The Internet is a melting pot of different cultures, ideas, and opinions. People can say whatever they want—within reason—about any topic that stirs their passion. And that includes your business. You can’t stop people from talking about your brand online, but you can and should monitor your online reputation what’s being said about your organization and shift the conversation to your benefit.
To effectively monitor your online reputation, you must first understand what proper monitoring is, why it is so important, and how it works.
What is Reputation Monitoring?
Reputation monitoring is a two-pronged process. The first step involves monitoring online opinions about your brand.
These opinions come from review aggregators such as Trustpilot, Google Reviews, and even reviews from employees on sites like Glassdoor. They also come from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook; in fact, research shows that 71 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase products and services based on social media referrals.
The second element of reputation monitoring is managing and influencing consumer opinions—but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means waging war on negative reviews and removing every criticism of your brand. When managing your business’ reputation online, your goal should be to minimize negative search results while boosting and promoting positive search results. Remember, customers aren’t just reading reviews—they’re paying close attention to how your business responds to both criticisms and compliments.
Why Reputation Management Is Essential for Every Business?
In the digital age, online reviews and customer testimonials serve as a modern form of word-of-mouth advertising. Research shows that 79 percent of online users report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.
In theory, generating positive reviews for your company should be as simple as providing a great product, an easy purchasing experience, and good customer service after the purchase. But the reality is that every customer interaction and touchpoint has the opportunity to influence consumers’ opinions.
Effective reputation management occurs when you focus proactively on delighting customers and prospects and respond appropriately when the inevitable hiccups and disappointments arise. Properly monitoring and managing your online reputation will boost your customer retention, your credibility and trustworthiness, and even your ability to attract and retain stellar employees.
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Turn Negative Reviews into Opportunities
Many businesses view a negative customer review as the end of that customer’s journey with their company. But while the customer’s bad experience is unfortunate, it’s best to see the negative review as an opportunity to engage and influence.
Remember that reviews and responses are read not only by the original author but possibly also by hundreds or thousands of current and prospective customers. By responding thoughtfully and non-defensively to negative reviews, you have the opportunity to change a customer’s poor experience into a positive one and showcase the kind of business you run. You may be able to convince an unhappy customer to give you a second chance, and at the same time show potential customers that your business handles issues and customer concerns professionally and in good faith.
The Importance of Credibility
In general, the greater number of positive search results that appear for your company, products, and even leadership, the more trustworthy your products and brand appear to customers.
Imagine this: You’re comparing accounting software vendors for your law firm and googling each contender. The first page of search results for Vendor A is filled with positive reviews, relevant news articles quoting the company’s CEO, and evidence of Vendor A’s regularly updated social media presence. Vendor B’s search results consist of unrelated listings, a link to the home page of Vendor B’s website, and a Glassdoor review titled “Vendor B Leadership Doesn’t Have a Clue.” If you’re like most people, you’ll feel more confident moving forward with Vendor A because their search results speak to the company’s trustworthiness and credibility.
Alongside review websites such as Yelp, search results are the new Yellow Pages; they’re what people turn to first when shopping for a product or service. So, businesses clearly need to monitor search results just as diligently as customer reviews.
There are several effective strategies for creating and improving search engine results, ensuring that the top results pages are filled primarily with positive content.
Online Reputation and Attracting Top Talent
A positive online reputation is not just about getting more customers; a company’s online image also affects hiring and talent acquisition. This is especially true today.
The COVID pandemic and subsequent “Great Resignation”—in 2021, workers left their jobs at near-record rates—have significantly impacted product and service-oriented businesses of all sizes. Attracting and retaining the talent needed for your business to survive and thrive has become even more difficult.
Once again, search engines are the first place people look to learn about a prospective employer. Having great search results can make the difference between top-notch employees bringing their enthusiasm and expertise to your business or going to work instead for your competition.
Three Pillars to Online Reputation Management and Reviews
When it comes to online reviews, there are three elements your business must check to successfully monitor and manage its online reputation.
