One of the oldest and most effective ways of marketing your business is by word-of-mouth. But today, word-of-mouth has taken on a whole new meaning. Customers are spreading the word about your business, not only in personal interactions with friends and family, but also online via social media websites, on businessesâ websites and on third-party ratings and review sites such as Yelp.com.
Thereâs good news and bad news about this, of course. The bad news is that a single negative comment, post or review has the power to hurt your business. But the good newsâand thereâs more good news than badâis that positive mentions of your business can help even more.
A recent study by Bazaarvoice
surveyed consumers about what influenced their decisions to buy products and found that, among all age groups, the opinions of others expressed online were very important in making purchasing decisions. This held true whether the opinions were those of their friends and family, or complete strangers making comments or posting reviews online. And while younger consumers were somewhat more reliant on online opinions, even Baby Boomers were heavily influenced by them.
Many small business owners fear getting involved in social media thinking that their presence on Yelp will unleash floodgates of critical consumers ready to rip their companies to shreds. If thatâs youâget over your fear. Word-of-mouth has always been a primary way that customers learn about businesses. And as this research shows, itâs becoming even more important.
So how to stop worrying and start loving the world of online opinions? Think of social media, reviews and rating sites as just another channel for getting your customers to talk about you. Sure, you hope most of what they say will be positiveâbut if it isnât, wouldnât you rather hear the truth so you can fix the problems?
If your business is not already involved in social media, I urge you to at least get your feet wet. Check out Facebook for business, set up a Twitter account (you donât have to tweet at firstâjust listen in), and create a LinkedIn presence. There are many other social media sites out there, from Google+ to Pinterest and Tumblr. You donât have to use them allâbut you do need to get a sense of whatâs out there, and which one(s) might help your company grow.
Next, be sure your business has a presence on review and rating sites, like Yelp.com, Google Places or local search engines where customers post their impressions of businesses. Itâs simple to âclaimâ your listing and make sure the information presented about your business is correct. Then encourage your customers to review you. In other words, start the conversation going.
Want the easiest way to listen in? Go to Google.com and set up a âGoogle Alertâ on your name and your business name. That way, youâll be notified whenever your company is mentioned online. Itâs a little step, but itâs a start to listening in to the conversation thatâs going on all around you.
Need more hand-holding as you navigate social media, reviews and other consumer-generated content? Your SCORE Mentor can help. Visit the SCORE
site to get matched with a mentor for free counseling and advice 24/7.