Reputation management is essential for every business in every industry, but that’s especially true for businesses that largely rely on word of mouth, like photographers.
Keeping your photography business above water means learning how to manage your online reputation.
As a photographer, you rely largely on word of mouth to bring new clients in the door, which means that you need to keep doing great work in order to keep earning new business. But unfortunately, in this day and age, word of mouth — while still an invaluable form of marketing — isn’t enough to keep your business afloat.
It used to be that when someone needed a photographer to capture their wedding or help them make the most of their memories, they would turn to a friend or family member to find out who they’ve worked with in the past. And yes, this still does happen on some scale, but these days, most of that is done online.
Instead of asking friends and family for advice on which photographer to work with, most people will simply do a quick Google search for “photographer near me.” And they narrow down the many options that come up in the SERP (search engine results pages) by reading reviews and learning about a business’ online reputation. Reviews are what word of mouth used to be, and if you don’t have a plan for how to generate, manage and respond to your reviews, then you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.
Here are a few things you can do to start managing your photography business’ online reputation like a pro:
Know where you’re at.
Unless your photography business is just a fledgling, there’s a good chance that you have some sort of online reputation already out there. And before you start coming up with goals on what you want your reputation to be and strategies for how to build it and maintain it, you first need to understand where it’s at and what it looks like. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you surmise what your online reputation looks like:
- How many review sites/directory sites is your business listed on, and have you claimed the listings on those sites?
- How many reviews does your business have across the many different review sites, and what’s your average star rating on different review sites?
- Have you responded to the reviews you’ve received?
- What are your clients saying about you online?
- What comes up in the SERP when you type your business’ name in Google?
Answering all of these questions may seem daunting, and you might need to do a little research in order to find the answers. However, there are a couple of different things you can do to make it easier, including signing up for Google Alerts and becoming a Top Rated Local business.
Google Alerts help you to stay in the know about your business’ online reputation, and they are user friendly, can be sent to you in whatever frequency works best for your (after every mention, once a week or even once a month) and it’s free! By signing up for Google alerts, you can monitor any mentions of your business, better follow industry trends, track your marketing success and even keep an eye on how your competitors are doing.
Becoming a Top Rated Local business is another advantageous thing you can do for your photography business, and like Google Alerts, signing up is free! Top Rated Local is not like your average review platform, where the only reviews you see are the ones written on Top Rated Local. Instead, Top Rated Local aggregates a company’s reviews across multiple platforms in one place, and best of all, you’ll get a Rating Score™ that will make it easy to keep a pulse on your business’ online success.
The Top Rated Local Rating Score gives businesses a snapshot of their overall online reputation, and it’s calculated by the number of review sites a business is listed on, the number of reviews the business has, the average star rating of those reviews and more. With Top Rated Local on your side, you never have to wonder about your business’ online reputation again!
Most photographers already realize the importance of social media, because it’s how they get connected (and stay connected) with their clients, as well as how they attract new clients to their business. However, not all photographers realize just how important social media really is. Consider this:
Approximately 74 percent of consumers turn to social networks to help guide their purchasing decisions.
That’s not a number you can easily ignore, nor should it be, and as the market becomes more and more saturated with Millennials and Generation Z, more and more people will start relying on social media when looking for a local business to work with.
The first step towards connecting with your audience on social media is to make sure that your business has a profile on as many social media sites as possible (make sure that they are applicable to what you do). This way, you can meet your clients where they’re already at. After all, no business should expect their client to sign up for a Facebook page for the sole purpose of following them online. Not everyone is on social media, but by setting up a profile on many different sites, you’ll have a higher chance of being listed on the social media site your customers frequent the most.
It’s not enough to simply have your business listed on social media sites. In order to find the success you’re looking for online, you need to make it a point to be active. This means that you should share photos and other posts and interact with the people who follow you, especially those who have taken the time to write a review for your business. And if your business does have profiles across multiple social media channels, it’s highly important that you ensure that you’re sending a consistent message across all of them.
Get listed, and claim your listings.
If your business isn’t already listed on every applicable review site that you can think of, then it’s time to get it listed. People will search for photographers in a variety of places, including Google, Facebook, Yelp and The Knot (if you do wedding photography), just to name a few, and the businesses that rank on all of these sites have one very important thing in common — they have claimed listings on these review sites and they have reviews (OK two very important things).
Chances are, whether you know it or are actively managing it, there’s a good chance that your business already has a listing on most of the review sites out there. These listings are automatically populated from Google in most cases, and you probably wouldn’t be able to get them taken down even if you wanted to. So your best course of action is to claim your listing on these sites.
Claiming your listing is paramount because it allows you to actually take control over your business’ reputation on each review site/directory. Let’s face it, algorithms aren’t always perfect and the information about your business that they pull won’t always be perfect. Additionally, you might have moved to a new location since that information was added or you may have a new phone number. At the end of the day, no matter how a customer finds you online — whether it be via Yelp, Facebook or Google — you want them to be able to get ahold of you, and the only way to do that is by claiming your listing.
