When you’re marketing your small business online, you want to look your best on every platform. Whether you’re responding to reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor, or keeping up with your comments, mentions, and reviews on social media, it’s important to be authentic to your voice, while keeping your current and future customers in mind. Main Street Hub knows — we’re trusted by 10,000 small businesses all over the country to tell their stories online.

Consumers that visit your social media pages and review sites are looking to see what kind of customer service they can expect when they pay you a visit. These essential dos and don’ts will help you put your best foot forward online with loyal fans and potential customers to keep your business top-of-mind and them coming back:

Review Sites

Online reviews are important for your business’ online reputation, but it’s how you respond to these reviews that really matters. In fact, 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews. Responding to your customer’s experiences can help show off your business’ excellent customer service and influence a future customer to come by for a visit.

Do be specific and personalize your review responses.

Try using the reviewer’s name in your response and specifically referencing something they said in their review — this will show that you care about the individual and their experience.

Don’t be defensive when you reply to negative feedback in customer reviews.

A good first step in responding to a one- or two-star review is to identify the biggest pain point mentioned by the reviewer. Many times, one- and two-star experiences with a business stem from a single misunderstanding or error and unravel from there. If you can identify where the issues began and explain how you intend to improve on that for next time, then you’ve gotten to the core of the issue for that reviewer while presenting your business in the best light.

Don’t be afraid to apologize when appropriate.

Many people leave online reviews because they want to feel heard. By acknowledging and apologizing for something that went wrong, you’re doing your best to make that unhappy customer feel that you will do your best to remedy the issue or situation. Once you’ve earned their trust back, they will be more likely to come back for another visit.

Do be yourself! Online users are attracted to authenticity. It’s important to respond in the most personalized and authentic way possible so your customers know that they’re talking to a real person who cares about their concerns.

Social Media

Customer service online shouldn’t stop at review sites. Take a look at these interesting stats: 67% of consumers now utilize networks like Twitter and Facebook for customer service requests, and 33% of consumers even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than a phone call. This means that each and every message, mention, and wall post that comes in for your business on social media has the power to influence consumers’ opinions of your business and their chances of visiting you when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Do be personable and address people directly when responding to mentions, comments, and reviews on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If the review, message, or mention contains a detail about the customer’s experience or a particular thing that stood out to them about your business, work that into your response, too. The more personal the better — it shows that you took the time to craft a response that speaks to their concerns.

And, don’t forget to say, “thank you.” Whether the customer’s feedback is positive or negative, it’s key to thank that customer for taking the time to reach out. After all, gathering feedback from your customers is the most effective way to find out what you can be doing better to improve the experience at your business.

Don’t forget to remind your customers that they are welcome to reach out to you any time.

Encouraging more comments, messages, mentions, and reviews will not only increase your engagement, it will also maximize your reach. As more of your fans and followers engage with your page, you will gain exposure to their networks — getting your business in front of brand new audiences.

Don’t ignore conversations happening in your local area.

At least 319 million people are active on Twitter every month, and 85% of those Twitter users report feeling more connected to the small businesses that they follow.

Twitter is the perfect place to engage with people looking online for services your business offers. If you own a casual pizza restaurant, you can search for users tweeting keywords and hashtags like, “hungry,” “pizza craving,” or “#lunchtime,” and jump into conversations. With a little interaction, users might just click to your profile, check out your business, and look at what you have to offer. By reaching out and engaging in conversations on Twitter, you’ll add more users to your online community and stay top-of-mind with consumers in your area.

Do: Be engaging! Interact with users on these platforms to protect your business’ reputation and extend your customer service online.

Always be sure to like and respond to user comments on your own photos, and comment and like posts of users in your community and fanbase. This will show users that you care about what they post, that you’re listening and engaged, and it will support your business’ authentic voice and personality. Building relationships with potential customers and maintaining those relationships with current customers will be the most enduring way to create brand loyalty for your business.

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