online reputation guide

Online Reputation Management Guide for Businesses

Author: Victoria Csiga

Reputation management is just as important as collecting and curating customer reviews for businesses since it can greatly impact how consumers perceive you.

If you don’t have a handle on your online reputation, you’ll be open to criticism from customers and your sales will suffer as consumers won’t see you as a trustworthy brand.

Why is online reputation a terribly important thing for a business? 

As a business owner, the reputation of your company is everything. If you don’t see it that way already, then you need to shift your priorities, since it will make or break your enterprise. It’s always been the case that a company’s reputation is one of the first things a potential customer will notice, before they part with their cash. It should come as no surprise then, knowing this, that reputation in a world with access to social media and internet forums is hugely important.

In this digital age we live in, it simply isn’t good enough to have a website and call that your online presence. To thrive and grow your business, you’ll need to expand extensively into the online space, which means creating and managing social media accounts. The work starts here since once you have a significant online presence, you now have the challenge of maintaining a good reputation.

Why should you care about your online reputation?

If consumers are buying your products or services, then surely your business is heading in the right direction, right?

Well, yes and no.

Of course, you can’t run a business at a loss so sales are essential. 

However, while good sales in the short term will keep your company afloat, they aren’t what will secure your success in the long term necessarily. If you have a positive trend of increasing sales, but you aren’t doing much to manage your online reputation, it could all come crumbling down around you a few months down the line. Consumers these days want evidence of social proof before they invest in a company’s goods, which means they want to see proof that other customers have had good experiences dealing with the brand.

If a Google search brings up a slew of slanderous reviews spewing negativity about your business, do you think that will make a consumer more or less likely to trust you? 

As unfortunate as it may seem, with the advent of the internet the individual has a lot more power to affect a business’ reputation. As such, you need to do your best to stay on top of the criticism and manage your response to it across social media platforms so consumers see that you are responsive and willing to accept feedback and take it on board to improve your services.

What is online reputation management about? 

Online reputation management (ORM) is all about managing consumer’s perceptions of your business.

No, you can’t control what people think of your company, but you can control what they see and how your business presents itself online. ORM can be the difference between soaring high and boosting sales with positivity and floundering as a result of overwhelming negative feedback. 

All businesses are going to receive negative feedback, it’s inevitable.

But does that mean you are powerless to change the perception of your business in the consumers’ eyes? No.

Online reviews are hugely influential these days, with the majority of consumers relying heavily upon them to make any form of purchase decision. As such, you want to leverage things like customer reviews in order to get on the consumer’s good side and persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash.

Even just a single scathing blog post or horror story posted by an unsatisfied customer can be detrimental to your business’s online reputation. Things can get even worse, too, if the media picks up the story.

Yet this doesn’t have to be the case.

If you’re wise to the ways of ORM, you can limit the impact negative feedback has on your overall online reputation and also boost the sway of positive feedback.

Now that you know how important it is to take control of your online reputation, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which online reputation management can directly benefit your business.

How online reputation management benefits your business? 

Digital disruption is something that has taken the world by storm ever since the internet first came to be. A service or product is sold in-store like in the example of Blockbusters, and then a newer digital-based alternative comes along offering a convenient alternative like Netflix, and the market has effectively been disrupted. This has changed how we make purchases, since most of the shopping we do is probably done online. As such, the way you present your business online – even if you have physical stores – is critical if you want to see your sales figures rise and your reputation grow.

Online reputation management:

1.Increases transparency

When you take the reins of your online presence, you can make things transparent to consumers. 

Why is transparency important?

Well, transparency is what helps you to build customer trust and brand loyalty. After all, there aren’t many consumers who are going to readily trust a business that doesn’t seem responsive to criticism or act on feedback.

If you have a social media presence and you use it to reply to customers’ queries and complaints, then you demonstrate a willingness to take criticism in your stride and, better still, use it to improve upon your services and the customer experience. If on the other hand you don’t have any social media accounts or you don’t make the effort to interact and engage with your customer base, you will have a lot of disgruntled customers which leaves a stain on your reputation.

2.Increases trust

Trust is everything in sales and marketing.

Without it, how do you plan on convincing the customer to part with their cash?

Given the option of a responsive online company and one which isn’t, you’d assume that customers would pick the responsiveness company nine times out of ten if they are offering the same thing.

Even if you have a lot of negative reviews, your trust with the customers won’t necessarily be compromised. If you show that you are willing to address criticism head-on and are willing to act upon it you could still build customer trust and make the most of a bad situation.

3.Increases control

With ORM, you have all the power over your online presence and perception.

As a business owner, it’s essential that you control all aspects of the business since the moment you don’t, you become vulnerable.

Taking control of your image is what will help you stay afloat even when you feel like you’re sinking. Be the captain of your ship and you will be able to make sure it stays on course at all times – not at the mercy of the ocean and external elements around you.

4.Helps reach new customers

When you take charge of your online reputation, you give yourself access to an invaluable set of tools to reach new customers with.

If Google shows that the majority of your reviews are positive, or that you at least interact with them often, then you will be pushed higher up the local rankings. As a result of this, you will of course reach more people and are more likely to show up during Google searches.

