Updated August 1 at 11:45am

Online reputation key to sales

'For the first time in history, there's a digital archive of what's been said.'

Think of the last time you needed to buy something – a cellphone, a laptop or camera. Did you Google it? Probably. What about that restaurant you pass by on your way to work? Did you look at its Yelp! reviews before making reservations?

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FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY

Online reputation key to sales

'For the first time in history, there's a digital archive of what's been said.'

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Think of the last time you needed to buy something – a cellphone, a laptop or camera. Did you Google it? Probably. What about that restaurant you pass by on your way to work? Did you look at its Yelp! reviews before making reservations?

And when you needed a new doctor? Chances are you at least skimmed the search results.

In 2011, the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information before buying, according to zeromomentoftruth.com.

“Word of mouth has been around forever, but for the first time in history, there’s a digital archive of what’s been said,” said Ed Kedzierski, Internet-marketing consultant for Cranston-based IT services company netsense.

What does this mean for small to medium-sized businesses? They need to start investing in monitoring their online reputation.

This new market has created opportunities for public-relations professionals as well as technology businesses who can offer a new service to their clients.

At least two local firms have launched online-reputation-management services (ORM), netsense and Brave River Solutions.

“As soon as you talk about online-reputation management, people realize it’s a need – just like they realize public relations is a need. I think it’ll be a great extension for existing clients and for new clients,” said Brave River President Ernie Gaines. The firm launched its Driven Internet Marketing division in October, which encompasses its ORM services.

Netsense has its feet a little wetter, launching its Netcast service just over a year ago.

Kedzierski explains that they’ve taken a “holistic approach [to ORM]. It’s not just the review sites; it’s not just Facebook; it’s not just Twitter. It’s everything combined working together.

“Google calls it the zero moment of truth. The first moment of truth is when they decide to buy something; second is their experience with that service or product. The zero moment of truth is when people are doing all of their research before they decide what to buy,” Kedzierski said.

Brave River takes a three-pronged approach to its ORM service: “We monitor, promote and protect.”

Monitor – using back-end tools to watch Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., for mentions of your company; promote – using SEO and other techniques to make sure that you pop up on search results; and protect.

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