A Guide to a Successful Online Reputation Management Strategy
In the olden days of marketing, companies would put out static messaging, broadcast to a large audience that they didn’t necessarily understand. They hoped it would increase sales. At the same time, if one of those customers was upset, they might tell a few friends about it, or write a letter to the company. That letter might have been ignored in the past—or a really good company may have sent the writer a free sample or coupon. The disgruntlement usually ended there and didn’t spread far and wide.
Oh, how things have changed! Customers have the power now. Social media, user-generated content, online reviews, home bloggers with affiliate links to boost or axes to grind can whip out their phones and promote or damage your reputation, all with a few thumb taps. In this new environment, companies can sink or swim based on what people are saying online. If you want to do business today, you have to manage your reputation proactively, every day. It’s not easy to do on your own, but using the right tools, strategy and expert guidance, you can handle bad reviews well and boost your online reputation. Our guide to online reputation management strategy can get you started on the right path now:
1. Assess Your Current Your Online Reputation Status
Tool to use: Online reputation reports.
There are a few things you’ll want to check first to understand where your online brand reputation currently stands. Once you know where you stand, you can decide where you want to go from there. First, you’ll want to find out what people are saying about you right now. Sift through online review sites and directories like Yelp and Google Reviews to get an idea of what reviews are out there. You can also use tools from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others to monitor what people are saying about you there. Hopefully you have already set up your own official brand presence on all of the important social media platforms and you already keep an eye on your traffic and engage with your fans, potential fans and detractors in a positive, good-humored way already. If not, start doing that every day. Even if you don’t post daily, make sure you’re aware of and engaging with the people on your social media platforms every day.
If you find any negative reviews about your products, services or brand reputation, do not ignore them. Take a deep breath and dive in with a calm, analytical attitude and use these 7 strategies for dealing with negative reviews. If you handle bad reviews the right way, you can improve your brand reputation significantly and win customers for life. We’ll talk more about that later.
Once you’ve addressed any negative reviews correctly, you’ll also want to check where (and if) you rank on the first search engine results page (SERP) when searching for keywords and phrases that your potential customers might use to find you when searching on Google, Bing or their search engine of choice. Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around for a long time, and it changes every day. Your best bet is to get an SEO expert on board to help you assess your strategy here—it’s critically important to your online reputation. On the flip side, your online reputation management is equally important to your SEO strategy, so you need to analyze both sides of the coin.
Our Online Reputation Management (ORM) System provides you great tools that help you collect feedback during those critical interactions with customers in the moment so that you can actually address anything that might become a negative review before it becomes a negative review—giving you the opportunity to turn it into a positive review instead.
2. Consider What You Want Your Online Reputation to Become
Obviously, you want a 5-star online reputation. But effective branding and, by extension, online reputation management, has to be more focused than this cloudy notion.
First, clarify your mission. What do you do, and why do you do it? Why does it matter? Fit that on the back of an old-fashioned business card and then link your mission to your target audience.
Speaking of your target audience, define and understand them as deeply as you can. Do some market research and get to know who they are, what they like, what they don’t like and analyze the data to craft your brand, products and online presence around their needs. Everything should be focused on your audience’s needs and desires.
Finally, attach your brand mission and your knowledge of your audience to craft your brand identity in terms of emotional appeal, visual imaging and consistency.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you can set the goal of maintaining a consistent brand presence across all of your online media channels and develop an engagement strategy that enables you to stay true to your mission and your audience, even when dealing with challenging reputation management situations like negative reviews. One goal that can never go wrong is shooting for a reputation of delightful customer service and excellent responsiveness to customer needs.
3. Craft Your Online Engagement Policy
Whether you’re a one-person band or have a bevy of employees working with you, it’s important that you all adhere to a cohesive online engagement policy across all of your social media platforms and online real estate. It’s important to have guidelines in place that help you know how to address questions, concerns, negative reviews and even how to respond to positive reviews! Hint: you should always say thank you for positive reviews -- somebody took time out of their busy day to praise you. Gratitude matters! Invite them to come back as soon as possible and give them a free cupcake, by all means!
When crafting your online engagement policy, make sure to come up with a list of situations (like those mentioned above) and come up with some boilerplate text that can be customized to each customer in that situation. Establish ground rules that everyone in the company understands so there won’t be any confusion or panic. For example:
- Respond within 24 hours or less.
- Be professional.
- Always take responsibility.
- Be honest and transparent.
- Invite customers to contact you personally about their issue so that you can address their needs.
- Aim to delight.
