Putting a face to your business online

In case you hadn’t heard, social networking isn’t all social, anymore. It's also about business. Companies are increasingly taking their messages to social channels like Facebook and Twitter for two primary reasons: the sheer audience potential within these hugely popular sites, and customers’ growing desire to interact with the businesses with whom they spend their hard-earned dollars.

But just as simply securing billboard space won’t get your message out, it’s not enough to simply set up a Facebook page for your business and leave it at that. It’s the information and insights your share on that page that make social work for your business. After all, your fans don’t want to just look at your page, they want to get something of value out of a visit.

So, once you’ve established your company’s Facebook page, how do you keep it alive and interesting for your fans? Think, the “3 V’s”… variety, value and (your) voice:

  • Value: Many customers “like” businesses because they want the inside scoop on offers and discounts, and upcoming promotions and sales that you make available only through Facebook. Tips, guidance and article, blog and resource links that educate and inform are also valuable to your fans.
  • Variety: Add as much multimedia to your page as possible – your customers can tell a lot about your business through photos and videos. Also, don’t fall into the trap of only using your page as ad space. You will lose fans if you never give them an opportunity to respond to a timely or provocative wall post because they will lose that crucial sense of being engaged with your brand.
  • Voice: Your Facebook page isn’t for talking to your customers … it’s for talking with your customers. Build your reputation as an accessible, friendly business by routinely proposing topics and encouraging fan input. There are also Facebook survey applications that allow you to poll your fans, which can give you valuable business information as well as fodder for wall posts on the results.

A Facebook page is also an ideal place to promote positive reviews of your business, since consumers are relying on social recommendations to influence purchases more than ever.

You can try Verified Honest’s customer feedback solution for free to easily gather reviews, upload them to your social channels and share the good word with all of your biggest fans.




True or false? With negative reviews, it doesn’t really matter

From a business point of view, one of the greatest advantages to digital and social media is that it offers you almost limitless avenues through which you can share information and ideas about your company. One of the greatest disadvantages? That it offers disgruntled customers exactly the same thing.

An issue that almost every business with a moderate customer base and awareness level faces at some point is how to manage a negative online business review.  “Management” in this case is not controlling the negative review – you can’t control an interactive medium — but rather demonstrating professionalism every step of the way.

The customer’s review will be one of two things: based in fact or blatantly false. Follow these guidelines to help you plan how to respond to an unflattering review of your company:

  • Even the best business has an “off” day. Could the review be true? If you determine the review is correct, the best course of action is to fix the problem (offline and one-on-one, if possible) so you can ideally regain trust with the dissatisfied customer, and communicate that others won’t have the same experience with your business.
  • If the review is incorrect, offer evidence in support of your version of the facts and present them to the customer or the website publishing the statement/s in an effort to prompt a retraction, or at the very least to provide space for your counterpoint. Note that if the statement is on a third-party site, the website operator is typically not obligated to remove content even if it’s been deemed incorrect.

Whether founded or unfounded, bad online buzz puts your reputation at risk. But to address a negative review, a business must first be aware that it’s posted. Do you want to know who is saying what about your company, when it’s being said? Try Verified Honest’s Online Review Report for free for the information you need to respond wisely and keep your reputation intact.



Online or offline, word of mouth holds power

Word of mouth (WOM) has always been an important, if not the most important, messenger of a company’s reputation. It’s based on the simple premise that what a friend says about a brand carries more weight than what a brand will say about itself.

Traditionally, WOM has taken place face-to-face, but social media has significantly increased the momentum and reach that it can have.  It also opens up a discussion about whether certain forms of WOM are more effective than others, and even whether something is considered WOM in the first place.

These are all important concepts to be aware of if you are small- to mid-sized business promoting yourself online and through social channels. Here are just a few questions that highlight how social media has made word-of-mouth marketing even more interesting and complex:

  • Is a Facebook “like,”a retweet or an online business review as powerful as a recommendation someone receives in person?
  • Can you trust a brand’s fans and followers as much as you trust your (“real world”) friends?
  • Is it more important to know how many people are “talking” about your brand, or the quality of those conversations?

This is not an either/or proposition. Word of mouth does and should take place both off- and online in order for your business to effectively compete in the marketplace. Social media offers the opportunity to track, measure and analyze what customers are saying about your business, while in-person recommendations may be more persuasive and meaningful to some.

As a business marketing yourself on both Main Street and the Internet, you need to get in front of word of mouth by delivering a positive customer experience that produces positive buzz, and stay on top of word of mouth by using that buzz to elevate your brand, online.

Are you ready to manage customer word of mouth and use it to your business advantage? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services and get on top of your business word of mouth, today.



5 Minute Tip: Does your Website Work on a Mobile Browser?

Consumers are adopting Smartphones at an astounding rate. Most of their time spent is multitasking – if the television is on, the computer is open or the Smartphone is being used. In this dual-screen world, it’s important to be able to capture a consumer’s attention where they are spending their time.

Tip: View your website on a mobile browser and determine if you need to change the design to become mobile-friendly.

Take the time to check your company’s website in a mobile browser. Does it load quickly? Is the navigation large enough and visible enough to be used on a Smartphone?

You may not have the budget to have someone develop a new mobile site for your local business, but you can make some minor adjustments to make sure you’re not losing customers who are trying to find out about your business.

If you have a large graphic or Flash-based image on your home page, that could slow up mobile browsers. Make sure photos are not too large. Mobile customers don’t have the time or patience to wait for photos to load when they are just looking for quick information.

