The Warehouse is open again. This is not breaking news, except to Google Maps, which took more than 18 months to recognize that chef and owner James Africano had reopened the restaurant in 2015 after it had closed for just a few months.
Africano said the restaurant worked to manage its social media presence on its own, but ultimately hired a company for a few months to get its image back on track.
Intentionally or not, The Warehouse served as a relevant setting for Monday’s Small Business Week workshop, titled “Online Reputation Management: Crafting Your Public Perception.”
Panelists at the workshop included Kristin Murphy, Business Development Manager at Technowledge; Craig Mount, CEO at Classy Brain; and Lauren Hug, owner of HugSpeak Consulting.
Value in social media
Many small business owners and individuals either reel from the idea of sharing their lives online, or do not understand the significance and gravity of a social media presence in today’s market.
“But people want to do business with people they know, like and trust, and social media empowers that relationship,” said Murphy.
Social media also promotes opportunities to refine one’s image.
“From an SEO [Search Engine Optimization] perspective, let’s say someone does a branded search for your business,” said Mount. “Your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn show up. The front page for your business is no longer just your web page, it’s the Google search page.”
And search engines are like modern-day phone books.
“SEO at its essence is optimizing for Google, Bing and Apple Maps,” said Mount, who added that in a rapidly growing city and increasingly saturated market, being found first is paramount.
“Using social networks is a great way to show up high in SEO results,” said Hug. “Own all of your channels [Facebook, Twitter, etc.], just so you have more places where people can find you.”
Businesses want to show up high on the search result list for transactional results, such as “Colorado Springs chiropractor.”
“People don’t explore a lot. We have a saying in the office: If you want to hide a body, put it on the second page of Google,” Mount quipped.
“You have to weigh the value of being out there, of how much information you’re willing to give,” she said. “If you don’t have clients and customers, it may be because you’re not out there enough.”
Reviewing and being reviewed
One sentiment echoed by the panelists was to keep track of social media channels by creating a schedule or simply getting into the habit of checking those channels regularly, though suggested techniques differed.
Mount suggested investigating which channels a target audience is utilizing most and analyzing their usage. Murphy recommended HootSuite for larger businesses. Hug consistently cited the human-to-human approach.
“Facebook has really sophisticated tools,” Hug said. “But I avoid automated tools because I’m a fan of being human as much as possible.”
And with social media comes negative reviews, which the panel agreed are not necessarily always bad, since they serve as amplifiers to the positive reviews around them. Emotional distance is important regarding negative reviews, the panelists said.
“You put everything you have into [your business] and you know you do a good job. And it’s very hard to give a standard customer service response if someone says something untrue,” Hug said.
Those who cannot distance themselves from the situation may want to consider hiring a consultant.
“Think of it like everyone is watching,” said Mount. “There’s the thing you want to say, but you don’t do that. Ever. You may have lost that customer, but you can use it as an opportunity to gain more customers.”