I get a lot of questions here in San Diego, CA when it comes to Online Reputation Management for businesses. The who, what, why, where, and how questions come up in a variety of forms and the answers to all of those questions depend on a variety of different variables, but I want to address them all in the most general sense.
It is VERY important for a business, no matter how small, to have some sort of proactive online review management system in place when marketing their business. After all, it is not your decision where customers decide to talk about your business. At a minimum businesses must have a system in place to ensure their “ear is to the ground” and that no one is out there destroying their business in the online world. Here is the Bennett Reputation Management general take on these questions.
Who: Anyone! Of course it depends on the business and the number of reviews. Hiring a professional will likely lead to long lasting results, but at a minimum delegate this task to someone within your organization and if it is just you make sure you have a system in place. If there is no time or knowledge of how this process works, give an Online Reputation Management company a call. It is more important than I can express in this post.
What: You should monitor what customers are saying about your business across social media and online review sites. Additionally, you should respond to the majority of reviews whether positive or negative, because a lot of businesses are missing the boat here and it will help solidify the relationship between you and your customer.
Why: This honestly would require an entire article on its own, but to keep it simple, think about how internet users decide whether or not they are going to give a business their money now. Of course there are a variety of different factors but reviews play a MAJOR part and so does branding on social media sites. So make sure you have your game face on and that potential customers are going to like what they find!
Where: At a minimum, major review sites like yelp and Google +, then any major niche sites for your industry and last but not least, major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you have a system in place to monitor, listen, and also solicit activity and reviews on these sites you will at least be headed in the right direction.
How: Depending on budget you can take the DIY approach and do some research or hire an expert or a firm if your need is large enough. There are a lot of options out there, but I assure you that this is money well spent. Make sure when picking an option you think about how the messages and strategy will be received by your audience. Remember if it seems impersonal to you it will to them.
In the grand scheme of things Online Reputation Management is still a fairly new marketing concern, but it is the online equivalent of word of mouth so be sure to take it seriously. Also, do not wait until something happens, it may be too late at that point. If you have lots of activity to begin with, the small blips on the radar will not be taken as seriously by potential customers. All I ask is please take it seriously!