A Complete Guide to Understanding Online Reputation Management
A bad reputation will follow you around – especially in the digital world. With information so easily accessible, customers, employees, and stakeholders can easily see what the public thinks about your company with a few quick strokes on the keyboard. That’s why online reputation management is so important. You need to know what’s being said about your company and respond to both positive and negative feedback alike in order to survive in today’s world.
You wouldn’t hire a plumber with all 1-star reviews to fix your sink or eat at a restaurant with tons of customer service complaints on Yelp. The same way you’re evaluating these businesses in your personal life is how customers will be looking at your company. In fact, one could argue that customer reviews are one of the biggest deciding factors in customer acquisition. Does your online reputation help or hinder someone’s decision to do business with you?
Whether your online reputation is the gold standard or needs some major help, you can’t afford to ignore reputation management. We’ve compiled some actionable steps you can add to your customer acquisition strategy to improve the way your business shows up online.
What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is the process by which a team or company keeps tabs on public opinion surrounding their organization, service, or product. Why is online reputation management so critical? With a culture that moves quickly and shares information rapidly, perception is often reality. Reputation management isn’t a control tactic; it is a proactive response for managing the way your company is seen in the world.
Reputation management, particularly in the online space, involves several important actions and processes. These include:
A good reputation management process involves building, maintenance, and recovery phases. Each of these phases corresponds to the type of reaction a company must take in light of receiving praise or criticism.
The Evolution of Online Reputation Management
Before the age of the internet, reputation management was through word-of-mouth comments and recommendations. Of course, these still carry a great deal of weight, but now companies can be involved in the conversation. Although you may never know what people say to one another verbally in one-on-one situations, you can tune in to what they’re saying online and respond appropriately.
Gone are the days where you could publish a website and let that do the talking for your brand. Now, with the rise of social media, online reputation management is fast-moving and highly interactive. Customers can share feedback and reviews in real-time. Conversations take place directly on social media platforms between your existing and prospective customers. They aren’t simply talking with customer representatives anymore; they’re talking with each other.
More than ever before, online reputation management involves staying ahead of the curve. It means developing a process to help your company relate to customers with empathy and understanding, while also responding to any negative accusations or reviews.
Reputation Management Best Practices
Small businesses to large corporations must take a proactive stance on reputation management. In today’s online landscape, it’s easy for consumer thoughts and opinions to spiral out of control. And while you may not need to tackle every single comment that lands on a virtual discussion board, developing a comprehensive strategy and process for managing your online image is wise.
Below are several best practices to follow as your company develops an appropriate and proactive reputation management process.
Your entire team needs to be able to take an honest look at customer feedback in order to improve. Especially as recurring themes are emerging, it’s crucial to have a process in place to address what changes need to happen within the organization. Give employees a chance to speak freely. Seek feedback from multiple departments. When necessary, admit that you messed up, and develop a plan to correct it.
It’s not likely in the digital age that a “mistake” will stay hidden for long. The most successful tactic after an “oops” is to address it honestly with your customer. Admit your shortcomings and tell them your plan for being better in the future. Customers know that companies aren’t perfect, but they don’t want to feel tricked or manipulated. Give them a chance to understand and ask them to stick with you as you improve.
This honesty will actually help you develop a reputation as a company that tells the truth and does the right thing, even when it’s tough. Now THAT’S a brand that people will trust.
In a digital age, fast response times matter. Customers expect an answer as they are having the issue, not a week later. In fact, this metric is so important that it’s available in many analytics tools. Companies may even set a customer satisfaction KPI based on the amount of time it takes to receive a response.
Quick responses to customer complaints and questions show that a brand is attentive. Whether you choose to respond outside of normal business hours is optional, but have a process in place for addressing customer feedback in a timely manner, and make sure your team sticks to it!
Google page optimization
The way that Google displays search results about your business can either help or hinder your conversion rate. Why is this the case? Negative reviews and poorly-worded information can land at the top of Google search results, leading to poor customer perception and a loss of business.
Many customers turn to search engines first when they’re in the research stage of the buying process. To head off any lost opportunities, you can try a few Google optimization strategies for pages associated with your business. These strategies include:
- Responding to negative reviews in a positive and empathetic way
- Developing an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plan
- Editing and optimizing old content to change which pages rank in Google
- Using link-building to redirect traffic to your own site, rather than third-party reviewers
The Best Online Reputation Management Tools
Reputation management can feel time-consuming and overwhelming. How are you supposed to stay up to date on what people are saying about your brand across the ENTIRE internet? Don’t worry, you don’t have to navigate every part of the process on your own. There are several helpful tools and services you can use to regulate your online reputation management process more effectively.
