Reputation Management Basics for Local BusinessesThe concept behind online reputation management for local businesses is quite simple.  The explosion of web-based business directories, local search engines, review sites, blogs, social media and more has created a vast digital world where bits and pieces of information about your business can exist in places you never heard of.  The problem is, those bits and pieces might not be accurate and complete — and in the worst-case can be downright damaging.

In short, the good name and reputation you work so hard to build and maintain for your business isn’t merely local.  Information about your business exists in databases operated by companies in far-flung corners of the U.S. and sometimes the world.  Existing and potential customers will see that information and use it when deciding whether to buy from you.

Enter “online reputation management.”  Early on, reputation management meant bringing in “hired guns” to remove or repair damaging reviews or other information.  Today, reputation management has become much more.  It can be as critical to running a successful business as monitoring your financial statements or having a marketing plan. It requires – and deserves – a place on every business owner’s  “to-do” list.

But don’t let the “management” part scare you.  There are many helpful tools at your disposal.  They do the heavy lifting of monitoring the core parts for reputation management.  They give you a quick and easy way to keep an electronic ear to the ground to make sure you know what information is being published about your business and what’s being said in the fast-moving world of social media.  More small businesses are turning to these low-cost but powerful online tools to make reputation management a snap.

The Big Four of Reputation Management

The Big Four that a local business most needs to track online are:  1) visibility 2) reviews 3) social media and 4) competition.

No matter what type of business you run, it should be visible in all the places people might find you online, including search engines, directories and industry, professional or local sites that specialize in your area or type of business.  But it goes beyond being listed in those places. It’s also critical to know whether your information is as accurate and complete as it can be.

Online reviews are another major influence that you’ll want to monitor.  And don’t think for a minute that reviews are just for bars and restaurants.  These days, customers write reviews about all types of businesses, from doctors, dentists and dog trainers, to plumbers, printers and pool cleaners.  Reviews can literally reside in hundreds of places, not just Yelp or the internet yellow pages.  Reviews published on one site are routinely republished to many others.  If you don’t know what’s being said about your business online, you could be missing something important.

It’s social media time. What’s being said about you?

Social buzz is perhaps the newest and fastest growing member of the Big Four.  Are customers, clients or prospects mentioning news or needs related to your business? Are they mentioning you by name on social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or on blogs? Are they checking into your business on services such as Foursquare or posting photos of your establishment on Flickr? Using a reputation tracking service is the key to ensuring that consumers searching for what you offer will find your business – and that when they do find it, the information will be accurate, complete and positive.  Reputation monitoring pulls together your directory listings, reviews, social media mentions, photos, videos and more from wherever they exist on the internet.

From a single, personalized dashboard that you control from your desktop, you can take steps to fill the information gaps, share positive reviews more broadly, respond to negative reviews, see what customers like and don’t like, sign up to be notified when your reputation monitor finds something new, and even track the same things for your closest competitors.  You’ll be able to see graphs, charts and other information, plus suggestions and tools, to manage and improve visibility and reputation.

For all of these reasons  – and more – reputation management is a topic (and a tool) whose time has come for local businesses. Dex Media can help you get started today.

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