How to Master Online Reputation Management for a Local Business

Online Reputation Management for a local business is about how you monitor, review, and respond to what is said about your small business on the Internet.

Anybody doing business on the Internet can be subject to both good and bad publicity. Good publicity for our business is something we all strive to earn and maintain, but sooner or later you’re going to brush up against negative publicity. The fact is you need to deal with both appropriately and quickly.

Monitoring:

Monitoring is about putting in place mechanisms to get alerted when something good or bad is said about your business. As many local businesses have come to find out, one bad review at Yelp or Google Places, or a negative blog comment about you, can ruin your reputation, and suppress customer leads or product sales.

Make sure you have a business listing at all the major review sites such as Yelp, Google Places, and Yahoo! and Bing Local, and have somebody monitor them for new reviews daily. Your business should also be on Facebook and Twitter and monitoring comments.

But what about everywhere else? The Internet is huge so how does a local business make sure it can “listen in on it?” There are a number of free tools available but for local businesses my preference is still Google Alerts. Because of the popularity of Twitter I’ve also begun to suggest Monitter as Twitter has become a popular vehicle for passing around good and bad comments about a business.

Both these tools are easy to use, and allow you to put in keywords and receive daily alerts based on chosen keywords. Keywords you choose should include your business name and your name as the owner at a minimum.

It’s unlikely a local business will generate an overwhelming amount of alerts or tweets in a day, so I’ve tended to find the results from these tools are manageable.

Review:

So the alerts have turned up in your email inbox or in your RSS reader and you’ve clicked to find out what was said about you. Not every alert will require a response. If you’re active in your community then you’ll get mentions in local blogs and online news media. Most of these don’t require a follow-up from you.

The mentions and reviews you need to respond to will be obvious. When you read them they’ll either invoke the “Wow Factor” as in what a nice thing to say about my business in public, or you’ll experience a sensation of dread in the pit of your stomach. I have known both.

Either of these deserves a response.

Response:

When somebody says something really positive about your business it’s fun to respond. But even here it’s important to respond quickly and let the reviewer know you appreciate the comment.

People like to be recognized and thanked, and when you respond sincerely they’re more likely to partake in “word of mouth” marketing offline on your behalf – which is critical for a local business.

The bad comments or reviews demand careful consideration before responding. A local business should always attempt to correct the situation with the customer offline, and if it gets resolved ask the reviewer to go back and add to the review the final outcome.

Always respond to negative reviews as your future customers will be reading and making decisions on reviews, and an unanswered negative comment conveys you don’t care what people say about you.

Here are some simple rules when responding to a bad review:

If what they say is basically true and you were just having a bad day admit it, and briefly explain what you did to rectify it and move on. No local business is perfect. If your business model allows provide a refund, as it conveys you made the ultimate business sacrifice to correct the issue.

Give yourself 24 hours before posting the review, and have somebody else review your response. This will ensure you’re not reacting too defensively. Don’t argue or get personal – even if they did – it looks unprofessional and gets messy and nobody wins. Keep your response as short as possible, and end on a positive but conclusive note.

Online reputation management for a local business is becoming increasingly important as more small businesses conduct lead generation and commerce on the Internet. Having a process in place at the start to handle good and bad reviews of your business will be a key component of your online success.

Cliff Calderwood helps small businesses with their Local Internet Marketing and you can pick up a free guide and eCourse on how to get your local business on the Internet at his website: http://www.nelocalmarketing.com

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