Marketing your business in the social media age can turn into an ongoing exercise in testing out what works best for you. It’s not enough to just “be” anymore, instead you’ve got to “be involved” because like it or not, your online reputation has a lot of influence in whether or not people choose to do business with you.

Here are 3 helpful tips on how to build an online reputation:
Make Social Media A Priority
Don’t neglect your social media, be where your target audience is most engaged. It’s not enough to just have a Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter account. You need to be asking questions, posting interesting information, interacting with followers, and putting good and relevant content out there to gain you additional followers (and potential customers). Nobody knows exactly how much social media can affect search engine rankings, but if your following is growing, things are headed in a positive direction. If you feel especially clueless on social media, call a spade a spade and hire a professional. It’s worth the time payoff and your reputation won’t suffer from your own well meaning, but ultimately uninformed actions.

Make It Personal
Take the time to introduce yourself and make it personal, share interesting insights and the back story of how your business got its start. For those who are owner/operators, you need to make sure your personal profiles aren’t neglected either. People often search for relevant information by name specifically so it helps if your personal dealings on social media are free from anything that may cause problems for your business. You also want your own, controlled information to be what people see first. Local businesses are more susceptible to personal online attacks and reputation digs, which is why they have to be extra vigilant.

Be Proactive
Damage control is about as fun as it sounds. You don’t want to be spending your time trying to put out fires that could have been avoided. As an established small business, you will likely be searched for often online and you want to make sure that the results are good ones. Use online reviews to your advantage, especially 3rd party reviews like the ones on Yelp or Google. Let your customers help you build your reputation for you and don’t be afraid to ask for those all-important online reviews. Listen and respond to complaints and feedback, respond in a timely and creative manner. Don’t be afraid to apologize, it’s not a sign of weakness or admitting to wrongdoing. Don’t engage in online arguments, always take things privately, via email or in person if possible. Don’t play out drama online as it can reflect very poorly on your business.

Keep these three tips in mind as you go about cultivating your online reputation. Though these efforts may seem complicated, or even tedious at first, your business will ultimately benefit in the end and that’s what matters most.

For more insights on marketing strategy that actually works for small business, subscribe to the FreshLime Newsletter here. Connect with Jay Bean, Founder of FreshLime and Small Business Marketing Expert on LinkedIn and Twitter. And last of all, if any of these tips have helped you or if you have anything to add please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!