You wouldn't allow this grafitti to stay on your business' storefront would you?  Why would you allow it on your virtual presence?  Today we're going to be discussing the importance of reputation management on digital/social.

In a frantically developing social media landscape, small businesses face the pull of a thousand directions when it comes to maintaining and marketing their business.  Even worse, for small businesses with brick and mortar locations, feeling spread thin between in-person B2B marketing and social networking online can feel like and endless chore.

As a social media strategist and digital brand manager for my clients, I have often heard the exacerbated sighs of the spread-too-thin business owner who is simply trying to get more foot traffic through the door, or a few people to their digital properties without running themselves ragged. 

Let me assure you, from one busy business owner to another- if you feel that you're drowning beneath the latest wave of social media "musts" you see on LinkedIn and in the news, come up for breath- I have one quick piece of advice that could be that gasp of air you so desperately need.

Do not spend your time worrying about the latest social media trend and trying to yell at your customers to come shop with you, chances are- they may already be distracted by what others are saying about you, before they can even hear what you have to say about yourself.  So here's my big takeaway:

Instead of talking, have you been listening?

 

Chances are, if you are on social media- your customers are already talking about you.  Often, as small business owners, we get so caught up in marketing our ideas, leveraging platforms, trying to capture trending hashtags and get ahead on seasonal marketing ideas.  Our marketing strategies simply involve push, push, push- we forget to simply stop and listen.  

One of the biggest mistakes I've seen made by local shops and services when I've networked at B2B and Chamber of Commerce events is that we often get so busy marketing, we stop listening. 

To illustrate this point, I recently was consulting with a local Barre studio in my neighborhood.  I sat down with the vivacious and passionate business owner to address some of her biggest pain points when trying to grow her business.  In her mind, social media marketing was an exhausting addition to her already busy schedule, and neither of us wanted to add any more stress to her already full life.  

To begin our session, I poured over her social media channels to assess her current work.  Everyday, she was regularly pushing content about industry trends, schedules, specials and events that were getting engagement, but for some reason, that engagement wasn't wasn't growing her business in the way she'd hoped in attracting new customers.

Then it happened- I looked at her Yelp reviews.  YIKES.  Over a year ago, she had done a Groupon that hadn't gone particularly well. Most of the clientele that came in using the Groupon weren't her ideal clients and were easily dissatisfied with her classes, despite the steep discount.  On Yelp, they ranted about everything from the wall color of the studio to their frustration signing up on the website- honestly, the negative reviews floated to the top, and as viewer, it was all I could see.  

She took a deep breath and grit her teeth- she had read the reviews and already had made many positive changes to her studio, including a new website, which would address the negative feedback, but that's where it fell short.  The negative comments of 12 months prior still appeared near the top of the feed.  To a new user, that negative feedback still appears true, until it is otherwise addressed- either by the store owner, or, by newer, more positive reviews by other users.  

Neither the owner, nor any current clients of hers, stepped in to fix the reviews and the business had 12 months of instantly accessible bad press with hundreds of potential customers who use tools like Yelp, TripAdvisor and blogs to search for businesses.  

It didn't matter how good her Facebook was, potential customers were trying to find her services on Yelp, and the results stopped them cold from investigating any further.

You may not be paying attention to your reviews, but your potential customers are, and it's happening more than you think.

There's a lot of money to lose over a free service you're choosing to ignore.  Bad customer reviews are like the digital equivalent of graffiti on a brick and mortar storefront.  It doesn't matter how good your wares are inside, nobody will come in if they're scared off from approaching.  

You wouldn't allow for a broken window on your storefront, so why would you allow bad reviews to stink up your digital presence?  

Ironically, you may have already addressed the feedback personally within your business- much like fixing a broken window, but your customers don't know that unless you go where they're talking and address it out in the open.   Nobody will know you've fixed the gripes of previous customers unless you tell them.

Here's the thing- negative reviews happen, whether it's your fault or not.  While a slew of negative reviews for something as silly as a bad Groupon can make you want to hide your head in the sand, don't.  Your customers are talking, and even if they are no longer customers any more, their negative reviews are still speaking to your potential customers, even if they themselves stopped talking about you ages ago.  

You may not be able to win back old customers, but you absolutely HAVE to address negative reviews to prevent future customers from getting an outdated and unfair impression of where your business is at now.

Bad reviews live on Yelp, TripAdvisor and blogs forever and they're usually the first thing your potential customers find when you don't even know they're looking.   They're listening to the experience of your previous customers, are you?  Your reviews do the talking for you 24/7 and it's the easiest way to market your business, just keep it tidy. 

Yes, people will totally check you out on Facebook and Instagram if they're interested in engaging with your brand- it's a great way to enchant potential buyers about your business and why they should trust you.  Unfortunately, most people are searching for new businesses in Google, on Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites first- before they opt-in to your marketing on social media, to see if they even want to spend their time with you.  

Your social media efforts can totally rock, but if people get the wrong impression on Yelp or your rating on TripAdvisor really stinks, they'll smell it from a mile away and they will quickly turn away.  Your awesome marketing elsewhere won't even have a chance to reach them.

Before you panic about another thing to panic about- breathe deeply and simply designate a day each month to comb through any relevant sites where reviews are posted for your business.  It's a simple step that can be done quickly and have a huge impact in your business.

You can't always fix bad reviews, but you can respond to them (and please respond to them!) to turn the tide.

 

You can also reach out to your currently enchanted and awesome customers and ask them to write a review on your behalf.  Chances are, you're the same way- you rarely take the time to review unless you had either an amazingly good or amazingly bad experience, why not email your list and try and snag the reviews of those in-betweeners who consistently are content with your offerings?  

Stop Marketing, Start Listening.  It only takes an hour a month to ensure your reviews aren't turning everyone off to your brand on social, now, go get 'em!

 

Shannyn is the founder of CakeMix Media, a social media strategy and online brand management company geared to help small businesses thrive online.  

You can find her and more articles on social media strategy like this onPinterest, InstagramFacebook & Twitter.

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