SCORE Small Business Blog

Are Your Customers Talking About You?
3 Comments

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 businesses’ websites and on third-party ratings and review sites such as Yelp.com.

There’s 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 news—and there’s more good news than bad—is 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 that’s you—get over your fear. Word-of-mouth has always been a primary way that customers learn about businesses. And as this research shows, it’s 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 positive—but if it isn’t, wouldn’t 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 don’t have to tweet at first—just listen in), and create a LinkedIn presence. There are many other social media sites out there, from Google+ to Pinterest and Tumblr. You don’t have to use them all—but you do need to get a sense of what’s 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. It’s simple to “claim” 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 “Google Alert” on your name and your business name. That way, you’ll be notified whenever your company is mentioned online. It’s a little step, but it’s a start to listening in to the conversation that’s 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.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship.
www.growbizmedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// |

Discussion (3) Comment


  1. JasonVisitor

    Could not agree more, great post Rieva. Just a side not, we are in the business of managing social media for small businesses and find that responding to negative reviews in the right way can actually change a 1 or 2 star review to a 4 or 5 star review. Customer want to know you’re listening and appreciate responses to issues they’ve had. We see it everyday and advise those waiting to jump in to get started today! Happy to answer any specific questions about how to handle anything related to social media or online review sites, jason [at] bounceshotmedia.com


  2. Deirdre BakerVisitor

    Great post Rieva. I think critics can be a great way to propel a business into making necessary change. The reason so many fear them is because they then have to face the fact that the problem really does exist and there may be some hard work ahead!


  3. ChuckVisitor

    If your customers arn’t talking about you then you irrelevent. To a certain point. When customers are talking about you, word of mouth is the most effective way to land new customers.

 

Leave a Comment

More Blog Topics