Every business owner knows that reputation management is essential in maintaining an image that reflects your brand and in turn, encourages people to become customers. The prevalence of the online marketplace has heightened the importance of reputation and redefined the way the brands are perceived by the general public.
Traditionally, businesses existed in a communications funnel that was ‘top down’, meaning they would say something and consumers would listen. In our current digital landscape, businesses are no longer selling to passive audiences but to receptive ones that can voice their opinion to the world.
User-generated content has transformed the role of the consumer and given rise to the idea of reputation management. The dominance of search engines and social networks has meant that websites are no longer merely company brochures and companies are no longer talking at the consumer. Now businesses must engage, interact and talk with their audience, even when they don’t necessarily like what they have to say.
The growing emphasis on transparency and accountability for businesses is a great thing. It allows people to make more informed purchase decisions and communicate with businesses like never before. User-generated content also presents an opportunity for businesses to supercharge their customer acquisition strategies, as positive customer experiences function as a tool that inspires others to follow suit.
User-generated content is now necessary to attract new customers and engage and inspire your existing ones. This means your reputation management strategy actually plays an integral role in generating revenue and growing your business.
Your Digital Footprint
Every business whether they are big or small now leaves a digital footprint. This is a good thing, as it authenticates your business and verifies your product or service. Consumers use this footprint to make purchase decisions, give you feedback and let their friends know about your product or service. Studies show that nowadays 90% of people will Google reviews before purchasing a product or service.
From Google to Facebook, there are places for user-input everywhere.
Customer experiences are collated through a range of platforms and then reflected back to customers in the form of reviews, stars or ratings. These forms of evaluations function as a form of certification which people use to verify their purchases. Whether your business is generating positive reviews or combating negative ones, implementing a reputation management plan will ensure you’re prepared for either.
The proliferation of user-generated content has created a review-centric world. Not only do reviews steer your online traffic but they are often the ultimate make or break when it comes to converting traffic into sales. Positive reviews happen for a few reasons:
- Your product or service is exceptional
- Your product or service solved their problem
- The customer service experience was outstanding
- A returning customer has found value in your business
Some customers will be inclined to share their positive experience without prompt, however, others may need to be solicited into sharing their thoughts. Encourage your customers to like, rate and review you. Turn their successes or experiences into case studies.
It’s an inevitable part of the business. Not every single person that comes into contact with your brand is going to sing its praises. Negative reviews are unescapable but unfortunately, they leave a digital footprint that may compromise your business.
Negative online reviews can really affect your offline presence and can affect your ability to attract new customers. In fact, Google may banish your website from its pages altogether if you don’t improve your reputation management.
You may need to earn up to 12 positive customer reviews to offset a single negative one.
Think of reviews like word of mouth that is bellowed on a megaphone to the whole world. Cleaning up or responding to existing negative reviews can be a timely exercise, but is essential in developing a positive online presence.
How To Respond
Consider implementing a reputation management plugin that filters out negative reviews. Alternatively, responding to negative reviews is often a simple but effective way to minimise the damage and get your brand image back on track.
Transparency is a buzz word in business nowadays and has become more important when considering reputation management strategies. Responding to issues directly is a failsafe way to convey transparency and is usually the best policy when it comes to negative publicity. When it comes to reputation management, transparency usually implies opening yourself up to criticism and feedback.
This looks like:
- Asking for feedback
- Allowing employees to talk about products publicly
- Not deleting reviews or comments when they do not reflect favourably on your business
Transparency can be considered a risky approach but is usually the best one in the long-run. One negative review is not the end of the world, it’s important to remember that people are more inclined to forgive one negative review if your page is filled with many positive ones. If you do open your business up to feedback and criticism it’s important to have the right tools to deal with the fallout appropriately.
The Do’s & Don’ts
When it comes to responding to feedback and criticism there are a few fundamental principles to stick to:
- Don’t be defensive. Your first instinct may be to defend your business but this kind of reaction does not translate well in the digital world and will put your business in a negative light to potential customers
- Don’t wait too long to respond. This may come across as evasive
- DO respond, if someone has taken the time out of their day to write you a review, responding to them is important
- Do acknowledge any criticism and apologise for mistakes made. It happens, we all make mistakes, it’s better to admit this than be stuck in an on-going feud
- Do resolve the issue. Where possible it’s always best to resolve any issues that come to light via reviews. If someone’s package went missing, replace it. If they had a bad customer service experience, invite them back.
Social media monitoring can be a good way to gauge public sentiment towards your brand and can help to structure and form your reputation management plan. Being active on social media may also help you to discover industry sentiments that exist, for example, you may see multiple posts regarding environmental issues and use this platform to post about your companies own environmental sustainability policy.
Developing a relationship with your social media community helps to guide your brand narrative and convey a sense of trust. Directly interacting with your followers/customers is not only crucial in boosting your reputation but it also works to establish a clear brand voice and message that will help to combat any negative online reviews that may occur in the future.
Here at One Stop Media, we strongly believe that a reputation management plan is essential for all businesses. We specialise in enhancing your online presence and have the experience to repair the damage of negative reviews.