Reputation Management in the Digital Age

How to handle reputation management for your business in a social media and search engine dominated world

Your online reputation clearly affects your bottom line, your ability to acquire new customers, and your advocacy from your existing customers.  The difficulty comes in a modern world where anyone with an internet connection can create content, positive or negative, about your brand.  So how do you control how the public sees your brand in a world with virtually unlimited outlets for positive and negative reviews?

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Reputation management online, does it really matter?

Why negative reviews are an amazing opportunity for your business growth AND reputation management strategy:

Negative reviews, especially the constructive ones,  can show you real issues with your product, marketing, customer service or perceived value.  According to the aforementioned sprout social survey, the top three reasons people call out brands online are dishonesty, poor customer service, and rudeness.  The top 3 have nothing to do with your product, and everything with how you interact directly with your consumer, remember that.

Negative reviews give you credibility, no brand or product makes everyone happy, and nobody trusts a brand that has all positive reviews

People want to see how you address customer service issues and criticism because they want to know if there is a problem it won’t become a nightmare experience for them

Steps to manage your online reputation management:

  1. Use tools to monitor your online reputation:

Google alerts, free review monitoring, and Rankur all have free tools to monitor your brand and related terms across the internet.  Other tools like the paid version of Rankur and Mention have small monthly fees for additional features, including being able to monitor your competitors brand which has great value on many levels and will more than pay for itself.

  1. Use genuine negative reviews to your advantage:

Legitimate negative reviews give you an opportunity to learn about issues you might not have been aware of, create discussions around those issue for how to turn them into opportunities, train your team to better prevent those issues, and address the complaint in a constructive manner that increases brand loyalty and advocacy with your existing clients.

Most social networks including Google expect you to address reviews and recommendations, so make sure you do, even if it’s just to tell the customer you are sorry and would love to address the issue to their satisfaction offline via email or a phone call.

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Realize that most customers just want to be acknowledged, and ignoring a bad review or reacting in an aggressive or negative manner will just make things worse.  See this as an opportunity to learn even if you don’t feel the customer is justified in their belief, that doesn’t make their opinion invalid to them, and to everyone else reading their comments.  Also realize that the kind of customer that wants to be acknowledged will get acknowledgement one way or the other.  Either from you or from their social circle as they commiserate about their terrible experience you couldn’t even be bothered to address.  Wouldn’t you rather be in control of that conversation?   Better yet, wouldn’t you like to control that conversation so that it turns into them telling people how amazingly you turned a bad situation into one that made them a customer for life?

Also, consider that feedback really is valuable when you can step away from your personal feelings and ego, and a customer that is providing legitimate constructive feedback is a valuable asset, that will continue to do so if you treat them correctly.

Make sure you thank this kind of customer for their feedback, address their comment quickly, and do it in a personal manner so that they know they have been acknowledged and that you truly value them as a customer.

When addressing a customer complaint, make sure you accept responsibility for the situation.  Even if you don’t feel it was your responsibility realize that your business created a negative emotion for this customer and you play some part in that, so it’s ok to sympathize with their emotions and still think you did the right thing.  Make sure to acknowledge their frustrations.  People that want to be acknowledged are most often looking for empathy, put yourself in their shoes, realize that if it happened to you that you could be frustrated as well, and relay that understanding to them.  Then apologize.  Make the apology personal and specific to show that you really did pay attention, hear them, and sympathize with their situation. 

Then it’s time to get creative about how to turn this situation from something bad into something amazing.  Sometimes that can be a free product or upgrade, sometimes it’s just a creative way of addressing their complaint.  Whatever it is, make it personal, and make sure it actually addresses their issue.  If someone hated the taste of your food product, sending them a case of it for free, probably isn’t the best answer unless it was just a bad sample that they got.

Research shows that if a company responds in a timely and useful manner to a complaint, 45 percent of people will reinforce that positive interaction by posting about it on social, informing their friends about the resolution, and rewarding the brand with future business.

Finally, don’t forget to realize that no response, is a response.  How do you feel when you bring an issue to anyone and get ignored?  Does it make you feel good, or like that’s a relationship you need to end?  The same goes for compliments and positive reviews.  If I tell you that your hair looks great today and you just completely ignore me, you certainly aren’t getting anymore compliments from me, and probably won’t be hearing from me at all anymore.  Customer relationships are RELATIONSHIPS, don’t forget that when addressing reviews and criticism.

How to handle unwarranted criticism:

Unfortunately we live in a day and age where sometimes a disgruntled employee, a competitor, or just an angry kid at a computer can get your company some serious negative feedback.  Most channels offer options to eliminate completely fake and derogatory reviews, but those options aren’t 100% effective and take time.

If you are facing a serious reputation attack online, your best option is to create as much positive content as you can to “bury” the negative feedback.

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Strategies to bury fake and unwarranted negative feedback:

  1. Rally the troops.  Many times letting your loyal customers know that you need their help is enough to get you a slew of positive reviews and comments to bury the fake negative ones.  The bonus here is that even if you are successful in getting the negative comments removed, you know also have a ton of fresh positive reviews and recommendations for your brand.
  2. Get a strong content strategy.  If the content you want your brand to be known for is structured correctly it will bury the negative content in search engines and social channels.  Learn how to become a content marketing specialist or hire a company that specializes in online PR or reputation management to help you take control of your online reputation.
  3. Be proactive:  If you start doing these things before any negative reviews happen, you will have very little to worry about when the time comes.  One or even several negative reviews won’t outrank your years long content strategy.  And if you already have hundreds of great reviews for your brand,  as string of 5 or 10 malicious ones won’t even be a blip on the radar.

To sum it all up, see legitimate negative reviews for the opportunity they are, address them and learn from them.  And start addressing a reputation content strategy today, that will make any attacks on your reputation in the future less damaging, less stressful, and easier to handle.

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