Digital marketers have a lot in common with Joan Jett — they both live fast, break hearts, and put out incredible content. But they differ in one key area: unlike The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, marketers have to give a damn about their reputation.
In the past few years, it has become more important than ever for businesses to manage their online reputations. Check out this overview of what reputation management is, why it matters, and the most impactful steps you can take to improve your brand’s image.
What Is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is a combination of strategies marketers use to shape people’s perceptions of a business. When done correctly, it builds trust and positively impacts buying decisions. Some of the most important facets of online reputation management include review management, social media monitoring, and online community engagement.
Why Is Managing Your Business’s Online Reputation Necessary?
Your online reputation is your first impression, and you know what they say about first impressions — they’re tough to change. So why not do everything you can to put your best foot forward?
When you manage your online reputation, you’re ensuring your business appears credible and trustworthy in every consumer interaction. Your online presence can have a major impact on buying decisions — especially since consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling trust for a business. If that didn’t convince you, consider the fact that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
If your brand image doesn’t meet the mark the first time around, people are unlikely to give you a second chance.
Read on to learn our top 8 tips for online reputation management.
1. Audit Your Current Reviews to Understand What People Are Saying About Your Business
Before you can manage your reputation, you have to understand it. The best way to do this is to check out your online reviews. This may feel daunting with the countless review sites on the web, but according to research, there are 4 usual suspects that the bulk of consumers use for their research. Google is the site of choice, with 63% of consumers checking its reviews before they visit a business. 45% of consumers check Yelp before visiting a business, 30% check TripAdvisor, and 23% check Facebook. It is best to focus your effort on these 4 sites. Your industry may also have more specialized review sites that you’ll want to pay attention to, for instance, hospitals will want to keep an eye on Healthgrades and home improvement providers should be stalking HomeAdvisor.
So, what exactly are you looking for in your audit? First, check that your store locations, contact information, and hours are up to date on each review site. Then, see what customers are saying. Are there positive reviews you should thank customers for? Any negative reviews to respond to? Are there certain store locations with more negative reviews than others? Are your reviews better on one site than another?
With this information, you can begin forming a plan to improve your reputation.
2. Implement an Online Review Strategy and Respond to Every Review Openly and Honestly
You should also create a system for responding to reviews on every platform. Having a clear, uniform approach with designated parties responsible for responding will help ensure that no positive review goes unnoticed.
Of course, it’s much easier to respond to a positive review. Simply thank the customer and reiterate the positive quality they mentioned. For instance, a response to a positive review for a hospitality company could read:
“Thanks! So happy you had a great stay and enjoyed the local attractions our staff recommended. We hope to see you again soon!”
Responding to a negative review is more difficult, but that’s why it’s even more important to have a process in place. Always treat the exchange as a conversation and see it as an opportunity for growth. In general, you should acknowledge the issue, apologize, and never get defensive. You can also request to move the conversation offline to follow up further. A response to a negative review for that same hospitality company could read:
“We’re sorry to hear that you had a negative experience during your recent stay. We’re dedicated to providing the best experience possible. Please call our office — our team is happy to discuss this with you further.”
The sooner you can respond the better — according to a recent survey, 53.3% of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within 7 days.
3. Encourage Satisfied Customers to Leave a Review
Review sites are often a place for your brand’s most frustrated customers to vent. According to a recent study, a consumer is 21% more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one.
The question is: how can you get more of your satisfied customers to share their experiences? Below are a few tips to help you get started:
- Train staff at every location on how to ask for positive reviews after a customer has expressed satisfaction. As part of the ask, explain to your customers why positive reviews are important and how they can help your business.
- Offer incentives like in-store discounts or cash rewards for customers who take the time to write a review.
- If you send email requests for reviews, target customers at the right time — soon after the purchase when they’re likely still glowing about your product or service.
4. Monitor Your Brand’s Social Media Channels
Another common way for customers to leave feedback about your business is via social media. To effectively manage your reputation, you should monitor all of your social media channels and respond to comments about your business.
