WINTER 2020 7 BUSINESS CONNECTIONS I n business, bigger isn’t necessarily better. There are advan- tages to being small, including the ability to provide service that’s truly personal. Small businesses can easily monitor what customers are saying about them online and use the information to provide better service. They can also use social media to foster strong connections that lead to more sales. On the down side, any negative information appearing online can be harmful to a company’s reputation. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find out what people are saying about you, and to repair any damaging remarks. Monitor First, monitor the internet for potentially unflattering information about your company. Do a search for your business name and see what comes up. Also set up a Google alert for your business name and any product brand names; Google will send you daily or weekly email messages containing online mentions. React Create more positive information about your company in order to push the negative comments down in search rankings. The lower down on searches an item is, the less likely it is to be seen. Positive content can be added in the form of new pages on your website, press releases, articles and posts on other sites. In addition to adding new content, you can ensure your site is ranked as high as possible by using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Respond Respond to negative comments as soon as possible after they appear. Resist the temptation to reply with anger when someone criticizes your company. Keep the interests of your customers in mind, and determine whether a public or private response is more appropriate. Imagine the impact on a dis- satisfied customer of being personally asked by a company president for a second chance. Respond to positive mentions as well. Thank people who compli- ment your company, and engage them further by asking for an opinion or letting them know about new product offerings. Whether positive or negative, look for patterns in customer com- ments and use them to guide the future direction of your business. Participate Participate in social media to establish relationships and a reputa- tion as an expert. In addition to offering opportunities to connect directly with customers, strong relationships on social media sites make negative information less likely to be believed. Use social media functionality to discover when your company is mentioned on these sites. For example, you can receive emails when key- words you choose are used on Twitter, or when someone posts a comment on your Facebook fan page. Managing Your Online Reputation What are people saying about your business online?