Leading world public relations firm Weber Shandwick published a report recently entitled The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust. The report focuses on why business owners should be aware — and concerned — about their online reputation.
One important highlight of the research was a finding that any division of a company’s corporate image and brand reputation sparks a strong customer reaction. What this boils down to is this: even if your product or service is stellar, if your brand image is less than outstanding, it can hurt your sales.
Case in point: The report revealed that the most frequent customer reaction to a negative corporate image was to stop purchasing the product, which 40 percent of consumers reported as their response. Further, some consumers disclosed that they originally liked the product, but stopped buying it due a company’s negative image.
This report supports other research on the importance of managing your small business online reputation and creating a positive world wide web presence. The fact of the matter is that consumers in record numbers are using social media, online reviews, and other online information to form a judgment of companies. And this judgment is tied to whether or not they purchase your product.
It also doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business or a big box corporation — or a local or national firm. Consumers are using the internet to find out about local businesses, just as they do for national or global businesses.
So what should every small business do to help manage its online reputation and build its web presence?
- These days, it’s not enough to just have a website — although that’s a must have. You must also learn to love social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Quora and Pinterest. If you don’t have the resources to target all of these social media outlets, pick one or two and do them well.
- There’s perhaps few better ways to build a following, loyalty, community, and establish authority in your industry than by a blog. Publishing content on a regular basis is not only beneficial from a search engine marketing standpoint, but enables you to have a place to promote new products, services, or specials. Enable blog commenting and interact with your customers when they respond to a blog post.
- In addition to blogging and embracing social media, you must monitor your online reviews. According to Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of American consumers report that online reviews influence their buying decision. Therefore, take a look at sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Places to see how your brand is being evaluated.
The bottom line: small business online reputation management is about establishing a positive web existence; making your brand one that consumers trust so they purchase your products and services again — and again.