I recently went to a movie theater with my boyfriend and his family. When we arrived, we realized the movie we’d planned to see was not playing at the time the Flixster app said it was. Faced with a line of confused, irritated customers (all of whom had been misguided by the evil Flixster), the movie theater employee shrugged his shoulders and said, “We don’t provide that information to Flixster.”

Fast forward a few weeks. My boyfriend and I went to a different movie theater, in a different city, to see a different film. Sure enough, the movie started about four hours later than Flixster said it did. And we got the same indifferent reaction from the movie theater employee. Instead of throwing a bucket of popcorn in a fit of rage, I decided to look into where Flixster actually does get its movie time info from. Here’s what I found:

“Showtimes for theaters where you can purchase tickets through Flixster are provided by the theaters themselves.  This information is usually pretty accurate.  Mistakes happen!  If you see an error, let us know so we can double check with the theater.

For other theaters, our showtimes are provided by a third party.  That tends to be a bit less accurate.  While we don’t have the ability to change that information ourselves, we’re happy to pass it along.”

A third party, eh? Tell me, Mr. Indifferent Movie Theater Man, have you reached out to Flixster to see where this third party is getting this information? Is it possible they are pulling it from one of your online platforms? No one likes a tattletale, so instead of blaming Flixster and moving on, perhaps it would be best to investigate.

Confession: I’m actually not sure if the incorrect movie times are pulled from the theaters’ online platforms or not. But regardless, there is an important lesson to be learned from my movie-going woes: being proactive with your online presence is a must. Whether you own a movie theater, a hotel, a bookshop or a salon, your customers are relying on you to ensure that online information about your company is available and accurate.

Follow these six guidelines to being proactive with your online presence:

1. Show up to the party.

The first step to being proactive with your online presence is—you guessed it—having an online presence. This means a website, social media profiles, local directory listings and more. I’m always shocked (and frustrated) by the number of local businesses that do not have even a basic website available. However, before you create a profile on every social media channel out there, make sure you have enough time and money to manage each outlet efficiently. Two accurate, robust, up-to-date social media profiles are better than five horrible ones.Build a strong online presence, and the benefits are endless. Beyond the obvious (enabling customers to find the information they need, building brand awareness, etc.), a strong online presence also makes your company appear more trustworthy and can even diminish the power of negative online reviews. I was recently searching for nail salons in Greenville and thought I’d found a nearby option, but when I Googled the salon name, all I found was a sparse Google+ page with a single terrible review. Do you think I gave them a shot? Absolutely not. I found a salon with a website and a host of online reviews. Even though a few of the reviews were negative, the strength of the salon’s online presence persuaded me to choose them.

2. Know which websites and apps your customers are using to find you.

Where are your customers finding information about your company? If you manage a movie theater, a lot of customers are probably looking for information about your theater on Flixster. In fact, according to Flixster’s website, “with more than 50 million installs, the Flixster app is one of the most downloaded entertainment mobile apps in history.” I’d say that’s not something to shrug off! If your customers are using a particular website or app to find information about you, make sure you are proactively checking that website or app to ensure the information is accurate.

3. Ensure consistency across all online platforms.

Customers have high expectations for your online presence. If the hours listed on your website are correct, but the hours listed on your Facebook are incorrect, your customers will not be happy. If they show up at a time when Facebook says your store is open, and you’re actually closed, they’ll be really Don’t underestimate the negative power of inconsistent information, even if it seems trivial. You could potentially lose a customer forever. Google your company name on a regular basis to make sure all directory listings are up to date.

4. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

First, in case you haven’t heard, Google’s latest algorithm will negatively impact the organic mobile rankings for websites that are not mobile-friendly. Second, websites that are not mobile-friendly are just flat-out annoying. I was recently traveling to Nashville and needed to call my hotel to let them know I’d be checking in late. Well, their mobile website was, to put it nicely, abysmal. I could not navigate the website or find their phone number, and I was immediately irritated. This made sense once I saw my old-school hotel room complete with a haunted telephone that rang every 10 minutes, but even if the hotel had been beautiful, that initial mobile website frustration would still have impacted my overall experience.

5. Stay engaged.

Do not build your online presence and then abandon it. Keep your online information up to date, generate new content on a regular basis, use social media monitoring tools to monitor what your customers are saying, and engage with your customers online. Even a negative review can become a positive when handled effectively. Show your customers you care.

6. Take action when an issue arises.

Learn from Mr. Indifferent Movie Theater Man. If a customer brings an issue to your attention, whether it’s incorrect info on an app or an outdated offer on your website, don’t shrug your shoulders and play the blame game. Take responsibility and find out what you can do to resolve the issue. That’s just good customer service.

What are your favorite tips for being proactive with your online presence? Have you ever experienced the consequences of a company not being proactive with their online presence? Share with us in the comments!

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Laurel ReeseProject Manager

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