Reputation management is not a simple concept anymore. Not too long ago, it depended heavily on how traditional media (including magazines, TV, radio, and newspapers) perceived your business. Nowadays, though, you have to add at least websites, social networks, and online review sites to the mix.
Let’s have a look at what effective online reputation management means in the digital age, along with online reputation management tips and tricks you might want to consider.
- Online reputation management guide
Online reputation management guide
What is online reputation management
Online reputation management is a set of skills, strategies, and tactics that influence what people say and think about your business or brand online. It is closely related to your presence and activity online, on social media, in the news, and other alternative channels.
Whether you have a small business or a big firm, a coffee shop, or an exclusive jewelry chain, people online will have an opinion about you and your products. It’s up to you to manage if that opinion is good or bad.
Effective online reputation management is all about staying on top of the buzz, comments, or discussions involving your brand. Its primary purpose is to use strategies and tools combined with marketing intelligence to keep the overall impression of your brand positive and control the conversation to help build your business.
Online reputation management can positively impact every aspect of your business, including:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Building an image and a brand reputation
- Building industry and influencer relationships
- Establishing credibility
- Improving customer service
- Driving product development
- Increasing customer satisfaction and employee retention rates
- Expanding your reach and boosting your brand’s popularity
- Increasing your sales by influencing purchasing decision
- Preventing and managing online reputation crises
These are all things you can influence with proper online reputation management tools & techniques.
Bad online reputation, on the other hand…
Let’s face it, you’re never going to be able to make everyone happy, particularly as your business will experience growth.
No matter how much you stay on top of your online reputation, you will still have disgruntled customers, collaborators, or employees. No matter how good your product or service is, someone will still dislike it. Or something about it.
However, the difference between a successful business with an excellent online reputation and one that fails in this department lies in what you do to build your reputation and improve satisfaction and how you handle dissatisfaction.
Are you proactive when it comes to bad reviews? Or are you aggressive?
Are you transparent about your business goals and the principles that guide your brand? Or do you just leave things to chance?
Are you direct and open with customers and the public? Or do you just assume there’s no value in that?
The answers to these questions are a good indicator of how much you value your online reputation and how much you invest in managing it.
Not investing in it can negatively impact your business in many ways, including:
- Low awareness about your brand and products
- Negative media coverage that can damage your reputation
- Bad reviews that lead to a decrease in the public interest for your brand, product, or service
- An overall negative standing that can affect your industry ties and collaborations
- PR crises that can even lead to bankruptcy
Needless to say that there are numerous integrity and financial implications.
Effective online reputation management is essential. The big question is how much control do you have over your online reputation? And what tools do you have at your disposal to sway public opinion of your brand or business?
This is what this online reputation management guide sets out to explain and clarify.
Where to monitor your online reputation
To properly implement online reputation management tips, you will first have to understand—and then use—all available channels.
Here are the most common platforms where you can monitor and manage your online reputation:
Social media & online forums
Social media platforms are the most popular channels where companies can interact with their customers directly. They give you access to the opinions of hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
- you can share news and updates about your business or your products
- customers can share their feedback on your products/services
- you can ask customers for their opinion on product development ideas
- customers can ask questions about your business and your products
- you can start conversations to learn more about what customers want and need
- you can look into your competition to identify any weaknesses you can use to your advantage
Each platform allows you to interact with customers in a specific way. While your company’s social media content should ideally be present on all platforms, you can select the ones that better target your audience and match your brand image.
In the same way, online forums are an excellent channel for finding out what customers and the public are saying about your brand and products. You can find valuable info about customer experiences, any product features they are dissatisfied with, or ideas for new products or services.
When monitoring your online reputation, you should not let a single piece of mainstream or independent media news escape your attention. Bad press can put a massive dent in your online reputation faster than you can imagine. Plus, it can follow you around for years.
On the other hand, being in the news is essential for good online reputation management. Getting noticed and being talked about in the media positively can increase your credibility and establish your standing in the industry and the market.
The benefits are endless:
- Customers will be more likely to put their trust in you
- Your products and services will have a much broader reach
- Other companies will be more interested in collaborating with you
To do this, you will have to be active in industry forums, build relationships with industry and market influencers, and be open to pitching information about your business and your products or services with the press.
On top of this, although mainstream media has the most expansive reach, you should not cast aside smaller outlets like influencer blogs and industry-specific publications.
Your online rating plays an essential role in online reputation management. It mainly influences a customer’s decision to buy and the visual representation of how your brand is perceived. Therefore, it is vital to the success of your business.
The math is simple: good ratings increase market growth rate, low ratings decrease it.
Customer reviews can be your best form of advertising (when they are positive) or a curse (if they are negative). Positive reviews can turn undecided potential customers into real customers and existing customers into more loyal customers. They can build both your credibility and your reach.
You should constantly monitor and manage your brand’s online reputation on all relevant review sites and platforms whether they are industry-specific (like Tripadvisor is for hotels and restaurants) or general, like Google My Business. You can use Google My Business software to help you manage all requests.
