In a hyper connected world, think 80% smartphone ownership, a business needs to be where their customers are. This sort of reputation management is the new customer service for the age. It is the equivalent of the customer complaint desk or the 1300 number you used to ring. How does your business handle complaints and negative feedback online? Do you have a policy on how to handle questions and comments to your businesses public Facebook page? How about a question on twitter? A picture on Instagram with a comment on quality or presentation? If you answer to this is you don’t or even, you don’t have to worry because you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account for business – then you are doing marketing in the age of the internet wrong. Your customers are online, and they will talk about, share, like and discuss your brand – even if your not in the conversation. Engaging with customers online brings opportunities to your product and services for future sales. The more information, the more answers and the more interaction you have with the public when they are talking about or interacting with your businesses brand online then the more likely you are to be who they think of when they make a purchase. Disruptive advertising (think TV or radio) is a thing of the past. People have always turned to friends and family for information and references to businesses who have been helpful and reliable for them. In the age of Facebook where the average user has around 200 friends how magnified is that social referral system now? Here is a small example of that social referral system in action. Try to imagine if this was your business being discussed. I was recently involved in a conversation about the service and product received by a customer of a particular fast food store. The customer in question was providing photos of the bought meal, the list of what was missing and the rather, in his opinion, small serving provided. He had approached the local store, lodged a complaint via the phone and was simply told by the manager that he doubted there was anything wrong. He then lodged a complaint with the states head office and was told they would look into it. The disappointed and now somewhat frustrated customer moved his grievance online. It wasn’t on the official site for the chain but was in a public Facebook group were posts could be seen by everyone but only able to be written by members. The rather long post went into detail about previous meals and listed dates of the last four meals he had bought there and whether he had made a complaint or not and the outcome of the complaint. Out of the four previous meals three were returned and the store had apologised and fixed the order up. Nothing unusual there the internet has become the goto place to complain about the shortcomings of business. In fact this wasn’t the first time this particular business had come up for a negative discussion on this site. The conversation though that grew up in the comments was unusual in its depth. Some 220 plus later the talk was divided into three distinct camps. Camp one was supportive, agreeing that the provided product was not what they should have gotten. Camp two was on the opposite side of camp one. There was the usual, nothing wrong, stop complaining, its just product basic x, what do you expect its just teenagers working there and my favourite, you shouldn’t complain because starving kids. Camp three were the usual meme throwing jokesters long for the ride. Now you maybe reading this and wondering what this has to do with your business, your website and your businesses online profile. Business branding and online reputation management. The business, the local store, was well aware that discussions took place involving its service and its product. In fact one of the people who were in camp two strongly suggested they were affiliated with it. Mentioning they knew that most of the staff were young, they were under time pressures to produce the food and knew the stores procedures in a bit of detail. Being aware of the type of site this was, being aware that their business was often mentioned in a negative way on this site it makes sense for someone to be monitoring the discussions for mention of their business brand. Online reputation management is something a business in 2015 should be participating in. Online reputation management and business branding go beyond a set of business cards, website and a sign. Your customers, past, present and potential are online in some way or another. They use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, to communicate there likes and dislikes, photograph that new pair of shoes, complain about that sandwich they just bought or how a staff member treated them while making a purchase. In this case a representative should be available to monitor the known chat rooms and be there to help mitigate the negative feedback. Again I’ll ask how does your business handle online conversations about your products or services ? Contact us
Take away from the article for those of us who are time poor:-
If your website isn’t mobile ready you are losing customers!Even with the warning Google gave leading up to its latest algorithm change on April 21st 2015 many Australian business websites are not mobile ready. Approximately 80% of Australians own a smartphone. And nearly all of those smartphone owners use their mobile device to browse the web researching purchases, locating restraunts or trying to find a businesses contact details. In fact in some areas like hospitality, accommodation and food service between 42 and 50% of website views come from mobile devices. (For those interested there is an article here on restaurants ) And another factoid, average internet usage on a mobile device is 1.85 hours per day, rising to 2.84 in the age range 16-24 years. What does this mean for your business? And how does that effect the number of customers finding your place of business online? Lets try to put this into perspective, 75% of Australian Small to Medium Businesses have some sort of Internet profile. This internet profile could be website only or include multiple social media profiles, Facebook being the most popular, although Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter are up there too. Businesses with a Social Media profile only are in the minority and are usually a micro/home based businesses. Now lets consider this. Out of the 75% who do have a business website only 26% are mobile ready/optimised. Lets put this into a real life situation:- Introducing Susi and Mark. Susi and Mark have just finished a night out having gone to the movies and are get out from the movie showing at slightly after 7pm. Looking at a 20+ minute drive back to home having only eaten choc top ice-creams and pop-corn neither of them are willing to wait until they get home for dinner but neither of them want a big mac. Susi jumps on her smartphone and Googles local restaurants in the area. Here are what Susi finds in the first couple of results. ( How does your website do with SEO ?) Two websites, for local businesses. Restaurant sites. Both list there menus, opening times, and contact details including a reservation system on their sites. Restaurant A has a desktop optimised site that looks perfectly normal when viewed from a big screen. But doesn’t respond well on her Samsung S5. The content is too big for the screen, images are taking too long to load and the menu system isn’t working too well. Restaurant B has a responsive design for their site. This means the site responds to the devices screen size and serves both content and structure to suit that device. The site has a mobile menu, a minimal number of small sized images that quickly load over a mobile network, and any structure that would get in the way of the content on a small screen device has been removed. Which one do you think gets the business? While we are asking questions it might be a good time to stop and do a simple and quick self assessment of your website here. With the Nielsen Online Landscape Review – February 2015 showing that 62% of browser use comes from mobile devices the need for your business to be mobile ready, to have in a place a plan that grows your market share online into the future is essential to keep your business succeeding. Yes there is a lot of numbers in this article, business is like that. Constantly testing, observing, tweaking and re-testing to get your message and brand in front of potential customers is how it works. Data, information and planning around that collected data is just as important as having something to sell in the first place. I will leave you with one final question, an important one. Do you have a plan for your Business Online?
