It is definitely the golden age of brand exposure. There have never been so many ways to showcase your product or service to consumers and prospects. Website, search engine, social media, industry blogs, consumer blogs, B2B, review websites: the number of ways you can connect with an audience is limitless. But with all this exposure can come risk. Companies that aren’t careful with their communications or their customer experience strategy can come under fire from all types of platforms.
Fortunately, you can learn from all the successes and errors out there, and make sure that your brand reputation only flourishes from your online activity. Here, we take a look at some of the ways you can maintain your brand reputation online.
Fill space with an online presence on YOUR terms
Do not believe the myth that the workings of SEO are shrouded in mystery and ever-changing. While, naturally, there are some tweaks to the algorithms, the fundamental workings of SEO stay the same. Positive, natural-feeling content fills space and supports your brand. Negative content and white space undermine your brand. While it’s important to be responsive to the changing demands of SEO, you must have a solid, comprehensive strategy to block your online space with quality content.
If you make sure that all possible awareness routes to your brand are fully optimised with positive content, then you reduce the risk that any negative exposure, reviews, or ratings can present.
Give your customers reason to shout your praises
Apart from happy, well-trained staff, customer approval is unquestionably one of the most important things for your company. Warren Buffet put it best when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” At Feefo, we understand this, which is why our “Connect” toolkit has a diagnostic structure at its heart. We know how important it is to interrogate what people actually think of your brand, otherwise, it’s impossible to keep consumer engagement positive.
Negative reviews are practically entertainment now. Particularly acerbic ones can achieve a lot of traction and replication online, and companies with poor customer service can even make articles in national newspapers. The fact is that customers now do expect better, and that’s no bad thing. Make your customer experience a point of real pride. We all know how it feels to deal with someone in a business underpaid and under-engaged. They don’t feel like they matter, and therefore you don’t feel like you matter.
But remember that when customers feel great about the service they have received, they will talk about it publicly, especially if you encourage them and make it easy to do so. This kind of brand reinforcement shows authentic engagement and will be a major draw for new business.
Entertain your audience
You will have heard this before, but prospective purchasers do more research about what they are buying and who from than ever before. This goes for existing customers too. If you have gone through this process yourself, you will understand the saturation that can begin to occur after too many reviews saying different things. Having consistent reviews all saying positive things will help, but this is a long-term maintenance issue, and all your competitors will be trying to ensure this too.
This is where brand power and standout come in. Be aware of what keywords researchers are using. Where else can you take them? Not everyone is in a position to make that “viral” ad that everybody talks about, and it is better not to do that than to do it badly. But you can offer your customers more than an endless forest of reviews. Get to know what your customers are talking about, what they value, and think about how you can stand out to them in a different way.
Think about using:
- Graphics to inform and illustrate how a product or process works. Visual information stands out, especially now.
- Video content can do the same; shoppers are three times more likely to watch a YouTube tutorial on how a product works than read the brand instructions.
- Q&A in a form that reflects your customer demographic.
- Audio content for people who are busy or non-desk based.
- Differentiated content for different degrees of interest. Have something for every stage of the research journey. In the USA, the average amount of time people spend researching before they buy is 79 days. It makes sense that the depth of that research will alter over time, so ensure that your content has depth as well as breadth.
Worse than a disappointing product experience is the feeling that you are not being listened to. That’s when people get angry. Equally, if you spend time bigging up a company you’ve liked, the absence of a thank you can feel like a slight. There is no shortcut to this. It requires discipline, strategy, support, and excellent staff training.
We know it’s tough to stay on top of, and we really want to make it as easy as we can for you. The number of channels that customers use can feel overwhelming at first, but it can be addressed systematically with features that work across social media channels, email, website, and even real-life 3D space. If you become known for the quality of your responses to both complaints and compliments, then the impact on your brand could be colossal. It’s not so much a feature of a brand strategy, as a value that needs to run through your company like the words run through a stick of rock.
Use your customer feedback to improve
Your customers can also be the key to changes that will really benefit you. From Innocent gaining banana-adverse customers to McDonald’s UK and Ireland commitment to plastic-free happy meals and Adidas’ ocean-waste upcycling sports products, there are so many examples of companies that have become known for listening.
Every company has its issues and problems but, unsurprisingly, the ones that aren’t afraid to acknowledge them are the ones that manage this natural part of business best. It might be that you have a product issue or limitation. Of course, you will need to spend some time monitoring how much of a consumer issue it really is by tracking who and how many people are talking about it. It may be that you can easily rectify the issue with existing customers, or even gain a new customer base like Innocent did by creating a banana-free product.
Customer experience is by far the most common reason people complain, however. It’s certainly much easier to deal with these procedural issues than to go back into product development. It’s also well worth making sure that you broadcast as much information you can to support customers to solve their own problems. When the process is in the customer’s hands, they are empowered and there is less tax on your staffing. Imagine if ASOS hadn’t thought of putting returns in the hands of the consumer? Their product wouldn’t make sense and they would never have the reach that they do now.
Be consistent in brand tone and message
This is an age-old piece of advice, but it’s never been more relevant. With the sheer number of outlets for your brand and communication, it’s tempting to try and become all things to all people. Often brand fragmentation is completely accidental. Many of the tips above are about responsiveness, but it is essential to remember who you are, what you do, and how your customers recognise you.
We know that, especially in the context of the pandemic, customer loyalty has been shaken. People research more broadly now before purchasing than ever before. It’s never been more important to remain recognisable. If the look, feel and tone of your communications are all over the place, that is a first indication to your customer that your reliability may be in question. So, invest in the brand training that your staff is given and ensure that they feel like a crucial part of that bigger whole.
This is not to say that every social media post needs an extensive sign-off procedure. If this is the case, then it may be that your brand voice isn’t realistic. The nature of the beast is that you need to sound like your brand, but you also need to sound like a person. Social media and comms staff who are fully confident in the balance between brand and individual can be one of your greatest assets.
Be bold with your brand presence and remember the basics; positive content on your terms will drown out the rest of the noise. Value your existing customers and make sure they have as many opportunities to be brand ambassadors as they can be. Remember that some negative feedback is always going to be there, but it doesn’t have to be damaging if you listen and use it as an opportunity to do better.