4. Handle the Negative Reviews and Articles the Right Way: Honestly and Transparently
One of the most critical and most-asked-about reputation management strategy issues is how to handle negative reviews. We have an easy-to-use 7-step plan for dealing with bad reviews that goes into detail on a number of different situations you’ll want to be ready to handle. In short, you’ll want to do the following:
- Stay calm and don’t let it bother you.
- Respond quickly (the sooner the better - shoot for 24 hours at most. But wait until you’re calm and have a plan in place).
- Be apologetic and sympathetic, even if you don’t think it was your fault. This will go a long way towards diffusing customer unhappiness.
- Express a sincere desire to make things right.
- Provide a personal contact option so you can take the negativity offline right away and address the problem privately.
- Keep all public correspondence short, sweet and helpful.
- Use Reputation Builder’s “Feedback First” tool to collect in-store feedback and address problems at the point of sale before a disgruntled customer has a chance to post negative feedback.
- Call out bogus bad reviews for what they are. (More on this below).
If you’re prepared with a plan for dealing with negative reviews positively, you’ll be more able to handle them in a way that ends up bringing joy and delight to everyone, including your online reputation.
5. Keep an Eye on What People are Saying: Always
One incredibly helpful tool for monitoring your online reputation and its impact on your SEO is to sign up for Google Alerts. You can configure it to notify you anytime online content appears with your brand name (even common misspellings of your business’s name), product names, and critical keywords and phrases. This helps you catch and address any negative content promptly - and to thank anyone posting positive things proactively.
Reputation Builder also has incredible reputation management tools that help you proactively build an impressive collection of positive reviews that can go toe-to-toe with and drown out any negative reviews you haven’t yet seen or been able to deal with.
6. Build an Army of Positive Reviews to Quash the Negative Ones
One of the best ways to boost your online reputation is to proactively ask for positive reviews from your happy customers. If you’re going the extra mile to create excellent products, provide fantastic customer service and a delightful overall experience, then you’re already going to have fans. Those fans should help you out by leaving a 5-star review before they even leave your establishment or website.With Reputation Builder, you have several tools available that make it super easy for your customers to post their 5-stars from their phones. As you build a great library of positive online reviews, this will boost your online reputation so that when people search for you, they’ll see those excellent reviews and want to investigate further. Keep in mind that it takes about 12-13 positive online reviews to squish just one negative review into oblivion. This makes Reputation Builder an indispensable tool for building that 5-star review army for your business.
7. Practice Intensive SEO
Good reputation management strategy can boost your SEO, and good SEO can also boost your reputation management strategy. They go hand-in-hand. Hire an SEO expert to help you craft a search engine strategy that puts your owned media (websites, social media properties, etc.) front and center on the first SERP. You need to be on page one with your version of your story. Positive partnerships with third parties should factor in as well. Social media mentions and online reviews factor into the entire SEO equation today as well. If negative press about your company floats up to the first SERP, it’s time for intensive SEO and reputation management help.
8. Learn from Your Critics & Your Own Mistakes
It’s never easy to accept criticism, but it’s often the road to building a better brand. As you encounter negative reviews or complaints, be transparent and honest about ways that you can improve and do better. Being real and authentic is an important currency in the online reputation world, and if you can honestly address blemishes to your reputation and plug those holes with exceptional customer service and improvement, your company and products will outshine the competition.
9. Go on the Offensive Against Bogus Attacks
Unfortunately, there are always trolls out there who are bent on destroying reputations regardless of any truth or foundation behind their allegations. If you’ve been the victim of attacks like this online, they are tough, but not impossible to deal with. If you are doing everything else mentioned in this comprehensive guide to online reputation management, then you should be able to maintain your voice against these trolls, but if you need to get more aggressive, there are steps you can take:
- Google Reviews, Yelp, and all of the social media channels have guidelines that you can follow to have offensive, untrue and defamatory posts removed from their platforms.
- In the meantime, you can, as a place-holder, post a short online response to the troll that steals their thunder and gives you the upper hand. Use the steps from point 4 and be sure to keep it positive and, above all, short.
- In rare instances, you may have to get help from an online investigator and employ legal help if the information or behavior is truly damaging and dangerous. Hopefully it’ll never come to that, but you have to sometimes be aggressive and smart against destructive online trolls.
10. Get an Expert Reputation Management Help
If online reputation management sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. It is. But it is absolutely essential to protecting and building your business in this age of online marketing. If you’re struggling with any aspect of reputation management, enlist help and use tools like Reputation Builder that can automate many of these activities so that you can focus on earning respect and an excellent reputation with fantastic customer service and excellent quality products and services. Sign up today and take control of your online reputation now.