If your reputation is untarnished, you give consumers every reason to choose your business over the competition, even if you offer the same thing as them.

5.Helps strengthen relationships with existing customers

There’s a lot to be said for repeat business.

It’s one thing to reach new customers, but what about the customer base you already have? Wouldn’t you want to keep them on board to ensure future sales?

Even if someone buys one of your products, there’s no guarantee that they will purchase with you again. The product itself could be excellent, but what if word gets out that you have a bad reputation and others have had an awful experience with your customer support or product?

This is where you need to stay on top of your online reputation, since you can put out fires as they arise and keep your existing customers content which could lead to repeat purchases down the line.

Where to monitor your online reputation?

where to monitor your online reputation?

Managing your online reputation isn’t limited to social media, so it’s in your best interests to monitor all the digital spaces where your reputation could be on the line. Fortunately, there are many tools out there that can alert you to negative reviews and feedback you receive from various sources, so it’s worth looking into software such as Google Alerts and Social Mention if you want to be kept in the loop.

1.Social media

Social media is the number one place to maintain your online reputation, as most consumers have social media accounts and regularly post on them.

To keep tabs on what people are saying, you can use the aforementioned tools such as Social Mention which scans more than 80 social media sites for you. Or, you can hire a social media manager and have them regularly search your business’ name in the search bar of the platform to see what people are saying about your brand – if anything.

2.Blogs

Many bloggers make a living reviewing products for their audience, so don’t be surprised if your company has been namedropped in hundreds of blog posts unbeknownst to you.

Again, to monitor blog posts about your business you can do a general Google search including your business name and ‘blog post’. If you do find blog posts, one thing you can do is to reach out to the creator of the content and ask that they link to your website if they don’t already in the post. This is an easy way to boost the profile of your website and potentially attract more customers.

3.Forums

Forums are online discussion sites – digital imitations of the forums in Roman society that functioned as a meeting point for social gatherings. 

While you could go into one of these forums incognito to find out what people are saying, this could be a tedious and time-consuming approach. You’re better off using a service such as Omigili which will trawl the internet for you in search of comments about your company in forums.

4.Review sites

Review sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, or Google My Business can provide a huge boost to your online reputation if you know how to make the most of them.

These are the sites that people will usually head to when they’re on the fence about a product or a service. As such, they are the sites that you need to maintain an active presence on, which means you need to respond to reviews left on these sites as frequently as possible.

How to monitor your online reputation?

how to monitor your online reputation?

Now it’s time to talk tactics, since it’s no use knowing about the benefits of ORM if you don’t know how to effectively pull it off. There are several ways to monitor your online reputation, and in this last section we’re going to show you just what they are so you can start managing your reputation today.

1.Monitoring Media

The first thing you need to do in the quest for developing your online reputation is to monitor how you’re currently performing across media platforms, and how customers perceive you right now. You can see this as a form of inventory in which you take stock of everything that’s going well for you right now as well as the ingredients that appear to be missing.

To effectively monitor your reputation in the media, you’ll need to carry out an audit. This could be either an incredibly simple or an involved process, depending on various factors. In some cases, an audit can be a mere matter of asking your existing customer base along with any existing stakeholders or business partners what their thoughts are about the brand you’ve built. Perhaps a more comprehensive and accurate approach, though, is to seek help from a tool such as The Brand Grader which will give you a wealth of information about your brand’s online reputation.

2.Managing and collecting reviews

For many consumers, the thought of making an online purchase without first consulting the customer reviews is inconceivable. Unlike the old days when you would walk into a store and buy a product just for how it looked on the shelf, that won’t fly anymore.

These days, social proof is key and the way you get that as a business is by securing all kinds of customer reviews. While it’s a great idea to repost glowing reviews and comments you receive on social media, this shouldn’t be your sole focus. If the goal is to boost your overall online reputation, you’ll need to expand your horizons and develop your idea of what a customer review is.

Don’t just rely on the classic text-based review.

Instead, try to get photo and video reviews from past customers, as this will show a more human side to the business and make it feel more real to consumers. Or perhaps even better, make some detailed case studies or customer stories that you can post on your website and across social media. You should never underestimate the power of storytelling in marketing, and while it may seem that social media apps have ruined our attention span, we’re all open to a well-told story from time to time. Plus, we as humans want connection more than anything else, so to relate a real-life story of a customer opens the door to such connection with future customers in a hard-hitting fashion.

Conclusion: how to have a good online reputation?

how to have a good online reputation?

So, you’re determined to improve your online reputation.

That’s great!

But it’s only the beginning. In order to stay on top of your online reputation you’re going to first have to carry out a brand audit. Then, you’ll want to set up methods for tracking customer reviews across various sources such as social media, forums, and review websites.

The last, and most important step in the process of building a better online reputation, is to engage and interact with your customer base.

How?

By responding to the comments they leave on review websites about your company, or replying to queries directed at your social media accounts. You need to let consumers know that you are serious about your reputation, and you do that by maintaining an active online presence. By addressing customer reviews – especially the negative ones – you show that you are transparent and that you are willing to change and improve based upon customer feedback.

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Category: Marketing, News