If you’re responding to a positive comment, be sure to thank the customer. If you’re addressing a negative comment, don’t get defensive. Reply with a genuine apology and ask to speak more about it via email or phone. This will control the damage and ensure they stop trashing your business publicly, where other potential customers can see. Timing is everything — if you don’t promptly respond to negative posts, they can quickly go viral.
5. Own Page One of the Search Results for Branded Terms
Search engines are one of the most common avenues people use to research purchases. To win business, you’ll need to ensure the search results paint a trustworthy picture of your brand.
The first step of your SEO strategy should be to own page one of the search engine results for all branded terms. This allows you to control the message when someone searches for your company, rather than chancing a negative media mention appearing. To accomplish this, use a keyword research tool to check the most common branded searches for your business then, if you don’t already have a page for those terms, create one.
Another SEO strategy that can help you improve your reputation is to blog regularly — in addition to helping you snag search rankings, this demonstrates expertise and thought leadership in your field. It can help you build a loyal following and a community of customers who will speak highly of you online.
6. Develop a Public Relations Strategy that Aligns With Your Brand Values
Earned media is an integral piece of your brand’s online presence. People’s first impressions of your company can often come from reading an article about you in the press. Therefore, a great public relations strategy can help you ensure your online reputation is sparkly clean.
The most important part of your public relations strategy is to be authentic. People can sense when a brand is putting on airs — and it turns them off. If you’re overpromising on what you can deliver or promoting values your brand doesn’t truly uphold, this can cause a lot of harm to your reputation. People may tear you apart in online reviews or on social media. Instead, ensure that you’re promoting a message that aligns with your brand’s core values when you pitch to the media.
You should also actively monitor media mentions so that you can anticipate and quickly respond to any PR crises that may arise.
7. Tap Into Call Center Conversations to Understand Issues and Prevent Negative Reviews
While it’s impossible to eliminate negative brand mentions entirely, your company can still use technology to help prevent them. Conversation intelligence platforms like Invoca analyze contact center conversations with AI and gather valuable insights at scale. This allows you to quickly identify calls where customer experience issues take place.
You can then drill into the call recordings and transcriptions to understand what the issue was and if your agent correctly resolved it. If the issue was not resolved, you can quickly call back the customer and make amends — perhaps by offering a discount or special offer. This can prevent negative reviews and other blowback that could harm your reputation.
Spectrum Retirement’s use of Invoca is a great example of using conversation intelligence to stay ahead of negative reviews. When their facilities were locked down due to the pandemic in early 2020, they used Invoca Signal AI to spot conversations where people had issues or concerns related to COVID. They were able to proactively respond to them, which resulted in 160 positive reviews across their review site portfolio in the first six months of the pandemic. This could have easily been 160 negative reviews from frustrated family members and prospective patients, but they turned it into an opportunity to provide a caring and compassionate ear during an extremely difficult time.
Conversation intelligence may also help you identify issues that have the potential to impact future customers. For example, maybe there’s a problem with your online shopping cart that’s causing frustration. You can then take the right actions to fix the problem and create a better experience for everyone.
8. Listen to Your Customers and Make Genuine Improvements to The Buyer Experience
Managing your online reputation isn’t about hiding your flaws and deceiving your audience — it’s about genuinely listening to them and responding to their concerns. If you keep your audience happy, you’ll prevent negative reviews from ever occurring. But this can be challenging, especially since expectations for the customer experience are at an all-time high.
Each time you receive a negative review or social media mention, you should follow up to understand the root of the issue. What made the customer unhappy? Was it an isolated issue from a single employee or location? Or was it a larger issue that could impact your entire customer base?
You should then take the necessary steps to correct the issue. For example, if an agent didn’t correctly resolve a billing issue and it frustrated the customer, you should give your team additional training in that area. You should also follow up with the customer and give them a discount or special offer to smooth things over.
If you listen to customer complaints and right your wrongs, a great reputation will naturally follow.
To learn more about how marketers can use conversation intelligence to manage their online reputations, check out our Ultimate Guide to Conversation Intelligence.