For a lot of small business owners even thinking about social media, online reviews and listings can cause terrors. It seems like so much is out of our control. We often don’t understand how or even why we need an online presence. Even worse is the threat of the dreaded “bad review” or “nasty posting.”
I’ve often heard an owner lament that while s/he wants to have a social media page or likes the idea of LinkedIn they are afraid that someone is going to say something bad about them and they will not be able to stop it. Or I will hear a business owner that has a social media page or watches their listings casually say something the effect that nasty comments or bad reviews is “why we have a delete button.” A lot of people just don’t understand what it’s worth to be online at all especially since they believe that once they have a site, page, ad or update a listing that they have someone gotten into the public eye and now cannot control their appearance - their brand - their reputation.
This is definitely not the case. There is no reason to be any more afraid of being “online” or having a presence then there is to have a physical location and traditional marketing. First let’s talk about why we, as small business owners, should be there in the first place.
Your online presence is much like a billboard ad along the highway combined with an old fashioned yellow pages listing and wrapped up in a beautiful brochure. You cannot underestimate the power of having your information available to your customers and potential customers on their schedule.
If your information is accurate and up-to-date online your customers see who you are, what you do, where you are located and how to contact you within seconds of looking for your services. It’s an important and valuable tool.
So once you’ve created your online presence what should you do with it? Update! Update as often as you can. Let your customers know you are there, what you are doing, and why they can benefit from your products or services. Action is everything. Before you start worrying that you cannot afford the time or the expense of staying active online read the article “Tell The Truth” on my LinkedIn site. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Is it important to have someone edit/proofread your work. Of course it is! Can you benefit from a seminar or presentation about what works in a particular venue? Absolutely. But if you don’t have the time for all of that you can choose to hire a service that does. If you don’t have the budget don’t worry. Just put your information out there honestly. Use common sense. You know who your customers are. Talk to them straight and let them know what is going on. Some things you might want to use to springboard your post ideas:
- What specials are you having at this time?
- What events will you be hosting or participating in?
- What organizations have you become involved in?
- Does your company support a charitable event, organization or cause?
- Have you had a staff change or expanded your services?
- Did you stumble upon a great article you enjoyed?
Share! Potential customers like to see what you're involved in and what is going on that might benefit them. But be careful not to over-share. Here are some things to avoid:
- Politics unless you are a political organization
- Too much personal information - Your business page is not the place to discuss your personal life issue
- Anything that may include graphic images or potentially abrasive language
- Direct criticism of your competition or other local company
So what if the dreaded bad comment comes in? It is awful to come into work, check your page and find that someone posted something bad about you or your company. It is even worse if that email alert comes in on your phone when you are away from your desk or work area. So what do you do? Wait! Do not give in to the urge to blast back. Do not answer before you have through through what they said. Just give it a moment. Generally speaking you should not hit delete (and in some instances you don’t have that option depending on where it is posted). The one exception is if someone posted something blatantly offensive to your customers or about one of your customers. If they used profane language or graphic images pull it down and report it. There is a way to do so everywhere you can potentially post. Just look at the FAQs or call customer support immediately. But if they did not do any of those things then just sit back a moment and calm down. Take a bath or jog, whatever it is you do when you are feeling anxiety.
Then answer them. Do so as briefly as possible with a direct and respectful answer. Offer to work with them either by asking them to come to your location or calling you. What you want to avoid:
- Long winded answers
- Releasing confidential information
- Name calling
- Rising to the bait and answering with argumentative or combative language
- Forgetting your Please and Thank yous
- Attacking back
- Not answering or answering only with your phone number
Stand your ground politely and courteously. Most importantly know when to quit. There are those people who complain just to do so. They want the attention. So once you have answered the complaint and perhaps one more post if necessary end the conversation. Make sure your customers who are watching the exchange see you making a concerted effort to remedy the situation and then walk away. It’s important to stay in control of the conversation and most importantly, of yourself. And never, ever, allow yourself to get talked into those “reputation repair” scams. If someone offers to repair your reputation for a fee what you are basically doing a lot of the time is paying someone to lie. Fake “likes” and “links” are no way to run a business. Reviews from people who never used your company just to try to “drive up your numbers” will get you nothing but trouble.
Trust your customers. We all know that no one can run a company without facing a situation. We understand that sometimes situations don’t work out. We have seen people who complain to get attention or free stuff or just because they are related to someone you compete with. Take a breath. Calm down. Write a response and let someone else proof it and provide feedback. Trust your customers and post. Then get back to the positive side of your day. Post all of the good things that are going on for you, your business, and your customers. No Worries!