Ensuring that your information is accurate and consistent across all of the review platforms your business is listed on is also an important part of building trust with your audience. Think about it: if a customer finds you on a review site and the number they call is no longer available or is answered by someone else, it doesn’t establish a lot of trust. In fact, that customer may even think that you are no longer in business!
Another good reason to claim your listing on a variety of review sites is that it makes things easier and more convenient for your clients to write you a review. Getting clients to write reviews can feel like pulling teeth as it is, and if they not only have to write the review but also sign up for a review site in order to post it, it’s going to make it even harder to get them to leave you a review. But if your business has claimed their listing on a variety of review sites, the chances are a lot higher that your client will already be signed up for one, making it easier to get them to write you a review.
Now that you have a good idea of what your online reputation looks like and have claimed your listings across the many different directories and review sites, you can start the very serious business of maintaining your online reputation, which means that you need to generate more reviews.
Reviews are essential for the success of local businesses of all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to photography, that’s especially true because of the heavy reliance on word of mouth in the industry. As we talked about in the beginning of this article, online reviews are largely the new word of mouth, and of the 82 percent of consumers who make it a point to read online reviews, a whopping 93 percent also use those reviews when making purchase decisions.
When you provide next-level service for your customers that they can’t stop raving about, ideally, you want them to post it online; however, getting your customers to actually take the step to do that can sometimes be more difficult than you might think. The fact of the matter is that most clients won’t write reviews on their own, no matter how outstanding the service was, and there are lots of things you can do to help generate more reviews for your business:
- Let clients know how important reviews are – In most cases, clients don’t not write reviews because they’re lazy or spiteful; they genuinely don’t know how important they are for a small business’ well-being. In these cases, simply telling them what a difference it can make for your business for them to write about their experience online can really make an impact.
- Ask them! – One of the easiest ways to get your clients to leave reviews is just to ask them. In fact, most people will happily write reviews when asked.
- Send follow-ups – After you’ve had a photoshoot with a client or, even better, after you’ve sent them their photos and they’re thrilled, you should always send a follow-up email or call to make sure that they were happy with their experience. This is the perfect time to include a link to the review sites you’re listed on (if you’re sending an email), or to request that they leave a review for you.
Respond to reviews.
In addition to generating more reviews, it’s also essential that you take the time to respond to them. You don’t necessarily need to respond to every single review/rating you get. For example, if there’s only a star rating and no content, there’s not really much for you to respond to without sounding canned. But if your client actually takes the time to really write about their experience and what it felt like to work with you, you should absolutely honor the time they’ve taken by giving them a response.
In a perfect world, every review would be five stars, but unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. Sometimes, negative reviews are inauthentic, downright fake or completely unfair; while other times, they represent the client’s very real experience with your business. Either way though, responding to your negative reviews is an absolute must from a reputation management standpoint. Here are a few rules to live by when managing your negative reviews:
- Whatever you do, don’t ignore negative reviews. They’re not going to go away on their own, no matter how much you pretend they don’t exist.
- Don’t wait to respond. When someone has a complaint, they want to feel heard, and you shouldn’t wait too long to help them feel heard. People expect responses in a timely manner, so don’t put off writing a response to a negative review. Plus, the longer you wait, the longer everyone else online only gets one side of the story, which can end up making your business look bad unfairly.
- While it’s important to respond in a timely manner, if you need to, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and cool off before responding to a review. The last thing you want is to respond out of anger. Doing this will only achieve making you look bad.
- Apologize and take responsibility for the problem, even if it seems unfair or you deem that it isn’t your fault. The point of responding to a review is not so much to argue but to de-escalate a bad situation and show off your customer service skills.
- Invite the client to take the conversation offline. Again, arguing with a reviewer publicly won’t win you any points and may make you look petty and small. That’s why, instead of going back and forth with them online, it’s a much better option to own the problem, apologize and then invite the client to call or email you personally to resolve the matter.
These days, a business’ online reputation is everything. However, it can take a lot of time and energy that many busy photographers just don’t have. If you don’t have the resources to build the kind of online reputation for your business that you want, and don’t want to take time away from talking with clients, capturing the moment and editing, then your best bet may be to partner with someone who can help.
In addition to being able to dedicate themselves fully to keeping your business’ online reputation strong and freeing you up to do what you do best, hiring a professional to help you manage your online reputation means that you’ll have a whole new level of expertise on your side. Reputation managers understand how to help photographers reach their reputation goals online, and they also know how to navigate when things get a little tricky.
Are you looking for professional help with your online reputation? Learn more about working with a reputation manager today.
Start taking control of your online reputation with Top Rated Local.
Developing a strong online reputation is one of the best things any photographer can do for their business, and the best way to get started is by getting listed or claiming your Top Rated Local listing. With Top Rated Local, you’ll get real-time notifications when you get reviews, the ability to reply to your reviews, monthly email updates about your online reputation and so much more — all at no cost to you. Become the go-to Top Rated Local photographer in your area today!