Background first: I received a forwarded email yesterday from a potential client, with the original subject line being “1st place on Google” sent by their Business Development Manager who we will call Fred. Now it was obvious Fred and his Company, Startup, band of merry men, what ever the actual business was ( no business name, no 1300, 1800 or company blurb, nothing.) really wanted business cause they went to the trouble of using this really attractive darkish green background for part of the email. All I had to do to get my business, or my clients as the case may be, into the “1st place on Google” was to respond to their Gmail email account and ask for their packages, portfolio’s and proposals. Awesome isn’t ? I’m not sure if you can tell but I was and still am sceptical of the claim. Would your internal scam alarm be sounding by now? What was it for you? The Green background, gmail address, lack of business name or the promise of “1st place on Google“? Or all of them? What happened with that email: To be fair I’d say almost everyone with a business email address, or just and email address, has received this kind of email at some point. Here’s a question to ponder, would you reply back and even pay the people on the other end via Paypal, and give them login details to your website so they could optimise the content? Probably not. I would hope not anyway. But I have recently had a conversation with some one in the coffee industry who did just that. And wondered why their e-commerce site was blacklisted and reported as having malware. The Website Client: They approached me to discuss securing their business website after the fact, and tidying up and retrieving lost copy from backups and trying to go about restoring some of their online stores reputation. The business was relative new, small and started as a husband and wife team but now with a couple of staff working with them. The e-commerce site was built quickly and more the domain of the husband and wife with staff simply taking the emails that came in processing the orders. The Website Audit: I audited the site, not just for faults and malware but for content, errors and SEO/SEM. This is something that is not quick or simple and can take a fair chunk of my day to complete. Especially if it is an “emergency” situation and can’t be done over a period of days to gather and filter information. I gave them a full report, a break down of everything that was wrong with their site. And a time and a price for getting everything corrected as well as getting everything headed back in the right direction in regards to ranking and regaining lost customers. This included setting up website metrics, analytics, proper website security, login systems, password enforcing and regular scans. The owner/managers may have felt at a loss at the extent of the damage to the site, or surprised at the low ranking the site was receiving (it wasn’t brilliant to begin with), the blacklisting of their emails or the fact some of their long time customers were angry, but whatever the reason management did not take the report well. The Result: It was at this point I actually encountered the old “my friends son says its not that hard and he can do it” routine. At which I politely left the conversation suggesting that if he needed to contact me to do the work he had my card. I did not leave a copy of the report. I did leave a summary but definitely not the details. Some of you may be asking why? Others having been down this path fully understand. Having put the research and time in to understanding the situation at hand I felt that leaving my work there in that situation would not just be tempting someone else to follow the report and attempt to do the repair work – yes I would loose out on income, it would also reflect badly on me. My name, my businesses name and its reputation would be reflected upon badly if someone attempted to implement the needed work, failed or worse using the broad picture I had painted in the report.(not that it wasn’t in pretty bad shape as is.) I have been down that path before with past potential clients. The Takeaway: Its never a good idea to pinch pennies when your livelihood is at risk. I can understand the impulse, your e-commerce website business has just suffered a reputation and monetary setback and the urge to reduce costs can be a major factor in decision making. It is however never a good idea when your main website interface to the world of your customers is damaged. Your business website needs to be trustworthy (I.E. a SSL certificate for all transactions), fast to load (Google does rank on speed especially for mobiles), and the website must be clear and easy to navigate. A website for business, an e-commerce website, your website, needs to be secure and not just that your customers need to feel secure and confident while using your website. So when you get that spam email in your inbox promising you “1st place on Google”, maybe a little research of who and where the business is from will prevent some headaches. As for the potential client of mine in this story. They have contacted me again. They did have someone else look at the site and from what little they have said and from what hasn’t been done on the site not much has worked out for them. Yes I have a feeling it was the friends son. It may be a story for another day.
Website contentOne of the things that has come up a lot recently has been the value of content in a website. One of the things that Google and other search engines look for is the words and phrases you use in your business websites content. When, where and how often you use the wording affects the way in which your page is indexed. This is often called SEO, or SEM. That is Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing. Google in particular looks at not just the structure of a site but the way the content is arranged, its readability, length, the page content, and phrasing. They use this to help score your site and thus rank it on search results.
Website LinkingYes there are plenty of companies out there spruiking the use of backlinks, guest blogging, and paying for links from authors to build your sites rankings. This is not a long term strategy that will get you very far. In fact done repeatedly on low quality sites links like this will get you banned from Google until corrected. An example of this was Interflora UK who paid for 150 advertorials in the lead up to valentines day 2013 in regional papers all linking back to them. This promptly resulted in a ban from search results until they at least applied a nofollow on the paid links.
Results require workKeeping your website in a decent search engine ranking is hard work. It isn’t easy and requires constant effort.
- Publishing new content
- Refreshing outdated content
- Making sure your legitimate links still work
- Competitors working harder
- Search engines updating there rules