One of the biggest mistakes any small business owner can make is to believe they don’t need to engage in online reputation management, just because they run a small business. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Infact the very fact that you run a small business makes it all the more imperative to manage your online brand image for two reasons:
1. Customer referrals are the lifeblood of all small businesses
2. You don’t have the luxury of a large marketing budget to control negative reviews or restore a damaged reputation like a large business can.
Let’s look at the first three reasons why online reputation management matters to small business owners:
ONLINE SEARCH The massive growth in online media and the rapid decline in offline media has made it necessary for small and large businesses alike to change direction and focus on their online image. More and more people the world over look for information on just about everything from the web and this applies to information about your local business. Your target market is more apt to look for your business online through a Google, Yahoo or Bing Search rather than leafing through a Yellow Pages Directory book.
SPEED The speed at which online media operates can make or break your business in a matter of minutes or hours. A viral tweet, video, blog post or status update can be viewed by thousands if not millions of people in a span of a day creating a much more powerful effect in a shorter time than any traditional offline media. Even a small local news story can be broadcast across the nation with a YouTube video. If the news story was positive, a small business can get a lot of positive PR and increased sales, but if it was negative, it can literally destroy the business. Plus we all know that bad news spreads faster than good news.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY Online media is largely an equal playing ground for both small and large businesses, so any business no matter its size can get exposure, criticism and accolades on the internet. This means that even small businesses cannot afford to ignore online reputation management because the internet has made the world so much of a smaller place. The emphasis placed on local search by dominant web players such as Google, Facebook, Yelp and others, has given more power and opportunity for small businesses to grow their presence online. Yet this increased awareness has also made it critical for any small business to know how to handle the huge public exposure and scrutiny that is part of the package.
In the next part of this article we will look at three other factors: ecommerce, social proof and online SEO