Your business's reputation is one of your most valuable assets. It doesn't matter if you're a small, local company or a Fortune 500 company – without a good reputation, it will be difficult to attract new customers and keep the ones you have happy. So what does "reputation management" actually entail? Read on for everything you need to know about this important topic.
What is reputation management and why does it matter?
There are several reasons why people and businesses need to actively manage their reputation online. According to the Reputation Institute, almost 70% of consumers use social to research products or services, with 90% saying that they trust recommendations from people they know. That means you could be losing potential customers because of your online image. In fact, 22% of consumers won't buy a product or service that doesn't have enough online reviews.
Reputation management is the process of monitoring your public image and addressing any issues that are brought to light. This includes responding quickly when someone complains about you or if false information is out there. The goal is to create and maintain an online presence that helps you gain credibility and trust with your target audience.
How to manage your online reputation?
Managing your reputation includes monitoring what people are saying about you or your company online. This can be done by creating a Google Alert for your brand and any related keywords, so you will know as soon as someone on blogs, social media, or forums mentions your business name. The best way to manage your reputation is to be proactive. Don't wait until someone complains about you. Instead, proactively monitor your reputation and address any issues or potential problems.
Ways to build a strong personal brand
- Be active on social media sites. This gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality while offering potential employers a glimpse into who you are.
- Use keywords for your name, making it easy for people to find you online. You can also consider using your middle name instead of your first name to help with SEO.
- Create your own blog or website that showcases the work you are doing and offers information to people who might be interested in following your future career path.
Tips for managing your online reviews
Reviews have become a popular way for consumers to get quick feedback on products and services before they buy them, but businesses also use them as a way to gain customer loyalty and drive their bottom line. As such, protecting your reputation is one of the best ways to ensure it continues growing successfully. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to manage both positive and negative comments about your company:
- Respond quickly when someone posts a complaint or review online; this shows others that you care about what customers have to say.
- Don't undermine the person by attacking them or their comment, instead focus on addressing whatever legitimate concern they have. If you can resolve it to their satisfaction, they will be more likely to remove the negative post from their site and write a positive review about you.
- If a complaint is completely off the mark, send an apology and ask the poster to remove it if you can; this shows you care about your customer's feelings even when there was no problem in the first place.
- Always offer a solution that is fair for both parties; if something isn't working out, let them know so they can participate in making things right again. Never ignore comments because ignoring bad reviews makes your company look unprofessional and desperate for good press.
The importance of social media in building a positive reputation
More than 90% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family when making a decision about where to spend their money, which means your reputation is more important now more than ever. Social media allows businesses the opportunity to showcase both their products and services as well as share information directly with potential customers in a cost-effective manner.
Although not all online activities are appropriate for every industry, you can use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to:
- Grow your business/ LinkedIn can help you reach out to recruit new employees or business partners.
- Showcase your products and services- if you are a service company, Facebook gives you the opportunity to tell others about what you have done for previous clients. If you sell products, share pictures of these on Pinterest and Instagram; people love seeing what others use and buy.
- Engage with current customers – ask followers questions via Twitter or LinkedIn groups that get them interested in your product or service even more while giving them the chance to participate in an online conversation with knowledgeable experts. The answers will not only help inform potential customers but help build up credibility for your brand/company as well.
- Emphasize industry relationships– post photos of events and meet and greets you have attended as well as the people you have met. People will take note of who you spend your time with and, more importantly, the networking opportunities available to them.
The benefits of having a good online presence
As mentioned earlier, most consumers make significant purchasing decisions based on the feedback they get from other people; this means even something as simple as a positive review could be the deciding factor in whether someone purchases from you or one of your competitors.
Online activity can also help boost and maintain your credibility by:
- Ensuring you have the most current information about your business available on the Internet, including contact details like hours of operation and directions. This will save potential customers time when they need to get in touch with you.
- Showing past customers that their comments were taken seriously and acted upon quickly; reassures others that they too can voice their opinions freely if necessary.
- Helping customers understand how much your business values its reputation because it takes measures to protect itself online. Although these same actions could be seen as desperate attempts to hide negative press, even negative reviews remain online so long as a page or post remains active. As such, other consumers will still see any past bad press, so your online reputation management attempts will not truly disappear anything from anyone's memory.
The Risks of not taking steps to manage your online persona
Online reviews and social media posts are here to stay; that means bad reviews can also haunt you as long as a page or post is still present on the Internet. This makes it even more important for businesses with websites to actively monitor any comments posted about them in order to ensure potential customers have the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. While this takes time, resources, and effort, these efforts represent just a fraction of what a company may spend trying to deal with an actual crisis or lawsuit later on down the road if no measures were taken beforehand.
Taking the time to manage your online reputation is significantly easier, faster, and cheaper than dealing with a crisis once it hits! That aside, companies that take active measures will also see improvements in their overall sales and image which shows potential customers and investors that you are taking every measure possible to improve your business which means you care about your image.
Examples of how companies have used their own social media accounts to protect their reputations
- Pizza Fusion, a family-friendly pizza restaurant based in Arizona, set up an official Twitter account (@WeLovePizzaFusion) where they give away free pizzas, coupons, and other deals to followers. This account also serves as a way for them to manage their reputation by thanking customers for leaving positive reviews about the business on Yelp while addressing any negative feedback directly.
This shows that if Pizza Fusion didn't have an active social media presence they could have been seen negatively by both current or future customers who may have otherwise only seen the negative review online instead of having it addressed. In addition, this strategy helps build brand loyalty among existing customers. We all love getting something for free even if it's just some food!
- Cinnabon has been using its own social media account (@Cinnabon) to address one of the main complaints people have about it (slow service), as well as other common complaints. In addition, Cinnabon has also used their Twitter account to promote coupons and give out samples in order to build goodwill with consumers by treating them better than customers would expect to be treated.
- The fast-food giant KFC recently made headlines after a customer posted pictures online of what appeared to be a burned piece of chicken that they were served at this restaurant. After seeing these pictures gain traction on the Internet, KFC created its own YouTube video responding directly to the situation, uploading it onto its official YouTube channel in order to combat the bad press. In the video, KFC essentially says that the customer in question was mistaken due to not reading the packaging which clearly stated, "Finger-Lickin' Good" instead of a promise of quality chicken.
- This shows that if KFC didn't have an active social media presence they could have been seen negatively by both current or future customers who may have otherwise only seen the negative review online instead of having it addressed. In addition, this strategy helps build brand loyalty among existing customers. We all love getting something for free even if it's just some food!