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Managing Your Small Business’ Online Reputation

Congratulations! You've taken your business online. So how do you leverage this into new customers or clients while also protecting your reputation?

Congratulations! You’ve taken your business online. So how do you leverage this into new customers or clients while also protecting your reputation?

Congratulations intrepid entrepreneur! If you’ve taken the plunge and launched your small business into the social media space, you’ve taken a bold step that offers many risks and rewards.

More than 72 percent of U.S. adults who go online use social networking sites, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. By choosing to put your brand out there, a bevy of potential rewards (i.e., Likes, followers, sharing blog posts, positive reviews and online recommendations) await your brand. With a little effort applied to communication your messages, attention to superior online customer service that reflects your brand and by trying to genuinely connect with your customers, you can turn your social media presence into a noteworthy repository of goodwill for your business that reward you handsomely over time.

The effort is also not without risk.

In the days before social media, one bad customer experience typically translated to the customer telling 10 friends of their displeasure. With the advent of social media, however, your brand runs the risk of being shamed before 100 or 1,000 social media followers. For some power networkers, those numbers are substantially higher.

It’s imperative small businesses understand, on average, about 46 percent of web users turn to social media before making a purchase to decide if the business or product is “trustworthy” or reputable. This means, to paraphrase a legendary phrase from actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, you are what the online community says you are.

On Oct. 18 at Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa., small business owners that include restaurants, outdoor and adventure destinations, bed & breakfasts and others will gather for Visit Bucks County’s Annual Membership Meeting. Attendees will have an opportunity to attend a morning seminar on establishing and maintaining online presences to help their businesses grow.

As one of the featured speakers, I’ll be sharing insights and tips on how these businesses can protect and defend their online reputations. I’ll offer examples of good, and not so good, online customer service. In addition I’ll provide insider tips for managing these online presences under a variety of circumstances.

Check back on this blog next week for some top line thoughts on the subject as well as insights and anecdotes offered by some of the small businesses I meet with at the VBC Annual Meeting.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/4820986909/”>Infusionsoft</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

9 Tips To Make Social Media Work For You At Conventions

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

Last week (Sept. 25-28) more than 1,200 vendors attended Natural Products Expo East to attract the attention of retailers and bloggers while also winning some valued name recognition for their brands.

Surprisingly, only a handful of vendors used social media to truly maximize their advantage.

I’ve attended many conferences and conventions and I follow some simple social media steps for events.  I urge many of the brands I met with at Expo East to review the following tips and plan to incorporate them next September in Baltimore or in March 2014 in Anaheim for Expo West. Because of its profound reach, extensive use in business and dexterity of messaging, these tips focus on using Twitter, but could be adapted for Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and others.

Twitter Screen Shot

1. Tell the World Where You’ll Be

About 45 days before the show, tweet from your company Twitter handle that you will be in attendance. Use the show’s hashtag (usually #ExpoEast or #ExpoWest; other shows will include this info. in registration materials), your booth number and invite people to visit your booth at the show. For example: We’re thrilled to be attending #ExpoWest in Anaheim in March. You can find us at Booth #3100.

2. Make a Social Media Plan for the Show

Conference attendees cling to their smartphones. Task someone to monitor, post and respond to social media during the show in real-time. Either on the floor or back at the home office, participating on social media will help garner attention for you long after the tradeshow floor closes.

3. Give Followers a Behind the Scenes Look

Tweet behind-the-scenes pictures and video of your team preparing for the show, traveling to the show and setting up your booth. People like to get to know the brands they love, and feel included. Be sure to include show hashtags and your booth number.

4. Give Attendees a Reason To Seek You Out

Entice attendees to visit you by offering samples, raffles or exclusive news on upcoming brand news. Make it worth attendees’ time to find your booth in the crowd. And, of course, use the show hashtag and your booth number. For example: If you’re attending #ExpoWest, stop by Booth #3100 for free samples of our new mango and coffee-flavored smoothies.

5. Recruit Attendees to Be Your Ambassadors

People share content in which they are featured. Invite interested attendees to take a photo with you and your booth. Then you can tweet the picture, with the attendee’s Twitter handle and the show’s hashtag with a “Thanks for stopping by” or other conversation-relevant comment. Retailers might not partake, but bloggers and brand enthusiasts will – and they share!

6. Comment on Show Happenings

You’re at the convention. Make sure you are aware of educational and training sessions taking place, who the guest speakers are, and what events attendees are talking about most. Tweet content related to each – with images where possible. For example: Willy Wonka’s talk on the health benefits of sugar at #ExpoWest has fired attendees up. What’s the most interesting seminar you’ve attended today?

7. Respond To Those Who Tweet About/To You

It’s just like a conversation. You wouldn’t ignore someone who said hello to your or complimented you, so don’t do it on social media. If someone tweets at or about you, tweet them back with a tailored thank you (i.e., don’t just say ‘Thanks’).

8. Spelling Counts

Proper spelling is key, especially for people’s names and Twitter handles. It demonstrates professionalism as well as being able to react correctly to real-time events with aplomb.

9. If It Goes Badly, Get It Offline

If someone tweets a complaint or comments negatively about your product, let them know you are sorry they are unhappy, and that you would like to speak with them (by email, cell phone or in person) right away to try to help. Do not engage in a back-and-forth dialogue via social media. Get the conversation off of social media as quickly as possible. For example: We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Email willy@willywonka.com and let us help or stop by booth #3100 & give us a chance to make it right.

There is a lot of good that can come from live social media posts at a conference or convention. Retailers search the related hashtags to see what brands are trending, and what attendees liked and didn’t like. And whether you use social media or not, if you are a vendor at a show like Natural Products Expo, you are being talked about on social media. So make sure you are taking an active role to help shape that conversation.

If you have questions or would like to create a social media plan for Anaheim or Baltimore in 2014, email me at rhughes@kimballpr.com to learn how the team at Kimball Communications can help. Or tweet us at @KimballPR.