If you own a small business, you’re probably already aware of the importance of your online reputation. Positive reviews drive more customers to your business, while negative reviews may drive them away. Today, just by typing a few sentences and hitting “done,” anyone has the power to damage the reputation of your business.
Fortunately, there are tools you can use to defend your business and its online reputation. From expensive reputation repair services to tools that help you respond to negative reviews as soon as they go live, today you have more options to protect your business than ever before. Here are our top ten:
The granddaddy of review sites allows you to “claim” your business and respond to negative reviews, so it’s a good idea to check the site for new reviews at least once a week. If you see a bad review, don’t get angry and respond with your own accusations or call the reviewer a liar – instead, say that you’re sorry they had a bad customer experience, and offer to make it up to them with a free or discounted service in the future.
Google Alerts is a free service powered by Google that automatically sends you an email whenever a new page pops up with your alert text. Set an alert for the name of your company, and you’ll know instantly when somebody posts about you online. You can stay one step ahead of the competition by setting up Google alerts for them, too, so you’ll know exactly what’s popular (and unpopular) about their business.
Social Mention aggregates information from more than 80 sites including Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, YouTube, Digg and Google. It judges each mention as positive, negative or neutral, and gives your business a “passion score” based on how many people are talking about your business and how frequently they post. Signing up for Social Mention is well worth it if you want to track your customers across as many sites as possible.
Tweetdeck allows you to track all mentions of your business on Twitter, all interactions between you and Twitter users, and all uses of a hashtag you’ve created to promote your business. You can also monitor mentions of your competitors or your industry as a whole. Tweetdeck is an excellent tool if you want to quickly reply to customers who are mentioning your company on Twitter.
Much like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite allows you to monitor mentions of your business across a select few social media platforms. A host of available extensions (some free, some paid) are available to further your monitoring reach. Like Social Mention, Hootsuite also tries to track user sentiment (how commenters feel about your business) as they monitor mentions.
If you’re finding it impossible to keep up with all the social media sites and other sites where people are talking about your business, you might want to pay a little more for a reputation defender service. Some of these try to drown out negative mentions of your business with positive information; others will actually contact individual site owners who are posting negative reviews and ask them to cease and desist with their inflammatory comments.
Reputation Management Consultants
One of the pioneers in the field of online brand management, Reputation Management Consultants works to ensure that only upbeat, positive content about your business or brand shows up in the first few pages of a google search. They don’t delete the negative material – they just make it much harder for the average browser to find. Reputation Management Consultants can also write press releases for your business and articles about your business, and if you’re not already on social media, they can create and curate a social media presence for you.
Reputation.com directs you to “claim” your company’s presence on as many social media networks as possible, then analyses the resulting posts for trends, changes and negative comments. The service encourages you to proactively ask for reviews from your happiest customers, and suggests you work to hit dedicated benchmarks each month (for example, 15 five-star reviews.) Unique features include surveys, which you can integrate at point-of-sale (POS) if you sell in stores or online, as well as tools to assess local competitors.
Review Boost does exactly what it says it does – it will help you promote positive content and reviews about your business across the internet, utilising the top press release sites, blogs, discussion boards and forums. It will also work to place your business in directory listings with links to positive articles and comments about your business.
Reputation Sentry is one of the few sites that will actively try to remove negative information about you online. It also comes with a host of other benefits, including email alerts every time your company is mentioned online and a content-writing service to help you fill your company blog with useful, entertaining content that’s search-engine friendly.
BrandYourself is another service that seeks to drown out any negative reviews by adding positive content to highly-ranked websites. BrandYourself has received a slew of industry awards, and is also the cheapest of the paid-for reputation defence sites that I’ve mentioned here.
Whether you decide to stick with the low-cost services or pay a little more for the advanced reputation defenders, there’s one simple way any company can boost their online reputation quickly and easily: just ask your customers to help. If your customers seemed to enjoy their haircut, personal training session, meal or photo shoot, why not ask them to post a review? And don’t just stick to Yelp – while it is the first place many people turn to for reviews, you’ll want a diversified reach in case an angry former coworker or a bitter ex deluges your Yelp page with negative comments.
It’s simply not true that “the internet is forever.” With a little brand-savvy and perhaps some help from the professionals, you can have an online business presence that brings customers in, not steers them away.