“Online Reputation Management” Nigerian SME’s Blind Spot

Using simple words; online reputation management (ORM) is the act of executing a plan that shapes or influence the public view/perception of an individual, business or an organisation, it helps drive a public opinion about such brand and its services.

In Nigeria, entrepreneurial forces are relatively strong as the lack of jobs and a rise in poverty leave few other options for its citizens. Although difficult due to a lack of resources, most Nigerians are dedicated to entrepreneurship as a means of survival. Apart from the news about Nigeria that is so widespread and often negative, there appears to be a recognition of the critical role and place of technology in the development and advancement of the nation as many business depend on the internet to survive. In the past few years, there have been the start-ups of internet cafes, new Internet Service Providers, computers in some schools, and connectivity hubs that provide access to information at high speeds and as well business websites and social media accounts created to provide information to their clients.

Digital marketing experts have spent a lot of time giving tips on how to manage online ratings and reputation for small/medium enterprises but seems in the case of Nigerian business owners such tips fall on deaf ears because they seem to lack understanding on the fact that reputation can have a much more broader impact on their business growth and acquiring new customers. Many Nigerians are beginning to come to term that Google is their friend and they easily do justice by researching on any individual/organisation for reviews before doing business with them, well blame it on the fraudulent nature or the bad eggs in the country you’ll easily agree with me that SME’s in Nigeria need to do better with their online reputation and seek mitigation actions if there need be.

In the country today there’s hardly a business out there that doesn’t have an occasional issue arise with a customer. Ideally, with a good OR manager you can resolve things before it reaches a point where a customer believes they can only get satisfaction through posting negative comments on public forums/social media or feel they ought to warn people about your business. The internet has made it so the impediment between one customer and another are far reduced — word-of-mouth can now travel almost literally at the speed of light! There’s never been a more precarious time in history to proactively manage the reputation of your brand. With the aid of the internet endless amounts of information is at the fingertips of consumers, the economy has never been more transparent, and it’s never been easier for consumers to share their experiences with brands and products. Entrepreneurs who aren’t taking an aggressive approach to managing their reputation online could be setting themselves up for costly problems. Let me share with you a personal story, I had a friend who just got back from overseas and was looking for a reliable car seller to purchase very expensive car for himself and his friends, I’ll quote him “Kev, where I fit buy better machine wey me and my guys go use display my arrival for east as I dey go see my mama for villa” for those who don’t understand Nigerian pidgin English what he meant was where he and his friends could purchase a good car to pose with when visiting his mum in their hometown; so I told him about a car dealer I know and sent him a link to his website so he should check them out and after a few hours he sent me a google link which I opened only to discover that apart from the car dealers website he has some bad reviews which was actually on the first page of google search page; so I contacted the car dealer cos I know him personally then I was made to understand that those comments was as a result of some misunderstanding with a client which have already been resolved. Now you can imagine how many potential clients has searched on his brand only to discover it’s a fraudulent business but in the actual he is actually a genuine car dealer and how many deals he has lost cos my friend refused to purchase the cars from the car dealer anymore. But as a business owner, if you’ve prepared and planned for how to handle online criticism of your company, the impact of one or two complaints can be much reduced, and you may be better able to respond effectively and rapidly to minimize monetary impact.

One thing many SME’s don’t know is YOU CAN’T OPT OUT OF ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT the complete lack of proactive online reputation management leaves you in a tight corner. With little more than just a website to represent you online, you’re in a precarious position cos if anyone creates a site to target you or even just posts something on social media those items could rank for your business name searches. For established local businesses in Nigeria, people may frequently be searching for you by business name so, having bad stuff rank in branded search results can directly impact your bottom line. What this means in a nutshell is that just using your own website to occupy the first 1–3 spots in search results for your brand name is not enough. You need to occupy at least the first 10 spots (which makes up the entire first page of search results), and it needs to consist of more than just pages on your own website. Having community driven content such as positive reviews, media coverage and customer testimonials are what will build the trust necessary for consumers to make a purchase decision. As for New SME’s they need to begin online reputation management before they even launch their brand. From the beginning of planning a new brand, steps must be taken to choose a name and message that has an easy path to being able to control the top 10 search results on every search engine.

Well for those asking on quick tips; these steps will help any small/medium enterprise take a step in the right direction of a strong online reputation. From there, don’t be afraid to seek outside help to continue expanding your brand’s presence and to ensure that your reputation is fortified against potential crises.

1. Find out what’s already on the search engines when searching your company name and executive names

2. Create company website profiles for all key executives in your company and protect their names too

3. Create content aggressively. Whether its videos of product demonstrations, testimonials, media coverage, guest blog posts or customer reviews, create new content for search engines frequently and request reviews from your customers.

4. Put a solid SEO strategy into place

5. Make sure your company is present on all relevant social media platforms and post aggressively (Don’t neglect this)

With all this explained, I hope Nigerian SME’s learn a thing or two from this article as ORM seems to be a huge blind spot for them and if it’s not being brought to their notice it could cause more harm than good to their brands and those who are proactive enough to do the needful would be like a walk in the park against their competitors.

I’ll be making a more detailed article later on fundamental steps to begin an online reputation management campaign… Keep in touch with me on my website https://kevineze.com where I post regularly and my social media pages Twitter/Instagram — @xclusive_pikin

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