What’s being said about your small business online?
Many small business owners have made the decision to not get involved in the growing social media trend. Their reasons include: the time or money it takes; don’t understand it; doesn’t seem necessary; or their customers aren’t using it.
Avoiding the online world is the wrong path to take for two reasons.
First, your business is being put on the map without you doing a thing. This happens when various companies and services just do it. It also occurs when people, such as myself, identify you through Yelp, Trip Advisor or being a Google Local Guide. (I put one on and corrected one before coming to work this morning.)
When your business is identified and mapped, you have the opportunity to “claim your business.” This means you can provide basic information about your business including physical address, phone number, web site, and store hours. This information is what the mobile world, well over 50% of the U.S. population, uses as their business data base.
It also allows you to correct information that someone else may have already posted. I did a workshop on having an online presence. During the event I searched for several businesses present that day. The physical location for one of them, a restaurant, showed up as being in the parking lot over six blocks away. As a consumer, if I can’t find you immediately I will probably just go somewhere else.
When claiming your bubble, you also will find reviews already posted. Thank people for offering testimonials.
For negative reviews, engage them to see how you can resolve the problem. If it is a major issue, take the conversation out of the public channel. The important thing though is to show you are responsive. And it’s important that others see you are concerned.
There is an underlying caveat to responding to reviews, negative and positive. It assumes you are being timely in your response. A response six months after the fact doesn’t help.
Second, outside of the business mapping service, people are more and more likely to use a social media channel for a testimonial or, more likely, a complaint. It’s crucial that you have one or more alert systems in place to monitor what is being said about you and your business.
In the area where I live, there is a controversial issue. Without their knowledge, businesses are being mentioned as being supportive or non-supportive. In the cases I am aware of, they are neither. However, this does not stop social media from spreading the story.
Responding to this stories is crucial for small-business owners. Yet in three of the cases I know about, the owner was not aware of the stories. Thus, my big push as to why you need to be online.
The chances are that, at some level, your business is being mentioned online. Even if it is your local paper’s online edition, you are there.
So accept the fact your business is online. Make plans to use it for building your business.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.