One of the most important assets of any small business is its reputation – stakeholder opinion can be a driving force when it comes to establishing the value of your brand in the marketplace. As consumers continue to enjoy unlimited access to information and unprecedented freedom of expression online, it seems that Reputation Management has taken on a heightened level of importance for small business owners. What is “Reputation Management” and how important is it to your small business? What is involved and can small business owners manage the process themselves?
What is Reputation Management?
Have you ever “Googled” yourself? Using a search engine such as Google has become the universal way to perform research on a person, product, service or company. The results of these searches are the foundation of Reputation Management. More and more, your small business identity is being established through online content. What is written and/or posted by you or others in websites, news, press releases, blogs, social media, etc essentially defines your small business.
Reputation Management is the process of identifying and managing your online content. In an Internet Duct Tape guest blog post, Tim Nash, a reputation management consultant and co-founder of Venture Skills, defines the three basic areas of Reputation Management as:
Finding out what people are saying about you
Creating a persona or brand image
If needed, defending this image
The scope and nature of your online identity is becoming an important way of defining your small business. Right or wrong, true or false, what you or others (clients, employees, competitors, etc.) are saying about your small business online will affect your reputation.
The Importance of Reputation Management
management is particularly important to small businesses,” says Aerial
M. Ellis, Owner of Urbane Imagery, an urban marketing and public
relations firm located in Nashville, TN.
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“I’ve seen it become a very important component to building public relations strategies for several clients. Because small businesses are heavily reliant on word-of mouth and return customers to impact their revenue, the mismanagement of their image can be crucial; ultimately the consumer determines the business’s reputation.”
Managing your reputation has always been important – “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it…” (Warren Buffet). Nancy Williams, Managing Director at Tiger Two Ltd., a U.K. based online reputation management firm, feels that “your reputation is what makes you succeed or fail as a small business – with the internet permeating every aspect of business (and social life) it is even more important to be managing that reputation both online and off line.”
Managing the Process
Assessing your identity, building your personal brand and managing your reputation online can be a very involved process. Some of the components include:
ongoing search engine research
search engine optimization
participating in social networks
issuing press releases
Laura Marshall, Senior Manager of External Relations at Lumetra, a health care consulting organization located in San Francisco, CA, defines the online management of your small business reputation as “a daily scan of blogs, news, and other online information to see what people are saying about you.” She adds that, in addition to what is being said, it’s important to note the source of the information and “how likely their words are to get picked up by others.” Marshall elaborates that a post on a popular online news site “may hit the national media” where a post from an individual blogger may not have as great an impact.