Up until a few years ago, most small businesses brushed off ‘online reputation’ as something only large corporations needed to worry about. However, things are very different these days. Customers have easy access to your social media pages and online reviews at any time, and around 55% of shoppers search for reviews and recommendations online before making a purchase.
Fundamentally, an online reputation management strategy will have a direct effect on your business. This guide will help you take control of your online reputation with the right online reputation management tools and strategy.
Your online reputation is what is being said and shared about you across the internet. It's the digital reputation of your company, your brand, people, products and services. It could be as a result of something your company has shared, or due to interactions and comments from customers. However, it's not only customers who will have an opinion of your brand - their peers, friends, colleagues and anyone who has come across your online presence will too.
Online reputation management is crucial as it can affect your company’s integrity and visibility.
There are so many ways things can go wrong with a brand’s online reputation. Online reputation failures from big brands are countless and can transform a business' reputation overnight. Let’s look at a few examples so you can learn from their mistakes and make sure you know what to do in order to avoid the same fate.
- In May 2019, shares for Metro Bank descended by 11% because they were unable to address incorrect social media rumours regarding its financial health. Rumours quickly spread from WhatsApp to online social media channels like Twitter, and the bank is still scrambling to recover from this.
- In 2018, budget airline Ryanair came under fire after a video went viral from one of their journeys, where many called the company racist with some calling for a boycott. Many media outlets and users across social media accused Ryanair of a weak crisis management approach and pushed its already low reputation even further down.
- Global brand Dove has also seen their fair share of controversies, with the most recent in 2017 where they appeared to show a black woman 'turning white' as a result of using their product. However, this isn't the first time something like this has happened with the brand - in 2014, some of their product bottles suggested that they were suitable for ‘normal to dark skin'.
These are just some examples, but there are plenty out there. The common theme in many examples seems to be the lack of online reputation management strategy and crisis management. The ability to manage your online reputation has never been more crucial than in today’s world, with so many consumers spending more time than ever before online at home.
According to a report by Edelman, almost two-thirds of British people say that a company’s response and behaviour to the COVID-19 pandemic would influence their patronage towards them. Online reputation management is an ongoing process, and needs to be a priority for proactive action throughout your business.
Now that you’re seen what can go wrong, and how your reputation can get ruined online, let’s look at 3 reasons why it's important for your business.
Your online reputation isn't just for your customers, but for your staff and internal business as well. You want your employees to feel proud to represent your brand, and if they are faced with backlash when going about their work, they will be less inclined to stay motivated and happy while working, which can have knock-on effects throughout your business.
Your online reputation can also affect recruitment, as job seekers won't want to be associated with a company that is struggling with online publicity. This shows them that their future might not be stable and gives their portfolio a negative slant as well.
If your company is looking for funding and is on the stock market, a bad online reputation can plummet your stock and discourage investors from giving you any funding. This will impact the future of your business and the reputation it holds for years to come. As in the example above with Metro Bank - despite the rumours not being true - recovery doesn't happen overnight.
As we’ve seen, your online reputation can’t be escaped and spreads very quickly in the online world. People trust other people and are likely to base their opinions and purchase decisions on recommendations. A negative online reputation will put off customers, and encourage others to share negative news in a bid to warn others in their network.
There's undeniably a cross over between Search Engine Optimisation and your online reputation. Successful SEO allows you to take control of your narrative online by controlling the search results that users are presented with when it comes to your brand. When a user searches for your company or any keyword that relates to your brand, you want them to be faced with positive results and not get bombarded with negative reputation pieces. Some top tips for enhancing your SEO include:
- Invest in optimising positive and neutral pages so they rank higher on the search results page (SERP)
- Take control of all aspects of SEO – from online reviews to social media, paid ads to your website and Google My Business assets. Control the narrative across all platforms as much as you can
- Create high-quality content that shows your brand in a positive light and that is engaging and shareable. This will ensure that your content gets picked up by search engines and users alike. Produce videos, write blog posts, post on social media and showcase high-quality graphics that represent your brand and message you want to send out
- Partner with a PR agency or media house to publish news articles that control the broadcast narrative of your business.
Managing your online reputation goes hand-in-hand with a carefully balanced SEO strategy that comprises of consumer and business partner feedback. Let’s now see how you can improve on these aspects further by broadening your SEO plan in line with an online reputation management strategy.
To get a stronghold of your online reputation, focus on each aspect of your online presence individually, including:
Customer reviews are not usually published with a straight-forward aim to rank on the SERP, but they do contribute a lot to your brand’s online reputation and can make it or break it. At Feefo, we make sure that all reviews are genuine, and you won’t have to worry about dealing with fake reviews, which is another problem in online reputation management altogether.
It's also important to respond to reviews quickly and efficiently, especially negative ones. There exists the potential for review moderation in cases of coarse language and the opportunity to liaise with unhappy customers directly so a favourable solution can be agreed upon for both sides. Existing customers will know that you care, and new customers will see how responsive you are in dealing with a situation.
Conduct this periodically to analyse and find areas of reviews that you’re succeeding in and where you might need help. Our Performance Profiling features help you make informed business decisions through the Sentiment Score that helps you measure customer opinion accurately. It includes our Performance Graph feature that groups trends and helps you identify priorities that need action. Optimising the profiles of your performance will help you target your marketing effort to areas that most need it, saving you time, effort and resources in the long-run.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys and NPS: A great way of finding out what your customers think about you and if they will spread this sentiment is by conducting customer feedback surveys and Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to see where your reputation stands in their minds. These are essential ways to collect useful insights on customer satisfaction regarding your products and services, as well as your brand image as a whole. Pay attention to what the customers say in your survey and take immediate action on rectifying any grievances.
Media: It’s not always straightforward and easy to control the media narrative around your business, but as mentioned above, publishing good content and working with a PR agency you trust is a good starting point. Use content marketing techniques to publish thought leadership articles and opinion pieces that showcase the story your brand wants to tell. Use high-quality content to rank on SERPs, and well-written articles will position your brand higher on the page and establish your brand as a company to look up to in your industry.
Many brands launched new campaigns and narratives during the COVID-19 pandemic to reassure their customers of their safety and promote the wellbeing of their employees. Pay attention to your industry trends, events that are of importance to your community and news that your customers are following. It is highly likely that your brand name will get pulled in somehow, so take a proactive approach to control it before someone else does.
There are several tools available online that will help you control, react and manage your online reputation. Some also provide insights into the sentiment of customers based across different locations and your brand perception in different demographics and geographies. Some of our top favourites include:
Mention: A social media and web monitoring tool that provides real-time alerts for your chosen keywords - this can include brand mentions as well as product mentions
Reputology: A platform that helps you monitor and manage online reviews
Brand Grader: Asses other publications, your competitors’ and influencers reputation to see how they compare with yours.
As you can see from previous examples, acting swiftly and efficiently is key to keeping things from going out of control. Online reputation management seems like a lot of work at first, but if you make it part of your process, things will go smoothly. As a trusted review company, Feefo has a variety of products you can use to get you one step closer to effectively building, managing and maintaining the online reputation you deserve.
Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.
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