When was the last time you checked your Facebook page? Was it two days ago, or two months ago? What about Yelp or Angie’s List? If you’re not paying attention to your online reputation, then you may be losing potential customers.
What is an Online Reputation?
An online reputation is what people are saying about your company on the Internet. When a potential client searches for your remodeling company online, or wants to locate a home builder in your area, you should know what they’re going to find.
“Reputations have traditionally been built over long periods of time,” said Sam Bradley, owner of home building and renovation firm Sam Bradley Homes in Springfield, Mo. “But damage to online reputations can occur in minutes.”
How to Monitor Your Online Reputation
The easiest way to monitor your reputation is to regularly perform an online search for your business and see what comes up. You can also make a list of relevant sites, take a quick glance as often as possible, and respond when necessary. These key sites include: Angie’s List, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“Monitoring these sites is one way to find out how you are doing on a public relations standpoint,” said Bob Peterson, president of custom home building and remodeling company Associates in Building & Design, Ltd in Fort Collins, Colo.
Peterson checks social media sites weekly, while Bradley spends about two to three hours a month monitoring.
“I’m mainly keeping track of what people are saying about me,” Bradley said of his searches. “I’m also looking at my competition and watching emerging trends.”
Dianne Beaton, owner of 2DiFore Marketing Solutions in Manchester, N.H., a marketing firm for builders and remodelers, recommends taking advantage of Google, as many of the services are free. For example, Google Alerts can send an email to your inbox every time your company name is mentioned online. The Better Business Bureau is another great resource, as consumers find it reputable, and you can respond to any complaints directly.
If you’re worried about time constraints, outside help is available. Beaton offers online reputation monitoring as an added service, while companies like ReputationDefender.com focus on just that.
For smaller firms, it is certainly possible to keep the task in-house. With tools like Google and Facebook Analytics, you can easily monitor your online persona. Though keep in mind if your business has a social media presence, it’s important to check in as often as possible.
“If a builder or remodeler is active on social media, then they need to be there every day,” said Beaton. “They need to check what people are saying, in order to interact with past and future clients.”
Additionally, make sure that your contact information (phone number, website, email, etc.) is current on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp. You want potential clients to be able to reach you, and updated profiles also demonstrate that you are on top of current trends and technologies.
Handling Reviews – Positive and Negative
Unfortunately, negative online reviews are almost inevitable. Regardless of your focus on good service and quality products, the Internet can embolden customers to air their grievances, even when unfounded.
“You can’t always stop a negative review,” said Darren Slaughter, a marketing consultant for the building industry and owner of darrenslaughter.com in Lansdowne, Pa. “But it is how you address each situation that will be measured in the court of public opinion.”
Slaughter’s advice is to be the bigger person, and do everything you can to resolve the situation. “You may have to be more flexible than company policy dictates, but that is the price you pay for the social graph,” he said.
Both Bradley and Peterson agree that some type of response is necessary, as leaving the negative review unacknowledged online may indicate that you’re not concerned with client satisfaction. Consider posting an apology, and asking if there is a way to remedy the situation, such as with a coupon or other offer.
When possible, Peterson prefers to contact the client who posted the review in person. “Usually these bad feelings are related to communication, and responding via a website or other non-personal method just adds to their frustration,” he said.
Positive reactions can be utilized to your advantage. Peterson highlights positive reviews as testimonials on his company website, as well as in marketing materials and newsletters. A simple “thank you” post can also go a long way, and shows that you are in tune with your clients and appreciate the feedback.
Monitoring your online reputation may take some time and effort, but it’s worth it to have influence over how your company is depicted online—and viewed by potential customers.
“You have to pay attention to your online reputation constantly, or have someone else do it for you,” said Slaughter. “Just like in the real world, you only get one chance to make a first impression!”