How to Use Social Media to Manage Your Small Business’s Online Reputation

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Customer service is important for any small business, but there are ways to use social media to go above and beyond what people expect. As hard as you might try, not everyone is going to have a positive experience with your company, so what matters is how you react to bad publicity in order to manage your online reputation. What you say and do is key to how your audience feels about you. There are three great ways to u8se social media to turn a negative into a positive for your business:

Offer Support

According to a study, 58% of Americans would not use a company again after a negative customer service experience. On top of that, 59% of 25-34 year-olds share poor customer service experiences online. This is why good customer service is so crucial to the success of your company. A bad reputation will spread fast and can be hard to shake off, even if you go out of your way to turn things around. The best approach is to never fall into that hole in the first place, which means taking steps to improve customer service and your reputation right now.

Have a Twitter account? If not, it’s time to make one. You might not need to designate an account solely for customer service issues like many big brands do, but the platform is used by 67% of consumers for that purpose, making it a valuable tool for any company looking to build a relationship with their audience.

A strong customer service game will go a long way toward maintaining the goodwill of your audience, as 69% of Americans would recommend a company after a positive customer service experience. If there are two things that customers value the most, it’s expediency in resolving the issue and quick response time. 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do, and it’s essential that your audience doesn’t think that they are being ignored. Reach out and resolve issues quickly.

Monitor the Conversation

Just because customers are not tweeting to you directly, doesn’t mean they aren’t saying anything about you. Only about 3% of tweets about brands are actually directed toward them. Social media listening is essentially eavesdropping on the conversations happening on social, and it is a very effective method of staying involved in the conversation and getting ahead of any trends you start to see.

Don’t be afraid to search for your company’s name, look up certain keywords, or check out relevant hashtags on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Accounts like @JetBlue do a good job of providing proactive customer service by reaching out to customers who are talking about them, but might not be talking to them. Committing to social media listening means that you’re always looking for the next problem that needs fixing and addressing issues before they hurt your reputation. Publicly admitting that you listened to what your audience was saying and are now taking the necessary steps to make the appropriate changes, will go a long way toward building goodwill with your customers.

Read the Reviews

If you’re a local business, chances are that customers are leaving you reviews on Yelp and Facebook. Just like customer service on Twitter, it’s important to monitor what customers are saying about your company. Word of mouth is key in the online world, as 79% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 44% of customers base their decisions around reviews. It’s important that you know how to respond to both the positive and the negative.

A study proved that a one star increase in Yelp rating can lead to a 5-9% increase in revenue for a restaurant. This is why it’s a good idea to reach out and thank customers who leave positive reviews. You also shouldn’t ignore the negative ones, because 33% of negative reviews turn positive when you respond to them. Reach out to these unsatisfied customers, apologize for their bad experience, and figure out a way to turn it into a positive.

Once you’ve responded, it’s best to continue the conversation in private to find out more about the situation and how you can resolve their issues. Privately offer them an incentive to try your product or service again. Even if potential customers don’t see this interaction, just the fact that you answered a negative review will have a positive effect on how they view you. Who knows, maybe the unhappy customer will reevaluate their opinion and write an update on how you fixed everything.

Managing your online reputation is a job that never ends. Your audience’s perception of you will always be in flux, but if you’re serious about customer service, the positives will always outweigh the negatives.

Why Brands Need To Be Careful About The New Instagram Algorithm

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Instagram has introduced an algorithm that reconfigures the order in which users see content on their feed. As a sister company of Facebook, the move was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean users are happy about the change. Instagram was widely regarded as one of the few truly organic social mediums available, and though this change will make connecting brands with users easier, it also has the potential to backfire if they feel like your ad is being forced on them.

According to Instagram, users miss around 70% of the posts in their feed, and according to a Forrester Research study, user interactions with brands dropped nearly half in 2015–going from 4.213% to just 2.261% of followers. This change was enacted to both help remedy that problem and to ensure that brands connected with more people. This change from organic discovery to artificial promotion could turn users away and hurt your chances to have a positive interaction with potential customers. Now when your brand seeks to make connections on Instagram, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t Forget to Be Organic

By eliminating the reverse chronological order of the Instagram feed, many feel that the social media platform has become less organic. The change has compromised what they once loved, so it’s easy to see how brands could become the victim of disgruntled users. This is where it is essential to continue to think organically. Maybe the algorithm has changed, but that doesn’t mean the very nature of the platform was altered. Because of the reliance on photography, Instagram users are looking for artistry, beauty, and emotions over a message or staged content. The spontaneity of the moment captured in a picture or video is what attracts users, so keep that in mind when crafting ads or simply trying to update your brand account.

