the “news” about your business on the web in your inbox for you to review. This will make sure you won’t forget about this task to do.
Be the Master of your Business Details – Submit don’t Wait and Receive
Wrong or outdated information like phone-numbers, addresses, pictures opening hours etc. can be “poison to your business”. Imagine a potential customer trying to find your store at a place it had been years ago. Imagine a customer deciding for another Hotel as the picture on the web was “Not so very nice, Darling”.
So do the effort and visit the big Online Yellow Pages, Local Search Engine sites and maybe the Social Local Sites to see if all the information of your business is OK or needs to be brushed up. These guys have to deal with millions of entries and will be happy about your support to get stuff corrected and updated.
I’ve put together a – quite extensive – list of places to go to add update your business details find it here. Jus focus on the BIG ones first.
Get the Customer Sing your Praises – Only a Reviewing Customer is a Good Customer
Ask the customers that you think were happy with your service to take a minute to write a (good) review for you. Whenever I’m in a hotel the I get these wonderful review sheets to fill in while having my breakfast – Usually I don’t fill them but if I’m positively or negatively impressed I might spend the time. So as we want the positive and don’t want the negative here is my advice.
Next time you do some brochure leaflet advertising get yourself a insert page just asking the customer to review on the web. Give him some example URL like http://local.yahoo.com to find his way. Hand it to every customer that you feel is happy to write a GOOD review.
Leaflet with an additional review reminder
Obviously if you do have the clients e-mail addresses send them a mail to say
“Thanks for choosing us! Hope you were happy. Mind to review us here? Sincerely Plumbertomi”
Reminder for future – Ask customers for their e-mail-address!
Emergency 101 – Report Abuse & Apply Step 3
So now let’s imagine you found some badly mistaken reviews about your business a customer ranting about you basically because he was fired of his job two days ago and didn’t know whom else to blame… Well if it is against the guidelines of the site because it contains profanity, is unfairly about the business or service or does include personal information about the owner or establishment you will be able to report the review as abusive, on the websites. Explain in detail why this is not a valid review. But as long as it is fair by the guidelines there is little you can do.
Mind that Google Maps formerly known as Google Local does gather their Reviews and Ratings from multiple sources – You will need to go to the source site to take some action … same applies if you want a review to appear on Google. A good place to add a review that will appear on Google Maps is Yelp.com, Insiderpages.com.
But as important /even more important/ as protecting your business against such things is to get loads of good reviews.
Really set yourself a goal like getting one good review a week. Ask for it and you will be surprised about the difference.
There is way more to online reputation management than this – and most importantly you have to do a great job obviously, as this way everything will work out fine anyway, but I guess this is a good start for someone new to this.
Wanna dig deeper?
San Francisco Chronicle – Amateur reviews changing approach of small businesses
And sure it does apply more to some business type than it does for others but basically everybody out there running a business should keep an eye on this.
Would you agree?