Celebrities are masters at constantly keeping their names in the spotlight. Whether on purpose (think Kim Kardashian) or not (think Justin Bieber), these brands are constantly vying for attention through every marketing channel available.
While most large businesses have a cadre of resources constantly tracking and controlling their brand image, the nearly 28 million U.S. small businesses are not so lucky. From Facebook rants (distributed to a limited audience) to public floggings in a Yelp review, smaller businesses must be ever-mindful that, in the blink of an eye, a disgruntled customer can turn a less-than-stellar experience into a devastating business downturn.
That said, what can a smaller business do to better manage those voices in the marketplace?
- Stop the rant before it starts: This seems obvious, but it’s too often overlooked. As soon as you encounter that disgruntled customer, offer to make it “right.” Sometimes that means suffering a financial loss on an order, but just remember these stats: The average American knows about 600 people, and the average number of friends of a Facebook user is 359. Each of those Facebook friends has 359 friends (on average), so the bad review/rant can be distributed very quickly across a vast network of people. One small loss to keep a customer happy isn’t worth the uncontrollable spread of bad publicity.
- Understand the pesky truth about Yelp: Yelp receives hundreds of thousands of reviews each day, and uses filtering software to analyze and post those reviews that their software algorithm deems as most accurate. Their goal is to weed out the “fake” reviews and not include them in the overall rating of your business. However, if you carefully look at the bottom of your Yelp page, you’ll see how many additional reviews you’ve received noted as “(X other reviews that are not currently recommended)”, and if you click on that link, it will take you to your other reviews. In some instances you’ll see great reviews and other examples are terrible reviews. The reality is, Yelp aims to give publicly displayed reviews that best reflect what the software has analyzed to be “most accurate.” Realize that you can always add commentary to a bad review with an explanation of what you did to try and make it right with that customer.
- Instantly monitor mentions of you on the web: Google has a nifty tool that allows you to monitor the internet (within Google’s database) for content that contains any keyword you want to monitor. So if I wanted to monitor my business (Goodman Marketing or Goodman Marketing Partners), Google Alerts sends me messages when those keywords appear on other websites or blogs. This allows you to respond to a positive review or address a negative review quickly. You can also monitor your competition (and take advantage of an issue!). The only requirement is that you have a gmail account.
- Stimulate positive conversations about your business: This is the real benefit of engaging with social media. By posting interesting content on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or constantly providing links to worthwhile content on LinkedIn and Twitter will help increase your legitimacy, value and “likes” in the marketplace. I try to post regularly to both LinkedIn and Twitter—not just about content that I’ve created, but to content that I think is valuable to others in my marketing sphere. Read and post comments on the blogs of others, respond to questions within LinkedIn Discussion Groups, and add value that can demonstrate your expertise. All these efforts will help improve the perception of you and your business in the minds of your audience.