360i’s VP of social marketing and strategy Orli LeWinter doesn’t believe “Instagram will go full-fledged Facebook with its suppression of organic reach for content,” and force all advertisers into a pay-to-play model they can’t break out of. However, Instagram is introducing artificial promotion, which basically goes against the spontaneity of the platform. It’s important to keep in mind how your audience might take to you jumping into their feed when they don’t want you there because, as LeWinter believes, “The Instagram community is just different and expects a level of authenticity and accessibility that isn’t reflected on Facebook.”

Quality is Still Essential

Even if you’re paying to have users see your ads, it’s essential that you continue to stick to the rules of Instagram and keep artistry as a top priority. The advertising gold rush might be upon us, but “there are concerns about a stampede of subpar creatives, running counter to the high-def appeal of Instagram.” The initial impulse of the new algorithm might be to pump money into advertising and get your brand in front of the most eyes, but a certain amount of quality still needs to be considered. As Larry Lac, director of social media marketing at Havas Worldwide says of the issue, “the moment when an Instagram ad starts looking like a banner, the ‘unfollows’ will come.”

Instagram is a visual medium, so it is essential to continue creating content that meets the assumed requirements. Brands must consider if the visuals in their advertising campaign are worthy of the platform because the new algorithm will be able to filter out poor ads by serving users with only relevant and targeted ads. The more that users engage with the ads they see, the better the algorithm can provide them with relevant advertisements. If an ad is performing poorly because the visuals are not up to snuff, it would be eliminated from circulation, essentially forcing the brand to provide Instagram-worthy images that will keep users happy.

What the Future Holds

While it has yet to be seen whether Instagram will simply go with Facebook’s algorithm, or one that is wholly its own, Tom Buontempo, president of KBS’ Attention, believes there is a way to differentiate the two platforms. By implementing image recognition and location into the timeline algorithm, the mobile-first app will be able to create a much more spontaneous hierarchy of relevance determined by location and people in the pictures.

Regardless of what the algorithm ends up prioritizing, the move aligns Instagram with Facebook’s marketing playbook. As it follows its sister company’s lead, expect to see more social shopping opportunities, and an implementation of its own version of Facebook Canvas, which will allow users to make purchases right in the app. Instagram is catering more to brands than ever before, but as new functionality debuts, it’s important to keep in mind what has made the platform so popular up until now.

It’s Time For Your Business to Support Social Shopping

Infographic_its time for your business to support social shopping

As our world continues to become increasingly paperless, consumers are flocking to their phones to pay back their friends. Social pay has become incredibly popular for peer-to-peer transactions on Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. Now when it comes to B2C transactions, social shopping–on desktop and mobile–is becoming all the rage, and it’s time for your business to adopt this practice.

The Traffic Problem

Before you come to accept the need for social shopping, you have to understand just what’s happening on social media right now. Facebook is shutting the gate for referral traffic, making it harder for web-based businesses to get clickbacks to their websites. Once upon a time, businesses could send out a link to their site, Facebook followers would click the link, and the business would reap the benefits of conversion. Facebook realized what it was allowing to happen, so they changed their algorithm to value native content, like pictures and video, over links that send users elsewhere.

The proof is in the numbers, as the top 30 Facebook publishers lost 32% of their referral traffic in 2015. The top 10 of publishers saw an even bigger drop of 42.7% in the same timespan. Facebook is making it harder for publishers to use them as a traffic funnel. The platform plans to make Instant Articles available to all publishers, which will allow their articles to load faster, and rank them higher in the algorithm, but it will also keep users on Facebook instead of traveling to other websites.

The Shopping Solution

Facebook’s introduction of Canvas now allows users to shop right on Facebook without ever having to travel to an external website. What this means is that small businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place–go the traditional route without much help from Facebook and hope customers come to your website, or play the game but lose traffic referrals that could have been used for advertising purposes.

