Besides getting great press with media pick-up, positive online reviews are one of the best ways a brand or business can earn genuine third-party validation—and in some ways, reviews are even better because you’re getting the thumbs up from real users.

Despite that truth, new findings suggest that not enough small businesses advocate for their brand in ways that allow them to build their online reputation. Small businesses that want to exercise greater control over their online reputation must first claim control over their brand’s online narrative by encouraging customers to leave positive reviews and sharing positive content about their brand on social media.

According to a new survey from business news and how-to website The Manifest, although 53 percent of small businesses actively manage online reviews by publicly responding to them, less than half of small businesses proactively promote their own brand online.

Only 40 percent of small businesses encourage happy customers to leave positive online reviews.

Businesses that don’t encourage customers to leave positive reviews put themselves at a disadvantage because people are more likely to complain than compliment good service.

“It’s not hard to get a happy client to write a review, but it does take some nudging,” said Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of SEO and reputation management company SEO Image, in a news release.

While responding to negative reviews is critical to any online reputation management plan, small businesses should also advocate for their brand.

Fewer than half of small businesses actively seek reviews—here’s why they should

Most small businesses respond to negative online reviews

Small businesses recognize the impact of online reviews and respond to them. More than half of small businesses (53 percent) respond to online reviews publicly and (48 percent) respond privately.

It’s especially important for small businesses to respond publicly to negative reviews to demonstrate they care about the feedback they receive from customers, said online reputation management experts.

“If a potential customer sees a company’s response to a negative review, they’re more likely to buy from them because it shows they care about their customers’ feedback,” said Anthony Will, CEO of online reputation management company Reputation Resolutions, in the release.

Fewer than half of small businesses actively seek reviews—here’s why they should

Social media Is underused as an online reputation management tool

Most small businesses that monitor their online reputation (94 percent) have a social media presence, but only 44 percent use social media to promote and share positive content about their brand.

By using social media to share news about their brand, small businesses can build rapport with customers and claim more control over their brand’s reputation.

Businesses should be careful, however, not to come across as overly self-promotional.

“You want to help your target audience make the best decision for them—not just say how great you are,” said Lauren Elliott, marketing communications manager at web design and marketing agency Thee Digital, in the release.

Proactive management of online reviews can help businesses strengthen their digital reputation

The report concludes that small businesses should respond publicly and professionally to online reviews, encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews, and use social media to promote positive information about their brand.

Public relations firms and experts recommended that small businesses combine proactive and reactive strategies to exercise greater control over their brand’s digital reputation in 2019 and beyond.

Read the full survey report here.

The Manifest surveyed 529 small business owners and managers in the U.S.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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