Think because you’re not advertising online that you don’t have any digital exposure? Think again. If you are in business you have digital exposure. If you are not managing your online presence you are vulnerable to a host of potentially damaging activities, some of which can ruin your business. These activities can come from places you may not be aware of and may have never interacted with.
My client base is focused primarily on small businesses, particularly local markets. I show business owners how to translate their traditional marketing and networking experience to the social media world. Social media can provide a deeper understanding of a customer base and can lead to a more successful marketing strategy. I help develop more loyal relationships between customers and businesses.
Most businesses seem to be aware enough to pay some attention to the big review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc. Even the Better Business Bureau is online. Suppose you have a trade business. You know good reviews are your lifeblood. You have framed cards and letters in your office. You may even have a nice album in your showroom. You may belong to a local networking or referral group like BNI or a chamber of commerce. This is all good stuff. You have some idea of online reputation management but think you have a good reputation so you don’t need to pay too much attention to it.
It doesn’t matter if your customers are empty nesters or the much-maligned millennials, people are online and talking to each other. You know it’s true that people “talk” to each other online while they are sitting right next to each other – on a couch, across from each other at a restaurant table. They’re “talking” this way. They are constantly referring things to each other. There are apps and sites where people literally post selfie’s and show what they are doing or what they are wearing and make money from affiliate marketing with the manufacturers!
Then there is the side that almost always blindsides a small business owner. There are review sites and social media platforms coming up every day for ever more narrowing focus market segments. There are dozens of sites that want to be better than Angie’s List or Yelp or TripAdvisor. Your customers can leave damaging reviews that can take on a life of their own beyond the platform on which they were posted. Ultimately this can be indexed by Google and other search engines and your name can be linked to a negative line of text that comes up every time your name is searched. That is why you need to manage your digital exposure. Here is a case study of a client I assisted with repairing a negative reputation, and a cautionary tale of a business not paying attention.
I won’t name names as this business is currently working diligently to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds. This is a case of growing too big too fast. In a short time all systems began to suffer – customer service, delivery, quality work on-time, billing errors. Worst of all bad reviews had begun popping up. These reviews named names, work specifics. They did not hold back or mince words. In a fit of very poor judgement the client interacted with the reviews in an argumentative way, adding more fuel, in a public setting, to a bad situation. I learned that while initiating his business growth plan the business owner’s wife became gravely ill. The business owner was operating on autopilot at work while tending to and running around for his wife at home. He was juggling too much when an employee of his reached out to me. The business had moved and they had handled their social media from a less than professional position prior to the move. Account administrators were lost and many poor decisions needed to be unraveled.
My first advice was to be upfront and honest. People can be brutal in the social media world but they can also be very forgiving. People forgive honesty and sincerity. It would take a while to rebuild trust but a true mea culpa can be restorative. He had a rough story to tell. Things got away from him. He was going to show that he is a stand-up guy and his word is good. I told his story. I spread it around to his audience. I responded to all comments. I started to post content showing new jobs, positive reviews, make-good success stories. It is an ongoing work in progress but along the way we discovered no less than 20 “FREE” profiles where his business had an audience he was unaware of. Most of these profiles included all business details, links, and photos. Of course, beyond the free profile there is always a sales pitch for more exposure and advertising but free exposure that you manage and update helps you in so many ways. It spreads your brand throughout the internet in many directions, helps your website index higher in organic searches, and helps you with a higher Google or Alexa page rank. This contributes to your search engine optimization (a subject deserving its own post). You want to be seen online. You want your business to come up high in organic searches but you want the first thing for people to see to be what you decide, not some negative review that gets tractions with readers and remains high. You can’t truly delete bad things but you can bury them down beyond the first page of the search (SERPs search engine results pages) with your own positive content and positive audience posts. This business is seeing good results.
Another local business, in a community for decades, hasn’t remodeled in since opening, provides a poor customer experience and doesn’t react in a swift and positive way to address issues is unaware that the community has a town squawk page on Facebook. Someone started a post griping about their bad experience. Within 4 hours 60 people had contributed comments to the post. Soon people who had never been there started to say they would never attempt to go there if so many people felt so strongly about it. Community advocates began posting that they hoped the business would get word of this and do something and that the town needed legacy businesses like this. Currently, this business is not paying attention and is in freefall not feeling they need any help at all. I experience this often enough with older businesses. You don’t have to be on social media personally to know that your business should be on it.
Contact me if you need help. I can be reached almost anywhere.
phone 978-994-2142, email firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or, if you insist, mail 42 S Hunt Rd. Amesbury, MA 01913, but not fax. I’ve given up on fax. No one needs to communicate that way anymore.