After abandoning traffic numbers, it’s not all bad. The introduction of Canvas and the Shop section on Pages has changed the game for online retailers. Facebook has found that around half of their users are looking to interact with brands on their platform. Around 37% of Twitter users will buy from a brand that they follow, making social media a place ripe with potential customers that have a high chance for conversion.

To make this potential a reality, Facebook and Twitter have begun adding calls to action in their advertisements. Now you can Call Now, Shop Now, Buy Now, Install, Sign Up, and more,  directly from the ads on the social platform. Pinterest has also implemented Visual Search that allows users to find an item in a picture, identify it, and purchase it, or something similar, directly on the platform.

The internet has been striving to make shopping simple for the last 20 years, and social shopping is the zenith of that endeavor. They say that when one door closes, another opens–traffic referral is down, but shopping is going way up.

The Social Media Accounts Your Small Business Should Take Pointers From

Infographic_the social media accounts your small business should take pointers from

Many popular companies use social media as a tool to enhance their brand. Your small business might not have the built-in audience many of these companies have, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look to these bigger accounts for inspiration. Each social media platform has its own functionality and purpose, so consider which are right for you, and pay attention to what others are already doing.

For Images

Whether you’re advertising a physical product or selling an experience, Instagram is a great platform to showcase aspects of your brand through fantastic visuals. Regardless of what your business is, the company you should be paying attention to is National Geographic. Their 45.5 million followers is a testament to the amazing work they do. The pictures they post come from all over the world, so it can get pretty eclectic at times, but their success is proof that beautiful pictures have their own market.

NatGeo’s Chief Marketing Brand Officer Claudia Malley had her own keynote panel at Social Media Week New York where she talked about their success in social. Malley spoke about the importance of giving their photographers the keys to the castle on their Instagram account in order to let them dictate the content. Of course, it’s hard to follow in the footsteps of a company like National Geographic, but there is something to be said for giving your employees control over the content you push out. No matter what your company does, introducing personal perspectives humanizes your brand. Adding small touches like names or personal accounts to their perspectives keeps your audience engaged.

For Video

If you’re looking to create shareable video content for your brand, watch what Buzzfeed’s Tasty account is doing on Facebook. Buzzfeed takes advantage of the platform’s algorithm that favors native videos over third party content . Their content is made specifically for the platform, and exists almost entirely on Facebook. That means they don’t count on clickbacks to the Buzzfeed website, and you shouldn’t be either. If you’re trying to create content for Facebook, make content that will live there. You’ll find more success that way.

Tasty’s videos work well with Facebook’s soundless autoplay feature, and are optimized with fast-motion to make them easier to watch. It’s easy to see how much value they put into production. If you’re going to put in the time to create video content, make sure it’s well planned out, looks great, and has your audience in mind. Do they want to sit through a five minute video, or can it be turned into a more compact format? Consider your audience’s attention span, then create content that will keep them interested. The more watchable it is, the easier it will be to share. And while Tasty’s videos work best on Facebook, they can still be shared across multiple platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

For Customer Service

Good customer service is important, but it’s crucial for many small businesses trying to get a foothold in the market. Social media’s connectivity can make for a great way to administer customer service, but if you’re going to devote one channel to support, it should be Twitter. People are tweeting to brands more than ever, and 80% of customer service requests on social are happening on the platform. According to a study, companies that use social care services have improved year-over-year revenue per contact by 18.8% over companies without. The platform has proven to be a much cheaper and more effective means to offer support.

Having an active social media presence makes it easier for customers to reach out if they have a problem or need to ask a question. Many large brands devote separate Twitter accounts to offer customer-focused channels. Maybe your company isn’t ready for multiple Twitter accounts, but the lessons still apply. @NikeSupport shows how important it is to remain active and respond quickly in order to form a level of trust with customers. Accounts like @JetBlue are taking a more proactive approach to customer service by tracking keywords and relevant hashtags to interact with people even if they don’t tag them in their tweets. You might also want to consider following @TMobileHelp by letting your customer service specialists sign their tweets in order to provide a personal touch, and show your audience that there are real people behind the account.