The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Managing Your Online Reputation

A woman on have smartphone while having coffee.When you run a small business, your most important asset is your good reputation. Protecting it – especially online where one bad review or complaint can undermine otherwise positive feedback – can be challenging.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your reputation from suffering online. Here are five proven guidelines to keep your good name intact:

1. If you haven’t already, get your own website

According to Inc. many small businesses have little to no presence online. Being invisible here makes it nearly impossible for you to mount any kind of defense, say, if someone on Yelp! says your chef was incompetent. By owning a piece of real estate in the virtual world (i.e. your site) you have a place where prospects can go to “see for themselves.” They may find that your chef has earned countless awards, and therefore actually is quite talented.

2. Prepare for the worst when things are at their best

Most serious hikers will pack a first aid kit before they venture out. Before your business wanders out into the online wilderness, it also pays to prepare beforehand. Make sure you’ve thought through the potential pitfalls and create an “if/then” strategy:

If someone says something bad about my business on Facebook, then I’ll personally return the comment with an invitation to instant message me to talk.

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If an online media story about my shop is generating negative comments, then I’ll respond with a link to a landing page that clarifies the issues in a positive light.

You may not be able to troubleshoot every issue beforehand, but the more you do the better off you’ll be when something actually happens.

3. Let the good rise to the top

Ever Google a business only to find that the first entry included a bad review? Talk about a poor impression up front. While the internet is filled with recommendations for burying bad reviews or deleting them altogether, no amount of tinkering is going to make up for a comprehensive body of good work.

Most people online are savvy enough to see through false or overly dramatic reviews. And most people read more than one. So when someone on Yelp! says your buffet selection is terrible, and nine others give it five stars, it’s clear who’s in the majority. As long as you perform at your best, your body of work will come out on top.

4. Socialize strategically

Being judicious when using social media will automatically improve your online reputation. This means choosing only the platforms that make sense for your business and cultivating them with care and consistent content.

Resist the urge to be everything to everyone, which is a surefire way to fail. The social media landscape is littered with small business home pages and profiles that have long since been abandoned by owners who were overwhelmed by the prospect of juggling everything from Blab to Vmeo. If you’re not sure which platforms are for you, this comprehensive listing can help you decide.

5. Get it on tape

Video is the online darling that lets you speak for your brand whenever you wish. And in today’s world, video is easier than ever to produce. If you’re worried about production values, relax. Expectations are low on this front, and what viewers really want are stories that let them know who you are and why your business is important.

Social posts with video also attract more viewers, so the more you shoot the better your chances of capturing an audience that understands and advocates for your brand. All you have to do is smile and get your lines right.

Your good reputation in the real world can also follow you online. While keeping it intact in the virtual world takes planning and persistence, the effort is always worth it.

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