Nearly one in three U.S. consumers are influenced by social media in their purchases, according to a recent study. In the digital age where consumers readily share their experiences with businesses online, protecting your online reputation is vital for small business success.

As a small business, your online reputation is the image created of you through information you or others shared online in blogs, posts, pictures, tweets and videos. Ultimately, it is your brand equity.

Here are some online reputation guidelines that will benefit your business:

1. Monitor Your Small Business

When was the last time you googled your company?

Take the time to monitor online channels and see what people are saying about your brand or small business. Start by setting up a free Google Alert for your business.

To set up your first “Google Alert”, go to Google Alerts.

 

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    1. In the “Create an alert about” box, enter the words for which you want to get email notifications. You will want to set up an alert for your business name and business owner’s name.
    2. Click Show options to specify how often you get alerts, what types of results you want to get, and more.

 

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  1. Click Create Alert.
  2. Once your alert is set up you will receive emails when new search results for your keywords are found.

Another tool to consider is Social Mention. With Social Mention you can easily track and measure what people are saying about your company across the web’s social media landscape.

Just enter your business name and click the search button.

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Social Mention will create a report:

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Here are a few definitions to better understand your Social Mention report.

Strength: Is the likelihood that your brand is being spoken about in social media

Sentiment: Is the ratio of mentions that are generally positive to those that are generally negative

Passion: Is the measure of the likelihood of those talking about your brand will do so repeatedly

Reach: Is the measure of the range of influence

Don’t be discouraged if your small business’s name does not yield many results in the report initially. Your online footprint will grow over time.

The bottom line is to stay in the know and monitor customer feedback regularly via online channels.

2. Be Social

Social media can increase customer awareness, customer interest, and improve company’s reputation. In fact, according to a recent report, 61% of customers read online reviews before deciding on a purchase.

Make your business’s online profiles stand out. Take the time to optimize your online profiles by having all the correct information such as address, website and hours entered.

Share content that is engaging, and remember what you say on these social platforms matters to your small business reputation and ultimately your profitability.

3. Ask for Customer Feedback

Small businesses have the unique opportunity to create a valuable customer experience.

Be proactive and request feedback from your customers. Online testimonials are powerful and can mitigate any negative feedback that may come your way. Remember it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience, according to Parature.

4. Roll with the Punches

Nearly every business will receive a negative online review. Here are some best practices for handling these comments, courtesy of Yelp:

-Keep your message simple.
-Thank them for their business and feedback.
-When possible, be specific about the customer’s experience and any changes you may have made as a result.