Written by Grayson Kemper, Clutch
While having a brand website, social channels and online press coverage is a part of establishing a businesses’ digital footprint and increasing online sales, companies need to also remember what’s being said outside of those channels. We know this from being consumers ourselves; neearly all consumers read online reviews before visiting or buying from a business, and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It’s easy to focus on brand marketing and forget the rest of the web, but for a small company, managing and protecting online reputation can be crucial to staying in business.
The main benefit for online reputation management (ORM) is getting access to information in real time – either to address complaints quickly or interact with customers who post positive comments to maintain those relationships.
Beyond customers’ increasing reliance on online reviews as resources for their buyer’s journey, your online reputation can impact:
- Recruiting: A positive online reputation can create appeal for your company as a place to work and be a part of an effective and well-respected company. Conversely, people do not want to work for companies with shoddy reputations.
- Company culture: How will you train staff to deal with negativity and keep morale high? Not every employee is fit to deal with customers, especially negative ones, and a business owner has to be mindful of making a bad situation worse through an inexperienced employee’s knee-jerk reaction to a negative situation.
- Business operations: A poor online reputation can deter future business and hurts the amount your clients’ trust.
There are three main options for a small business to implement an ORM initiative while staying on budget:
- Software platform
- ORM agency or dedicated service
Each of these options can help small businesses regain control over their online narrative, depending on their unique needs.
Keeping Things In-House Can Help Small Businesses Save Money
Some small businesses believe that the best solution for ORM is to have in-house staff handle monitoring and responding. This can be accomplished using two different approaches:
- Recruit existing staff: While this may work for some companies, it can put additional stress on what may be an already stretched-thin workforce, not to mention reduce productivity and morale of employees.
- Hire a part-time employee or intern: For a small business, ORM is likely not a full-time job, so it might make sense to assign the task to a part-time junior staff member or intern.
Keeping ORM efforts in-house is a great way to save money, but businesses need to realistically assess their staff’s current workload and consider hiring a part-time employee or intern.
Monitor Your Reputation Efficiently Using Digital Tools
Monitoring all of your business’s social media profiles, review sites, and search engine results pages individually would be an inefficient use of time. If you want to keep your ORM efforts in-house, figure out how those responsible can monitor platforms simultaneously using digital tools.
There are plenty of social media and reviews monitoring tools that are either free or low-cost that your small business can use as resources. A few include:
Regardless of the software platform, your company will need to have staff responsible for monitoring the platforms you use, respond to comments and reviews, and carry out other initiatives included in your ORM strategy.
Outsourcing Reputation Management Can Help Your Small Businesses Stay Focused
If the level of effort needed to monitor and respond gets too overwhelming to handle in-house, it may be necessary for your small business to consider outsourcing ORM to an agency or specialized service.
Most public relations agencies use paid software tools to monitor, respond, and track all ORM interactions.
The benefits of outsourcing ORM include:
- Reducing the burden on your staff
- Increasing the amount of monitoring and responding
- Refocusing internal focus to tasks that relate directly to growing the business
When you hire an online reputation management agency, you need to communicate your needs, goals, and expectations about growing online reputation.
- How to respond to comments and reviews. Many services and agencies only respond with pre-written and approved messaging, which may do little to pacify a commenter or reviewer wanting a more personalized response. To avoid impersonal messaging, work with the agency to figure out how to maintain your brand’s voice.
- When to respond. On social media, most people expect responses from brands in 24 hours or less. Talk with your agency to make sure your brand responds to negative comments and reviews in a timely manner.
- Communication frequency: Make sure your ORM company includes you in the conversations whenever they make a decision that impacts your online reputation.
Your brand’s digital reputation is ultimately still yours to manage, so when you review online reputation management agencies, make sure you maintain your ideal communication cadence and align on your ORM strategies.
Choose an ORM Solution That Suits Your Needs and Your Budget
The main driver for an ORM solution should your needs – i.e., the volume of platforms, sources, and communication you need to monitor.
Using the cheapest solution may do more damage to your company and profits. Spending a little more on a comprehensive solution that suits your business will pay off in the long run.
No matter what solution you choose, it is important to understand why your online reputation matters. Putting too little effort toward ORM can cause a ripple effect that negatively impacts sales and revenue.
Grayson Kemper is a Senior Content Writer for Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews company in Washington, D.C. He focuses on online marketing and emerging technologies research.