In the past if you wanted to buy an electric toothbrush you had to go to the drug store and just roll the dice on a brand that looks good. But now days if you want an electric toothbrush you can go online and read pages of first hand customer experience —
‘Best toothbrush I’ve ever owned’ 5 stars
‘Buzzing is kind of loud’ 4 stars
‘Buzzing is horrible’ 1 star
The growing popularity of review-forward websites like Yelp, Tripadvisor and Amazon has mitigated a lot of buyer risk. Brands and products are no longer fortified, they’re an open book for the public to read. Thus, online reputation management is one of the biggest keys to success in the modern age.
There are several reasons to improve your online reputation management (ORM) and there are many ways to do so.
Reasons ORM Is Important
- Customers believe other customers – If you’ve ever seen the show Mad Men then you know that consumer buying habits were very influenced by advertising. Now days buyers aren’t going to take the word of your carefully crafted advertisement, they invest their trust in what other buyers have to say about you. Keep this in mind when managing your online relationships: customers are your most powerful marketing tools. What they post on the internet, lives there forever — it’s a billboard that doesn’t go away, so you’ll want it to be positive.
- Engagement – Speaking to your customers helps build trust and long-term loyalty. If you receive a positive review, don’t just sit back and smile — thank that person for their kind words. On the other hand, responding to negative comments is crucial towards alleviating damage and improving relationships. It allows people to see your human side as a company. It should be noted that customers who have had a negative experience are more inclined to write a review than someone who had a positive experience. This can lead to a skewed review profile, and while it may be an inaccurate representation of your company, most customers won’t see that, all they see is the one-stars.
- Learn from your mistakes – Monitoring what customers are saying about you and your products can reveal a lot of valuable information. Think of your online presence like a giant focus group – they’re telling you exactly what they like and what they don’t like. You can strategically use that information to remove pitfalls and expand successes. i.e. You’re a start-up software company and customers rave about the functionality of your programs. But everyone keeps mentioning the lack of telephone tech support is ruining their experience. It’s time to add a customer support line.
- Investors – If you’re a company that has plans to grow via investors and banks, the first thing they’re going to look at is your online presence. They’re going to be immediately dissuaded from investing money into a business that has a negative online perception. In their eyes, you may have a great product, but the cost and time it would take to reverse your reputation may not be worth it. Remember, most things on the internet are forever.
- Employees – Even company culture is under the microscope now days. Employer review websites like Glassdoor, give a insider voice to employees. A negative reputation on Glassdoor will limit your ability to recruit top industry talent. Additionally, business publications who compile annual lists such as ‘Top 500 Best Places to Work’, look at review sites like Glassdoor to help select candidates. A bad reputation within the industry will hinder growth and business to business opportunities.
How Do You Manage Your Online Reputation?
- Assess what customers are saying – There are several tools you can use to identify keywords and hashtags related to your company: TweetBinder, Tagboard, SocialMention, etc. Google Alerts can also help you set up a function that notifies you when your brand is mentioned online. When faced with responding to a negative review, many experts recommend taking the conversation to a private messaging medium, or offline all together. It’s hard to gauge what the customers response to your response will be, and removing it from the public eye can help avoid what appears like a bickering match.
- First page of Google – While you can’t control exactly what is displayed on the first page of google, you can affect it. A good way to make sure the first page is filled with positive or neutral company information is by signing up for as many social media channels as possible, and clearly filling out unified company information. Quality content and backlinks are also essential towards ranking higher.
- Display your contact information – Have you ever been on a website and noticed that their company location and contact information is nowhere to found? It comes off as a little shady. People are more likely to trust your company and make purchases when they can prominently see that you’re a real locatable enterprise.
- Google URL removal tool – If there is something offensive on a domain that you control, Google’s removal tool can help remove it from search results.
- Positive content – When removing negative comments is not an option, you have to fight fire with fire. Pushing down the negative content with excessive amounts of positive content is your best bet. You can create it yourself, or you can create incentives for people to write positive reviews. i.e. Discounts for customers who share their reviews.
- Being linked to reputable websites – Being affiliated with other reputable companies and websites will not only get the attention of consumers, but it will increase your Google ranks.
- Carry yourself well in the online community – When commenting on other people’s posts or sharing content, be consistent, and maintain a positive and professional profile.
As a company, it’s not easy to avoid having an online presence. However, with the right practices and tools your reputation is very manageable. Always proceed cautiously before you comment — the internet can be like a vulture looking for its next meal, and brands have been known to crumble overnight because of PR mistakes.
The internet is also a wonderful place, and it’s your best friend when it comes to growing your business. Consumers trust other consumers, so harness the power of digital-word-of-mouth by building relationships and fostering positive content.