Trust, Reputation and the Small Firm: Building Online Brand Reputation for SMEs
Social media provides numerous opportunities for small businesses to promote their products and services, build brand communities and reach diverse market niches. An important factor in seizing these opportunities is developing trust and creating reputation among consumers. This qualitative study examines how a group of Australian small business managers utilize social media websites to connect to, communicate with and maintain their customer base. For the purpose of this paper we are using case studies of four companies physically based in Victoria, Australia. These businesses have a high presence in online consumer groups, being both active members of communities and representatives of their businesses. The duality of their role as participant and company representative imposes difficulties in creating reputation among community members. We have used in-depth interviews as a primary research method, additionally monitoring their activities on social media sites such as forums, social networking services, blogs and micro-blogs. We have identified practices helpful for developing trust, building reputation and create a brand image in online communities.