- Pay Attention: Be aware of your top search results, paying particular attention to channels where clients and customers are encouraged to share opinions and leave reviews. Businesses should actively listen to the feedback and talk surrounding their brand and give importance to sentiment analysis. And monitor all channels: search results, social media platforms, and review websites. Don’t ignore what you see; track and develop an action plan for handling recurring complaints and customer pain points. Doing so will help you know the general customer sentiment about your business and adapt to the market accordingly.
- Engage: As we’ve already discussed, customers pay attention to how you respond to other customers’ complaints and concerns. Where applicable, respond directly to a review and validate the customer’s feelings. The first step to handling customer complaints is to empathize, to show you understand how the customers feel. Work with them to “set things right.” Do not get defensive, resort to name-calling, or react emotionally; even if it feels like you are being attacked, resist the urge to strike back. Always keep to the high road.
- Uplift the Conversation: You know what your business does well, and it’s likely that your customers do too. Focus on the positives on your official website and on official social media channels. Don’t be afraid to use positive customer stories and experiences to reinforce your message.
Be consistent with your messaging across all of your platforms. By taking advantage of social media and other channels to curate your business’s image, you’ll positively influence how people perceive your business.
Should You Use Reputation Management Tools?
Reputation management can be time-consuming, making it nearly impossible to effectively keep up with the ever-changing tide of customer opinion. Thankfully, there are a number of tools and software packages that help automate common reputation management tasks.
At a minimum, ensure you’re taking advantage of free online tools to help monitor online mentions of your company, products, and leadership. For instance, Google Alerts allows you to set up alerts for new mentions of keywords or specific topics. But don’t mistake Google Alerts for a full-featured reputation management system; its features are very basic and geared more toward the curious layperson.
To get more meaningful, actionable reputation data, you’ll need to invest in a specialized tool. Premium software such as SEMRush goes well beyond Google Alerts to estimate reach of your content, identify overall sentiment, and highlight the people and sites that have real influence in your industry.
The Key to Effective Reputation Management: Human Intervention
There’s one huge caveat to using reputation monitoring and management software: an effective reputation management plan requires human interaction. Certainly, your reputation monitoring software can automate repetitive tasks and improve workflow, but there is no substitute for a real human being reviewing the data and making actionable recommendations.
Given the sheer volume of content channels—websites, review aggregators, social media sites, forums, community sites—you’re wise to use tools to help identify and gather relevant reputation information. But you must have actual people in place to interpret the data that the tools provide, to effectively manage your reputation and prevent a minor issue from turning into a massive crisis.
Be especially wary of using the “built-in” engagement features of reputation management tool, such as a tool that offers to manage and respond to negative reviews. Customers can easily discern a bot-generated answer from a human response. To protect your online reputation, ensure that your employees are heavily involved in every aspect of the process.
Crisis Management and Online Reputation Monitoring
If your business hasn’t already dealt with some sort of reputation crisis, count yourself lucky, but stay prepared. Whether it’s the result of an innocent misunderstanding, a case of mistaken identity, or even a disgruntled former employee, no one can predict when a single negative post, review, or comment will turn into a crisis situation.
Situations like these are where early reputation monitoring and management are essential. By knowing about an issue before it becomes a big problem, you have the potential to resolve and keep it from becoming a full-blown crisis.
When you do have a crisis, remember, this is where you need to apply empathy and professionalism the most. You can’t rely solely on reputation management software to understand the nuances of a situation, and one wrong response can exacerbate your problems rather than solve them. But to fight a fire, you first need to know where to point the hose. Use reputation management tools to identify areas where the conversation is occurring, then let your human experts take things from there.
The Bottom Line: The Right Mix of Tools and Talent
Now that we have a clearer understanding of the elements involved in effectively monitoring your business’s online reputation, it’s time to take action. And Blue Ocean Global Technology can help. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help transform your online presence.
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