There was a time not too long ago when the term “reputation management” was used only by public relations pros shaping the perception of their corporate clients. With growth of the internet and the increasing prevalence of social media, online search results have jumped to the front burner for all businesses, no matter what their size.
According to Matt Murray, founder and CEO of Widewail, a Burlington-based technology company, reputation management has become a key component in managing a business. In just five years, he has led his team of 36 to define and build the firm, serving 1,500 companies across the U.S. As a b2b partner for online engagement, Widewail is committed to the success of their clients – scaling engagement and customer service operations while improving local search ranking.
Remember when Google search responded only to location? A search for lunch places might yield “restaurants near me.” That scenario has changed, and Matt and his team started Widewail in response to Google’s use of reputation management and reviews in today’s search algorithm. Google reviews have become even more important than location, and instead of showing the closest business for each genre, the algorithm reports back on the most popular with the best experience according to past customers. The bottom line is that people will travel for the best experiences. That’s why it’s crucial for small business owners to proactively manage their Google Business Profile, the intersection of SEO and reputation management.
In Vermont, the concept of asking for and amplifying reviews has just begun to take hold for small businesses. Matt encourages all Vermont business owners to take a look at their competitors, or even think about reviews from the aspirational standpoint. They will find that the scarcity of reviews in the Vermont marketplace provides a new and effective way to stand out.
Just recently, Small Business Saturday brought shopping small and shopping local into the limelight, but it is important for business owners to consider how they will get noticed every day of the year. In Vermont, residents and visitors alike want to explore Vermont’s rich array of home-grown products and experiences, so businesses have to find new ways to get discovered.
How does the Widewail process make that happen? Matt explains the three tiers of services and how they help their clients, some of whom are VtSBDC clients as well:
Grow your business with a constant stream of high-quality reviews. Invite helps the client easily send review requests via text and get more reviews using Widewail’s set-it-and-forget-it software.
A team of writers creates customized content in response to all reviews left by past customers.
Considered and timely responses by the Widewail team to social interactions on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Business Profile questions.
New business, Code Style Club in Burlington, is one of Widewail’s success stories. The hair salon increased Google Reviews by 573% in the first 60 days, bringing the level of exposure over and above their established competitors. Another example is Vermont Federal Credit Union which increased their review volume by 160%, and decreased their negative review percentage by 93%, all within the first four months.
And, yes, negative reviews do come up. But Matt comments that it really has not been an issue for most clients. In fact, he says that 88 percent of reviews that come to Widewail are positive due to giving business owners the tools to get more reviews, and providing substantial, positive content in response. If there are any negative ratings, they are addressed immediately in a proactive, positive way that will improve the experience for the next customer.
“The whole point is search visibility and customer experience.” concludes Matt. “There is so much opportunity to upgrade technology, and have an easy way to stand out. The journey to purchase is a mosaic of interactions around the business, and business owners can shape that narrative by providing touch points along the way to paint a positive picture of their business.”
What’s next for Widewail? The New Year will bring more advanced technology enabling business owners to invite their customers to leave video testimonials for their own use, more opportunities to build trust and create relationships between businesses and their customers.
VtSBDC has enjoyed getting to know Matt and his team to learn more about reputation management, strategies, and available tools. VtSBDC’s advisors are now equipped to recommend these services where appropriate, and to refer to companies like Widewail that can help Vermont’s small business owners consider all aspects of the online client experience in their future planning.
Looking for more? Check out our resources page or request advising from a regional advisor!
Side note: Curious about the origin of the company name Widewail? It began with a guitar, a garage band, and an Xbox handle and ultimately evolved to having a big voice and casting a wide net. If you’re intrigued, ask Matt for the rest of the story.
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