In the short time since I wrote that the world has changed and I would now give equal weight to an allied aspect of any business, which is reputation.
Nowadays, reputation is not just an issue relating to people who are familiar with your business, but can also be a factor that determines new business that you do - or won't - get. Yes, it is that important. Your business can be under discussion far and wide on social media channels online and offline too. Yet too many businesses have no way to know what is being said about them, be it good or bad. While other businesses are getting uplift - these businesses are not even in consideration. And every customer who wanted to complain but didn't say anything is saying plenty to their friends and network.
We like to think that we have control over what happens around communications about our business but in truth, that isn't always the case. It rarely is.
Many businesses are still not actively engaged online and for some there is a mistaken belief that not being active online somehow prevents anything "going wrong" for their business online. They can't make a mistake and say the wrong thing. They may believe that the business not being online means that others can't talk about it.
Of course that's not the case at all.
For any business using the internet to advantage their business, it is important - but not always the reality - to be well trained in the use of platforms and really understand the nuance of communicating effectively online and not just learning as you go along without guidance. Things can go pear-shaped rather quickly. How you get that training is another issue. To get proper training look for real engagement online. Don't be fooled by the advertising they are doing, or the poor quality posts they put online. Look for some personal expertise in their writing, not just banal auto posted quotes and cute pictures. Look for engagement and association with knowledgeable people in the industry.
For a business not using the internet to advantage their business, the chances are they are uninformed about the traps that they can still fall into, even though they are not participating online. In other words, they are not getting any benefit for the business by using the internet in their marketing - but can still be subjected to the downside risk.
Things To Keep In Mind For Your Business In The Online Space
Just because you are using the online networks to promote your business, does not mean that every comment on your page will be favourable. Learning how to manage potential friction online is important.
Posting topics on your Facebook or Twitter wall, is not a guarantee that everyone will either agree or like what you post.
There is a view that some business owners online seem to have that anyone commenting on their posts should only say something that agrees with them. That is not only unrealistic, it also shows a lack of understanding of how the online environment works in practice.
Some people are prone to posting hostile comments. Learning to deal with those situations is part of the training you need to have. Managing online communities is not a casual business and is a skilled ability. It seems easy enough when only your close friends and family are engaging but that's not what will always happen.
Other people may post comments that don't agree with your view. They may not be hostile but the unwary business owner or account manager may not know how to defuse that situation. Not agreeing is actually a potential starter for a good discussion on your page. While things are kept civil agreement does not always need to happen. Keep in mind that some platforms - the best ones - do not allow you to remove bad reviews but you can respond to them. This can actually work in your favour in the long run. It shows the reviews to be more 'real'. False reviews are also now illegal, which is something to keep in mind if you are tempted to game the system.
Our impulse can be to jump to a defensive posture and not really understand the comment, and assume it is hostile when this was not intended. Some delete comments and reviews they don't like. That's no way to run a business account on social media,.
Deleting comments we don't like. Attacking those who don't agree with us. These are just two ways not to be tempted to use when managing social media accounts.
Monitoring Your Reputation OnlineKnowing what is being said about the business online is part of managing a reputation for a business.
To know what is being said, alerts can help and monitoring your brand online is essential. Those deleting comments they don't like or even deleting their own business page (which happens!) is no protection and can make you and your business even more of a target for comments against you.
Just because you don't have a place online for people to complain about your business, does not mean that complaints can not be made on other platforms, websites and discussion groups.
It is all too easy to confuse social media for business with 'playing on Facebook'. Social media is the best opportunity business has ever had access to use to improve their reach for new business. It is not a game, and it requires a professional approach, a steady hand and respect as part of the essential operation divisions of the business.
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