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Manage your Business’ Reputation, Don’t let it manage your Business

As the influx of businesses into the online realm continues to increase, more and more business owners are awakening to the impact that this vast “World of Mouth” is having on their bottom line. I read an article yesterday where roughly 250 marketers were asked how many of them believed they should be leveraging SM/RM to their advantage. As one would expect, nearly every hand came up. When asked how many had actually implemented a strategy, only about ten hands remained.  This begs the question, why?

When handled properly,

Social Media/Reputation Management

can be one of the largest assets to your marketing arsenal.  Improperly implemented, one can generally hope for menial results at best, and a quagmire at worst. In speaking with clients, one of the running themes of discussion I run into, is the mindset of “I know I need to do something, but I don’t know what to do, how to do it, and if I did, I don’t have the time, resources, or desire to do it myself or hire more staff to handle it, so rather than open pandoras box and risk causing more harm than good, I have chosen to do nothing.” This is completely natural! Conditioning and trepidation can be powerful adversaries! Envision a child going to the dentist…

So… How does one avoid the pitfalls that plague the less successful ventures into this arena? How can I make this dentist visit not only painless, but pleasurable? You’re reading this, so in doing your research you are already ahead of the power curve. Things are changing online every day, so one needs to be up to speed with not only what is hitting hard now, but what WILL BE hitting hard down the road. Do your research, find what directories affect your specific business most. This is a good place to start. Case in point, a restaurant would probably be more concerned with directories like Menuism, Urbanspoon, Zagat, or Menupages. Doubtful an automotive dealership would find any of these sites useful, however would find dealerrater, ratemydealer, etc. much more effective.

Now, you’ve narrowed the scope of directories pertinent to your target market down to a handful of sites. Now what? First things first,

CLAIM YOUR LISTINGS!

This step is invaluable to the security and efficacy of your listings, yet is often overlooked. It costs nothing (I’m not aware of a site yet that charges for this), takes 5-20 minutes depending on site, depth of info, and user proficiency. Once claimed, your listing automatically ranks higher, and on many directories, enables you to respond to reviews, add pictures, video, and relevant information. All of this helps! If you can, and this is where the man-hours really start to rack up (if you’re dealing not only with directory sites like Google, Citysearch, etc., but your social media as well it does get a bit intense!) keep your information up to date. One useful tool I’ve found for keeping tabs on all my social media is Hootsuite.com. It brings all of your SM pages (FB, Twitter, Linkdin, and certain blogs) onto one dashboard that you can log into. It consolidates your updates, allows you to schedule posts for later dates, and plethora other options that really help streamline the process.

So we’ve addressed some things you can do yourself, for free. In my next article I’ll address some common mistakes made when dealing with Customer Reviews and some possible courses of action!

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