The success of your business relies on building and maintaining a solid reputation. In the old days, that meant word of mouth and good press; today, that means excellent reputation management.
According to HubSpot, reputation management is “the process of monitoring how consumers perceive your business and taking strategic action when necessary to improve your brand’s image.”
In today’s online-first marketplace — where consumers can praise or skewer a business in a matter of seconds — reputation management needs to be an ongoing process that “allows you to stay on top of your brand’s public perception and quickly address possible damaging situations as soon as they occur,” according to HubSpot.
That’s great, but in the vastness of the web, how can companies keep up with managing their reputations online?
The answer is to start with a plan.
In this article, we’ll discuss why online reputation is so important and then offer four simple steps to start building a reputation management program that works for the size and scale of your organization.
Why Care About Your Online Reputation?
Your business’s reputation can impact everything from attracting new customers to securing partnerships and investments. Even if you sell hard goods out of a brick-and-mortar warehouse, a significant portion of your reputation will be built online.
In fact, according to BrightLocal’s annual Local Consumer Survey, 77% of consumers always or regularly read reviews while browsing for local businesses, and 81% of consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses.
Negative reviews, misleading information or even a lack of reviews and interaction online can hurt your business in the physical world. On the other hand, a positive online reputation can boost your credibility, attract new business and establish you as a trusted industry leader. That’s why it’s so important to monitor and manage your online reputation regularly.
Building Your Reputation Management Program
Step 1: Identify Where You Are and Where You Need to Be
Before developing a program to build credibility and respond to online reviews, you need to start where you (and your customers) already are. For the vast majority of businesses, that’s Google.
Google your business name in an incognito window, and focus on your Google reviews and the first page of results. This is what potential customers will see as their first impression of your business.
Next, check out any reviews you may have on your company’s Facebook page. While consumers tend to trust Facebook reviews less than in years past, they are still an important part of your overall reputation portfolio.
Finally, hone in on and search out reviews on industry-specific sites. For health care ratings, consumers may click over to Healthgrades. Planning a trip? Yelp or Travelocity. If you need a contractor, it could be Angi (formerly Angie’s List) or Thumbtack. The Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau and Manta are also in the top 10 when it comes to online reviews.
What did you learn during this discovery process? Did you have some positive reviews from past customers (go, you!) that you had not seen or responded to? Were you surprised by some negative reviews? Or did you simply not have any feedback at all?
No matter which scenario best describes your online presence, you’re likely missing out (and possibly hurting your business) by neglecting your online reputation altogether.
Let’s fix that, shall we?
Step 2: Come up With a Plan, and Get It In Writing
Now that you understand your company’s current online reputation (let’s call this your baseline), you can develop a strategy for managing reviews and, thus, your online reputation. This is your reputation management program.
Here are some key elements to keep in mind as you develop the program that works best for you:
- Organize your workflow. Keep a spreadsheet of all reviews that are posted online about your company, including the date, platform, type of review (positive or negative) and response (if any). This information can help you track the effectiveness of your reputation management strategy over time.
- Form a response strategy. Decide which reviews you will respond to and which you will let slide. Consider responding to negative reviews in a professional and empathetic manner, as this can help improve your online reputation and show potential customers that you care about customer satisfaction. On the other hand, you may choose to ignore reviews that are spammy, off-topic or do not provide any constructive feedback. HubSpot has a useful guide for recognizing fake reviews.
- Respond with consistency. Develop a guide that outlines the tone and language you want to use in your responses to positive and negative reviews. This guide should include a selection of approved responses to both positive and negative reviews, along with guidelines on how to handle specific types of feedback. For example, you may have a set response for handling complaints about customer service on Google and a different set for responding to positive feedback on Facebook.
- Create a schedule. Your schedule should include when and how often you will monitor and respond to reviews, the platforms you will use and who will be responsible for writing and approving responses. Set aside time each week for reviewing and responding to feedback and evaluating the success of your reputation management program.
- Bring in an expert. You may want to hire a dedicated reputation management specialist who will be responsible for managing your online reputation, responding to reviews and heading up your reputation management program. They will also be able to provide valuable insights and advice on how to improve your online reputation. Hiring a specialist may be especially beneficial if you have limited time or resources to devote to reputation management.
Step 3: Encourage and Respond to Reviews
A critical aspect of your plan should be encouraging customers to leave reviews. Inc. Magazine found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And 68% of consumers form an opinion about a business after reading between one and six online reviews.
Getting More Reviews
Wouldn’t it be great if the reviews they were reading reflected the thoughts of your happiest customers — the ones you pour your heart and soul into all day? Yes! But how do you go about getting satisfied clients to leave you reviews? You ask. Yep, it’s that simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Send an email thanking customers for their business and include a request to leave a Google My Business review (with a link included, of course).
- Post on Facebook asking customers to leave feedback there.
- Add a CTA button to your website requesting visitors to review your blog or downloadable content.
- Incentivize customers to leave reviews by offering special promotions or discounts.
Mind you, these solicited reviews may not all be glowing. You’re asking for honest feedback, which is exactly what you’re likely to get.
Responding to Negative Reviews
First, resist the urge to delete. Here’s why:
- Negative reviews round out your review portfolio. Trustpilot reports that 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.
- Negative reviews offer an opportunity to shine. When you receive a negative review, you can interact publicly with an unhappy customer and make it right. According to Moz, When an owner’s response solves a cited problem, 62% of customers will give your business a second chance, and an additional 28% say they might.
- Negative reviews represent an opportunity to do better. When a customer leaves a negative review, it can sting. But try to approach it from a place of learning and growth. Is there any truth to the review? What can you learn from this feedback? How can you improve your processes or performance to improve this customer’s experience (and those who come after)?
When it comes to negative reviews, respond promptly and professionally. Thank the customer for their feedback and offer to resolve any issues they may have had. Not only does this show that you value your customers’ opinions, but it also demonstrates your commitment to improving your business.
Responding to Positive Reviews
Equally important for reputation management is responding to positive feedback. Here’s why:
- It’s the polite thing to do! Your customer just gave you a public compliment. Why not offer a public thank you in return? That’s just good customer service.
- It builds trust, credibility and affinity. Brightlocal found 89% of consumers say they would be “fairly” or “highly” likely to use a business that responds to all reviews, positive and negative.
- It’s free advertising. When potential customers scroll through your online reviews and come across a friendly back-and-forth between a happy customer and the owner, that’s one more touchpoint in their journey toward you.
Step 4: Consistently Monitor and Improve
Once you’ve established a plan and are encouraging reviews, the final step is continuously monitoring and evaluating your reputation. This means keeping a close eye on your online reviews and feedback, and making changes to your plan accordingly.
Use tools like ReviewTrackers or Reputology and assign a team member to monitor your mentions online. This person should be responsible for checking for new reviews, analyzing the sentiment of feedback and identifying any trends or patterns in your online reputation.
This will help with the next step: Regularly evaluate the success of your reputation management program. This includes assessing the effectiveness of your response strategy, the level of engagement with your customers and the impact of your reputation on your business goals.
If you notice a trend in negative reviews or low engagement levels, you can quickly address the situation and make changes to your plan. If you see a trend in positive reviews and high engagement, continue building on your reputation management success by highlighting your achievements and encouraging even more positive feedback.
A strong online reputation is essential for the success of your business. This guide is your jumping-off point to building a reputation management program to help you grow your brand’s public-facing image.