Social media monitoring
Social media is one of the fastest (and maybe most aggressive) outlets for customer feedback. As a result, there’s a great need for keeping a regular pulse on social media comments and activity. Social media monitoring services help meet this need, especially as companies grow.
The following social media monitoring services are popular choices for monitoring analytics, popular hashtags, customer comments, and more.
- Hootsuite – offers a complete dashboard for sharing and analyzing posts
- Google Alerts – allows you to monitor mentions of your company and competitors
- Awario– lets you track conversations around keywords (including your brand name) on social media, blogs, and more
Your business relies on online reviews. Review monitoring services can provide actionable insights and peace of mind. Since many customers form strong opinions based on these reviews alone, it’s important to know the information that displays in Google results. Review monitoring services like the ones below can help.
- Yext – collect, monitor, and respond to reviews within one easy to use system
- ReviewTrackers – provides insight about trends and customer response patterns
- Reputation.com – empowers customer advocates and encourages social listening
5-Step Reputation Management Strategy for Customer Acquisition
As with other vital business processes, a reputation management process starts with a solid gameplan. All of your employees should be aware of this strategy so that they can stay on top of customer feedback and respond in a way that lines up with the brand. The 5-step reputation management strategy below can help you develop a healthy process that serves both your team and your customers.
The first step in the reputation monitoring process is deciding how you will monitor rapidly evolving information. In the early stages of your business, you may be able to devote a staff member to this objective. As your business grows, implementing monitoring software like the options mentioned above becomes more critical.
No matter which route you take, you should be proactive. A strong monitoring process can spot mentions of your company, comments, and questions related to products and services. Monitoring is often a maintenance activity, meaning that your company is keeping a pulse on relevant news and conversations as they are happening.
If you have the ability or budget, a public relations (PR) firm can also provide assistance with a monitoring strategy. In addition to identifying organic mentions, a PR team can identify new opportunities that can create positive buzz for your company.
Devise a relevant response plan
It’s critical that every member of your team knows how to respond to feedback and questions. This starts with having a rich understanding of the product or services you sell. From there, it includes making sure that employees understand the company’s core values and brand standards to communicate with the public appropriately.
A thorough response process may also include a multi-tiered approach. Chances are, responses begin lower down the chain and escalate as needed. Team members should know the process of informing superiors of important information.
Handle negative comments delicately
Having a response plan in place is important so that your team members don’t react off the cuff to negative feedback. Hubspot acknowledges the immediate need to defend your own company while also pointing out the dangers of doing so.
When consumers see a company immediately rush to defend, they may question whether that company can be trusted when problems do arise. While the ole “customer is always right” mentality might not be realistic, you should have a process that includes empathetic listening.
Build on positives
While the negative comments may trickle in, hopefully, you’ll receive a majority of positive reviews. These comments can be used in testimonials, marketing materials, or other PR opportunities. This is some of your most powerful social proof, so be sure you have a process in place for sharing positive reviews with your customers and team members!
Positive feedback is not only a great sales tool, it’s also a powerful way to motivate your team. Let your customer support staff know that customers appreciate them, and tell your product developers how well a new feature is being received. Building on the positives is both an external and internal morale boost.
When you implement any business process, take time to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs). With online reputation management, some of these metrics include:
- Amount of positive versus negative reviews
- Overall brand sentiment
- Response times for messages and comments
- Customer satisfaction after a resolved dispute
- Number of reviews at a certain level (example: five-star reviews on Google)
- Page rankings and website performance metrics
Track these like you would any other important KPI and ensure you have a plan in place for improving any that aren’t hitting the mark!
Striventa Can Help You Take Control of Your Reputation
Striventa understands the importance of casting your business in the best light and we have a deep appreciation of how the thoughts and perspectives of customers can shape the way your business grows. Fortunately, the Striventa team can help clients solve some of their biggest hurdles and obstacles, and that includes reputation management.
Each Striventa interaction begins with a free Discovery Session so we can gain a better understanding of your company’s culture, mission, and goals. After the initial session, we’ll work with you to develop your Business Growth flywheel to help you gain and keep more customers–period.
Schedule a time this month for your free Discovery Session!