Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Take Control Of Your Online Reputation
Like it or not, the Internet influences consumer buying decisions.
A survey released in April 2009 by the Opinion Research Corp. in Princeton, N.J., found that two-thirds of all respondents checked some type of online review forum when considering a purchase, and that those reviews had a significant impact on their own purchasing decisions.
So if you're not monitoring what people are saying about you and your business on the Web, you could be unwittingly losing customers and leaving your brand vulnerable to attack, experts say.
"If you don't take control of your online reputation, somebody else will," explains Craig Agranoff of Boca Raton, Fla., a Web developer and co-author of "Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management" (Pendant Publishing, $19.95). "All it takes is one angry ex-employee or one demented angry consumer and you're dead."
Businesses need to be proactive in monitoring their online reputation and making sure they're taking control of the content that's being circulated about them on the Web, Agranoff says.
To do this, you need to know what's being said about you online and what type of information online searches reveal. Do a Google search of your name and company name, Agranoff suggests. Set up a Google Alert (google.com/alerts) so that when you or your company name is mentioned, you'll automatically be alerted via e-mail, he says. Also include your competitors' names so you can see what's being said about them.
You may find comments posted by their dissatisfied customers, giving you an opportunity to make them satisfied customers of yours, he notes.
Many people associate online reputation management with damage control, says Andy Beal, chief executive of Trackur, an online reputation monitoring tool, and co-author of "Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online" (Sybex, $29.99). But it can also help you build a following and engage and connect with customers and prospects, he adds.
Determine where your centers of influence exist online and monitor and focus your attention on those sites, he recommends. If it's on Facebook, create an official fan page so people can leave comments, he suggests.
If someone writes a positive review about your business, a simple thank-you goes a long way, notes Beal.
And if someone writes something negative, offer an apology or solution, or in cases of slander try to get it removed, advises Bruce Chamoff of HotWebIdeas.net, a Web design and Internet marketing company in West Babylon.
Just never engage the person in an argument, he advises: "If you argue with them, it makes it worse."
Try to encourage positive feedback by having a testimonials page on your website or by running a survey asking customers to rate a product or service and posting the results, if positive, on a review/social media site, Chamoff says. A coffee shop can post signage saying tips appreciated, but feedback on online review site Yelp would be appreciated even more, Beal adds.
Bob Manning, owner of Bob's Restaurant in Floral Park, has found that customers tend to be more honest online than in person.
"Not everybody's particularly outgoing," says Manning, who monitors Yelp, Facebook, OpenTable and other online sites. "They find their inner voice in a somewhat anonymous way."
And Manning listens.
Customers have been particularly vocal online about money being tight, so this year instead of offering the usual prix-fixe menu as part of the restaurant's Father's Day promotion, he offered a brunch with regular menu offerings so diners had the option of ordering a la carte.
"We had twice as many people this Father's Day," Manning said, noting these online sites are his "eyes and ears."
Online Reputation Monitoring search tools
Source: Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management
About The Author: Jamie Herzlich writes a "Small Business" column for Newsday, Long Island, New York.
Source: Newsday * July 9, 2010 *
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