National Small Business Week Panel Offers Tips for Managing Online Reputation

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We just wrapped up another annual National Small Business Week sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and while there was much useful information shared by business leaders, marketers and mentors, a particular segment of a Google+ Hangout conversation with a panel of experts caught our attention. Incidentally, this was the first year Google+ Hangouts were a part of the week’s agenda, which we think says a lot about the growing use of social media among small businesses in America.

“Managing Your Business’s Online Reputation” was moderated by Rieva Lesonsky, Blogger and CEO at GrowBiz Media, and included a Who’s Who online panel of thought leaders from companies such as Yelp, Dun & Bradstreet, LinkedIn and OpenSky.  Also among them, Soo Young Kim, Head of Marketing for Get Your Business Online Initiative at Google, shared her insights about how small businesses can enhance their credibility and reputation through a carefully managed web presence.

At the top of her talk, Ms. Kim noted more than half of U.S. small businesses don’t have a website (think about that!). Ms. Kim also stated that businesses that are online grow faster and are twice as likely to create jobs, so the impact of small businesses on America’s economy cannot be overlooked.

Here are five ways Ms. Kim says small businesses can effectively grow their companies online: 

1)   Exchange Contact Information – Make it easy for people to find you, whether or not you have a physical location. Share your address, email, phone numbers and a map. Also, collect valuable information using an online contact form and create a simple call to action to encourage visitors to sign up, such as “register for our newsletter and special offers.”

2)   Add Social Media Buttons and Plugins – Include call to actions like Share, Follow, Tweet, etc. and offer one-click interaction so that visitors can more easily connect and share with your brand.

3)   Create Engaging Content – Engaging content is a requirement for increased levels of customer engagement and interaction. Think about making content share-worthy. How? Consider using snippets instead of long updates. Also use images and video, which are more likely to be shared than text.

4)   Don’t Ignore Tablets and Phones – Think about how customers are using the Internet on their devices. How can you make it easier for visitors to navigate with their thumbs? Three out of four customers said they have contacted a business they found on their phones.

5)   Promote Your Website Wherever You Can – Start with the free stuff. Put your website on your business cards and receipts. Include your website address on social media profiles and local listings. Take one step at a time and make it a habit.

The merits of an online presence for a company are not in question; it’s simply the fact that most small businesses don’t have the time or budget to create and manage a website. But it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses of all types and sizes to monitor their online reputation, and a website can help a company proactively position themselves and manage its reputation.

Are you employing these tips to help manage your company’s reputation? What suggestions would you add based on your own experience?

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