Reputation Management has become a hot topic over the past few years (hence the need for a blog dedicated to it), especially given the ability consumers have to create, and share, their own content. It’s scary if you’re a business, but even scarier if you’re a small business. Small business owners rely on user reviews and high ratings on sites like Yelp, Citysearch & Google to bring in new business since they don’t have the marketing budgets large retailer/shops have to run PPC ads, dive into SEO or create extravagant social media campaigns. That’s why they have to be smarter, and more strategic in how they spend their “marketing” time.
First, we monitor your reputation to see if there is anything we should be concerned about. The great thing, it isn’t rocket science. It does, however, take dedication, routine and a bit of set up time. I highly recommend creating a dashboard, Yahoo Pipe or setting up Google Alerts. By doing this, you’ve just completed the first step in managing your reputation. Not too bad right? Now you need to figure out where your customers are leaving comments/reviews. Is it on a blog? Yelp? Twitter? Your dashboard, pipe and/or Google Alerts will help you understand this.
Once you’ve found out where your customers are hanging out online, the next step is for you to create accounts on those respective sites. For example, if your customers are leaving lots of Yelp reviews, then I suggest creating a Yelp (get a free biz account) account. With this free account you’ll receive alerts when you have new reviews, customize your profile page with images and a description, as well receive basic stats about how many people have visited your Yelp profile page.
Twitter is another site I would highly suggest monitoring, no matter what. Things happen quickly on Twitter, which is precisely why you must be monitoring this site. Twitter easily allows anyone to listen, and join in on any conversation happening out there. It’s excellent for establishing relationships, and even easier to monitor conversations. Simply go to Twitter Search, search for a keyword and subscribe to the RSS feed.
OK, now you have a few profiles set up. You’re armed and ready to go after these people who have been bad-mouthing your establishment. You want to burn them at the stake. OK, slow your roll. The next step is going to be listening. Yes, just listen. Don’t talk. Just listen to what your customers are saying. Do you see any recurring themes? Is the service being hammered for rude servers/bartenders? Are the prices too high for the quality of the food/service? Is the music too loud? Are your customers too cold? You can learn so much from your customers, but you have to be willing to accept criticism and feedback without flying off the handle. Once you are ready to try to start a calm, constructive conversation, reach out to some of these people by following them (on Twitter, not home from work). They will see that you’re following them and they may even start a conversation or be impressed that you’re actually on Twitter. Reach out and thank those who made comments, however, be sure to have read the proper guidelines for Twitter etiquette. Yes, I’m serious.
Yelp now allows businesses to create profiles of the business and manager/owner. This is a great way to put a face to a business and make it more personable. Within the past year Yelp has also added the functionality for business owners to be able to reply publicly to a review of their establishment. Sites like TripAdvisor have been doing this for years, so it’s great to see Yelp providing the same feature. Having the ability to publicly acknowledge a fault, a customer concern, or clarify a misconception is huge. It can literally save a business.
The whole point I’m trying to make here is to be sure you are active in managing your own reputation. Don’t let a reputation issue start, stop it before it explodes. With free tools, like the few I showed you above, you’ll be well on your way to monitoring all comments, reviews and conversations happening in the www (wild wild west).
Are you a small business owner? I would love to hear your experience with managing your reputation.