With mobile customers, it’s even more important to create short, clear content that drives the customer to action. If they have to click through to too many pages trying to find what they are looking for, that customer could be headed to a competitor.

When it comes to your business reputation, keeping in contact with mobile consumers is another way to make sure your local business is sought after.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.



5 Minute Tip: Improve Customer Satisfaction with FAQs Page

Customers come to the website of a local business for a variety of reasons – they’re looking for hours and location, a particular product or service or coupons and special offers. Another area customers may be searching is frequently asked questions – questions on a product or service that many customers may have before they try something new.

Tip: Add a FAQ page to your site to answer customers’ questions before they search somewhere else for the answer.

Develop a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page where you offer a set of questions and answers about products and services. Be sure to add information about what customers talk about the most: warranties, guarantees, return policies, procedures, product how-tos and related information.

Customers look to a business not only to purchase from but as the expert in their particular industry. When you offer the information they are seeking, the business will be looked upon as the trusted advisor and makes it easier for the customer to do business with you.

Customers are looking for answers and the best place to provide them is on your own website before they go searching somewhere else.

For a local business, reputation is everything, and giving customers complete information is another step in gaining five stars.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.



5 Minute Tip: Site Maps Provide Direction for Customers, Search Engines

Most small-business owners pay attention to their websites to make sure that customers are finding what they need and are able to quickly and efficiently move through the website. However, one often-neglected area of a website is the site map.

Tip: Check your website’s site map and make sure all links are updated. If you don’t have a site map, create one now.

Most search engines use the site map to index pages and to help potential customers find those pages via search. A site map tells the search engine what pages are important on a website and what you’d like the search engine to index.

If a site map is out of date, users will become frustrated if they click a link from a search engine and end up at a “dead” page. Likewise, if a customer visits your site map when looking for something specific, only to find a link that doesn’t work, that customer could become frustrated and move on to another shopping option.

Site maps can quickly inform search engines about any changes on a site. Also, if a local business does not have a lot of external links coming into the website, the site map will help make a difference with search engines.

For new businesses or a local business just establishing a website, a site map can be critical to success. Site maps can inform search engines – and customers – about new or recently updated pages and how they important they are to the overall site.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.




5 Minute Tip: Check the curb appeal of your website

Small businesses can’t afford to keep a web designer and developer on retainer but that doesn’t mean that websites shouldn’t be updated or revised when products, services or information is not useful for the customer.

Tip: Check your website and make sure all pages match current business goals and offerings

Set some time aside to click around your website and make sure it matches the current direction of your business. Remove products that you no longer offer and add in those that are new. Check your contact information and test the contact form link. Add a map to your page as well as driving directions.

For example, maybe your home improvement company promoted granite countertops to meet consumer trends. However, if an increasing number of consumers are searching for marble countertops that you offer, updating your site can have a significant impact on the business.

While on your site, count how long it takes for your home page to load. View it on a mobile browser to make sure every customer can access it. If you have a lot of graphics or moving images, the site may not generate as much traffic as you’d like.

Meeting customer expectations is a must in the current economy. When customers can quickly and easily access the most relevant information, it can make your business run more smoothly and efficiently so you can focus on closing customer deals rather than answering why you no longer offer certain products.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.



5 Minute Tip: Read your competitors’ reviews

Small businesses make sure to keep a pulse on review sites and reviews that are posted on the business’s own site but may not keep up with competitor reviews.

Tip: Search for tips and trends in competitors’ reviews

Competitor reviews can contain useful information for your business. For example, knowing that customers are looking for easier access for oil changes at an auto dealership can provide you with competitive intelligence for your dealership. Then, advertising and promoting that your oil change is “easy in, easy out” could draw in additional customers.

They can also show you why customers might favor another business over yours. If competitors’ customers are continuously a business for its array of choices in stones and landscaping products, maybe it’s time to look at your own offerings or possibly update the descriptions to match what customers are looking for to match the needs of trends and consumer choices.

It can seem like a small step but keeping up with competitor reviews can provide a window into your customers’ thoughts, providing business opportunities and service offerings that can keep your company fresh and up-to-date with changing consumer sentiment.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.



How confident are you in your customer reviews?

Many small businesses debate the pros and cons of customer reviews, whether they are good for business, turn away prospective customers or bring new awareness and increased traffic to a business.

But as a small business, how confident are you in your customer reviews? Confident enough to broadcast them live on a billboard in Times Square?

Domino’s Pizza did just that recently. The pizza company, which in the midst of a campaign of listening to customers and acting on the feedback by changing the very core of its business, the ingredients and taste of the pizza, decided to take customer feedback to new heights, literally, by streaming customer reviews live as they come in on a billboard in Times Square.

Chances are, small-business owners don’t have the money or the inclination to run customer reviews in one of the most expensive locations in the country. However, as a small-business owner, you need to decide how confident you are in your customers.

In addition the third-party reviews, customer testimonials can be placed on directly on the business’s website, adding additional content and fresh information to those prospective customers who are in the search process and trying to make a decision on where to spend their money.

Customer feedback has turned into a public forum. It’s online, instantaneous and visible to all. When small businesses opt for transparency, the positive outweighs any perceived negatives and customers come to appreciate and seek out honest communication.

Ready to take the next step in your business reputation? Try a free trial of Verified Honest’s reputation-management services.