Thumb up
Thumb up
There is something that many small business owners fear of today: Managing their online reputation in the era of social networking.

We all know what Twitter and Facebook are, but what fears us is how they affect your small business branding and reputation, online.

Here are a couple of facts about the power of social media, referring from an article published on The New York Times online.

According to a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions

…One study by the Yellow Pages Association and comScore found that local search for businesses, products and services grew 58 percent last year and reached 15.7 billion searches, more than a tenth of overall search traffic.

Social media users today can be viewed as independent critics and reviewers – They can say whatever they want and influence whoever they meet about a certain brand. Of course, this includes false or subjective reviews – But nevertheless, they are customers’ voice that ought to be heard and be treated more carefully than ever.

Online forums and social networking sites are the best place for buzz and viral marketing. The power of word of mouth in social media is huge. They are the place for both online and off line buzz amplified and magnified.

So, yes – For us small business owners who are seriously thinking to utilise the power of social media: be careful. Social media can make or break your business online reputation.

All in all, knowing where to look and how to handle customers’ negative reviews is king. Here are some tips on how to manage your small business online reputation well:

  • Visit and study local search sites, such as Yelp and Yahoo! Local – Learn what they say about your business.
  • In addition to the above, visit customer feedback sites, such as Epinions, Rip Off Report, and customer product review on large networks, such as Amazon and search for your products and brand names.
  • Set up Google Alert to keep yourself updated when someone is saying something about your business
  • Clarify and answer customer’s negative reviews occasionally – Be proactive, not reactive, as your responses can go viral easily online.
  • Never post false claims and information to defend your case or enhance your online reputation – If you get caught by your customers, game over.
  • Most importantly, never, ever, argue with your customer – The saying “customer is king” is still hold true today; You need to be a good listener and see things from a customer’s point of view.

Ivan Widjaya
Online reputation management
Image by richkidsunite.