Online reputation management tips
And now for the practical side of the online reputation management guide: let’s see how to manage your business online reputation. There are a few useful, proven concepts for maintaining your reputation that are still true in the never-stopping, quick communications of our internet-based age:
Make a clear strategy
First up, you’ll need a clear plan. Your online reputation management strategy must include all the channels and platforms on which you should create an account and be active. Start with the most popular ones (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) and branch out to industry-specific or niche platforms (Tripadvisor, Pinterest).
Your goal must be to find multiple ways to communicate with your customers and with the media.
Next, create and share valuable content based on your brand image. Interact with customers, be transparent about any news, reply to reviews and questions. Keep your tone and image consistent and avoid controversial topics.
Use these platforms to collect customer feedback, start conversations, and get information about how customers feel about your brand.
Audit your website
Over 70% of consumers begin their search for a business, product, or service with Google. Therefore, it is crucial that your website shows your business as reliable and trustworthy, and that it is consistent in showing your brand’s identity.
You don’t want to relay a confusing message to potential customers. There are ways to ensure that your website’s content properly reflects that identity:
- Make sure your tone of voice is consistent throughout the pages of your website. Create a style guide to make sure your copy always has a consistent voice. Your writing needs to be perceived accurately by your customers, every time.
- Ensure that the formatting of both text and images is constant throughout your website. Be careful when placing pop-up ads or ad banners, as they can change your visual design, and avoid stock images that will easily be recognized by your visitors.
- Use keywords on your website to not only help your Search Engine Optimization but also in a way that is meaningful to your potential customers.
- Start a business blog or a newsroom. It’s a good way to provide important content to your customers, and it will also help you acquire more traffic to your website.
By doing these things, you will project authenticity and consistency in your brand that will help build the belief and trust of your customers, which are absolute requirements of reputation management.
Your online reputation is how you reach and draw in potential customers. It is also how you can strengthen your relationship with existing customers.
Consider all the online information sources a prospective customer will find when they search for your brand or product.
From review sites to news sites or blogs, they will see more than just your website design. They will have easy access to the opinions of existing customers and industry or market influencers. An effective online reputation management strategy should hit all of these marks.
You should pay specific attention to positive or negative online reviews, no matter what platforms they are on. They have much value in swaying a potential buyer’s decision, and you must address them adequately.
Do not leave negative content unanswered. Be proactive about handling the customer’s complaint and assuring them you are doing everything in your power to fix things and offer them a positive experience. This will help mitigate their dissatisfaction and show potential customers that you are proactive and helpful.
Positive reviews are worth their weight in gold. So, don’t hesitate to encourage and use them whenever you can, on your website, in your email marketing content, or social media posts. There’s nothing that can convince a potential customer to buy better than the positive opinions of existing customers.
The best practices include:
- Keep your company and contact information up to date on all platforms you’re using
- Post updates regularly
- Encourage your audience to share their feedback
- Keep customers engaged in a conversation about your brand and products
- Offer customers different options to contact you (chat, phone, email, etc.)
- Reply to reviews and feedback within 24 hours.
- Be empathetic and respectful when answering negative reviews
- Show your appreciation for positive content
Preventing crises is another essential role of online reputation management.
You cannot stop negative comments, unforeseen events, or mistakes from happening. However, you have complete control over how well you prevent them and handle things if they go south.
The second one is responding to potentially harmful comments or news. How you respond will depend on how much impact the said situation can have on your business.
If it’s an unhappy customer, sympathize with their grievance and offer your full support to make things right. If it’s some gossip or news that can affect your business on a higher level, join the conversation and show your point of view. Do this transparently and directly.
And, whatever you do, don’t think that you can wish it away because you won’t. Be ready to address any issues head-on to keep the perception of your brand positive.
Transparency and direct communication are two of the things customers appreciate most these days. They want to feel that they can trust you, talk to you, share their criticism, and be part of your story.
Your online reputation management strategy must consider how your audience prefers to communicate and what they expect to know from you. You must tailor every content or news that you share to fit their needs and desires and focused on building your standing on the market.
To improve your online reputation, you must:
- Effectively and efficiently communicate with your audience
- Proactively answer questions and concerns
- Encourage customers and your audience to share their opinions
- Show your customers how their ideas and feedback have contributed to changes you implement in your products/services
- Be open, honest, and even vulnerable
- Accept criticism
Take care of workplace communication
Effective communication between your business, its employees, your customers, and the outside world is key when managing your online reputation. It’s easy for a lack of communication or a misunderstanding to turn into a disastrous, reputation nightmare.
You can encourage active, positive communication within your business in the following ways:
- Invite employee feedback. One good way of doing this is through employee surveys. Thank your employees for completing surveys, let them know their opinions are important, and that changes will be initiated based on their feedback.
- Be honest about what’s going on in the business, whether it’s positive or negative. Active problem-solving occurs when you’re open, and it will also reduce the stress and confusion of your employees.
- Prevent mean-spirited employee gossip. Not only will gossip make your employees feel uneasy and unprotected, but it can also become toxic and ruin your company.
These suggestions will not only support your employees and offer them a better working environment, but they can also increase customer satisfaction, which goes a long way to sustaining and improving your reputation.
Public relations is not what it once was. No longer can you depend on traditional media to get the word out. Now, there are many nuances to reputation management, and almost all of these are online.
With the right online reputation management tips, techniques and tools, however, you can easily manage your business online reputation.
Cover photo by Nick Morrison