Sunday, October 18, 2009

Social media for business now is life or death

As my daily PR tasks focus on social media marketing, I've realized that I participate in social media everyday. There are no 9-5 hours with availability on Mondays through Fridays. Nope. I live and breathe social media whether I like it or not. Whether it is voicing my political opinion on Twitter and Facebook while watching Sunday's Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos or finding new ways to get my clients media coverage through an online publication or on a blog, I understand the need and inclusion of social media in both my personal and professional life.

Still, I have come to realize that most companies still don't see a need for social media and search engine marketing. Social media marketing is crucial especially when it comes to managing not only an online presence but an overall brand both online and offline.

An article in the New York Times
examines managing an online reputation. Whether you like it or not, your customers are online talking about you and the whole wide world is listening. According to the article, local review sites are reshaping the world of small business by becoming the new Yellow Pages, one-stop platforms where customers can find a business — and also see independent critiques of its performance.

The article goes on to say for some business owners, this is a terrifying prospect that seems more like mob rule than the wisdom of crowds. Negative reviews can hang an albatross around your neck if they appear prominently in search results. Happily, there is a big upside: referrals from happy clients are traditionally the best source of new business — and online forums are powerful word-of-mouth. The review process has been democratized.

But managing your online reputation requires a whole new skill set, including monitoring the online conversation and engaging with customers and the tech-savvy to promote yourself in the best channels. These skills are becoming essential for mainstream businesses. According to a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

Here are some quick tips to managing your online reputation:

~Set up automatic alerts to notify you when your business is mentioned in a review or blog.

~Local search sites are the new Yellow Pages -- make sure your business is listed. The more complete your listing, the more likely you are to get good search results.

~Respond to reviews to show readers that you are listening and that you care about customer service.

~Online reviews are a gold mine of business intelligence. Analyze metrics to get a better sense of your customer demographics.

~Don’t write false reviews to puff your business or trash a competitor. You can severely damage your reputation...and look really silly.

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