Branding & PR, Clutch Report

5 Online Reputation Management Tips for Small Businesses

October 2, 2019

by Toby A. Cox

Content Writer and Marketer

An effective, holistic online reputation management strategy focuses on monitoring efforts to stay aware of brand mentions, managing negative online reviews and comments on social media, and proactively building a positive brand narrative to establish rapport with potential customers. 

A positive online reputation can set a business apart from competitors, attract new customers, and build a loyal customer base. Conversely, a negative online reputation can result in reduced sales, lower search engine rankings, and detrimental keyword associations.

Most small businesses know their online reputation matters, which is why 88% monitor their online reputation at least quarterly. However, far fewer small businesses take the actionable steps necessary to actively build their reputation. 

By taking a more proactive approach to online reputation management, small businesses can exercise more control over their brand's online narrative. 

How to Proactively Manage Your Online Reputation

  1. Regularly monitor your online reputation.
  2. Use digital tools to help you consolidate instances of brand mentions.
  3. Always respond publicly to negative reviews.
  4. Be your own advocate by encouraging happy customers to leave positive reviews and promoting your own brand on social media.
  5. Choose communication channels based on targeted audience, message, and goals. 

Video Transcript

Did you know that most small businesses know that their online reputation matters but don’t know what they should be doing to boost their own online reputation? 

This is why we, at Clutch, did some digging, and we compiled five actionable tips to help small businesses manage and monitor their online reputation.

1. Monitoring Matters

How can you address your customers’ concerns if you can’t see them? 

How can you make wrongs right if you don’t see the complaints in the first place? 

This is why monitoring your online reputation is the first step to effective online reputation management

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of small businesses monitor their online reputation at least quarterly, but we would recommend doing it more frequently; if not daily, then weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

Eighty-eight percent of small businesses (88%) monitor their online reputation at least quarterly.

2. Digital Tools Can Help

Digital tools can help you monitor your online reputation, but they shouldn’t replace your human employees. This is because online reputation management is also relationship management and sometimes it requires personalization.

Small businesses are more likely to use only human resources such as employees and PR firms, or a combination of human resources and digital resources, rather than only digital resources.

Small businesses are still more likely to use only human resources (44%) than only digital resources (26%).

By digital resources, we mean tools like Google Alerts and social listening software such as Hootsuite. 

3. Always Respond Publicly

Remember, the online space is a public space. So, anything your company says online can be viewed by existing or potential customers. 

When faced with a negative review online, you should always reach out publicly to the unhappy customer even if you’ve already reached out privately. 

Luckily, most businesses already do this: Fifty-one percent (51%) of small businesses respond publicly to negative comments on social media.

More than half of small businesses (51%) publicly respond to negative reviews and comments on social media.

4. Be Your Own Advocate

I’ve been doing some more digging and I found that monitoring your business's online reputation and addressing concerns as they appear is important, but what’s just as important is being an advocate for your own brand. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Yet most small businesses don’t encourage customers to leave positive reviews online. 

More than half of small businesses (60%) don’t encourage customers to leave positive reviews, which puts them at a disadvantage and may impact their search engine rankings.

And although most small businesses respond publicly to negative comments and reviews on social media, most small businesses do not promote positive content about their own brand on these platforms.

Less than half of small businesses (44%) actively promote positive content about their brand on social media.

These businesses are putting themselves at a major disadvantage. 

5. Choose Communication Channels Wisely

Think about your personal life. When do you send someone a text instead of an email? An email instead of a direct message on social? Or a direct message on social instead of a letter by raven? 


Chances are you cater your communication to the person you’re trying to reach and the message you’re trying to convey. Your business communication should be no different. 

Think about your audience, the message, and what you hope to gain from it:

  • Are you trying to start chatter about an exciting new product?
  • Are you trying to remind people that you simply exist?
  • What do you hope people will do with the message you communicate to them?

With so many communication channels out there, don’t feel like you have to choose just one. In fact, most small businesses (64%) use two or more communication channels to connect with consumers. 

Take a Holistic Approach to Online Reputation Management 

Let's review:

  1. Monitor your online reputation to stay ahead of potential crises.
  2. Use digital tools to help your team more efficiently monitor your online reputation.
  3. Always publicly address negative reviews and comments online. 
  4. Promote your own brand on social media.
  5. Cater your communication channels to your audience, message, and goals. 

Follow these five steps, and you’re guaranteed a strike. 

[Toby bowls multiple times, never getting a strike]

I’m positive you’ll do better. 

5 Online Reputation Management Tip for Small Businesses

About The Survey

Clutch surveyed 529 small businesses from across the US, 415 of which indicate they monitor their online reputation at least quarterly. 

Most survey respondents are male (52%), and 48% are female. 

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of respondents are millennials (ages 18-34); 45% are Generation Xers (ages 35-54), and 27% are baby boomers (ages 55 and up). 

Fourteen percent of small businesses surveyed (14%) have 1 employee; 64% have 2-50 employees; 25% have 51-250 employees, and 7% have 251-500 employees.

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