A business' reputation - any business, large or small - has always been something that has to be carefully built and actively nurtured. And while that wasn't ever easy the advent of the Internet, social media and a slew of online review sites has, in all honesty, made reputation management far harder than ever before, as the online reputation of business can be positively or negatively impacted from so many different sources.
How is an Online Business Reputation Created?
People are talking about your business online, no matter what niche it operates in. Where are they talking? All of the following in all likelihood:
Personal Social Networks
Professional Social Networks
For example, Google has its own Google Review system and any Google reviews of your business will often be displayed right alongside your basic business listing in search engine results for all to see. Then there is Foursquare, Angie's List, Trip Adviser, Home Stars and many more. Oh, and let's not forget there is an increasingly prominent review feature on Facebook as well.
In Blogs and Forums
The Impact of Internet Mentions
You cannot control what people say about you online. And the chances are that, however hard you try to please on a daily basis, there will always be at least one or two negatives mixed in with the positives. Some opinions may even be, in your eyes, so misguided or unfair that you are tempted to ignore them. However, it should be noted that, especially in the case of online reviews, what is said can have a serious impact on your business.
According to a 2015 Pew Research study 68% of consumers trust opinions posted online and a whopping 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Yep, you read it right. Most people will lend as much weight to what a stranger says about a business as they do to what their friends and family might have to say. And so even if you know that a review is unfair the chances are good that someone, somewhere is taking it into serious consideration when deciding whether or not to do business with you.
Is Online Reputation Management Even Possible?
As we mentioned, you have no control over what someone chooses to post online about your business. But you can listen to what people are saying and take steps to highlight the positives and minimize the impact of the negatives. There are tools that can be set in place that will allow you to monitor the Internet chatter about your business and others that will allow you to address it in a positive, professional manner. But it has to be a consistent effort. "Checking your rep" once every few months is not enough, the damage may already have been done in the interim and you'll not even be aware of it.
All of this means that having a formal reputation management strategy in place is a must. And, as a busy business owner, you may very well need outside help, as it can be just one more time consuming task you simply don't have the time or resources to take on.