Managing your business’s online reputation in 2019
Most successful businesses recognise that in this day and age, there is an obvious need for maintaining your reputation.
Brands and businesses around the world rely on reputation for bringing in new customers and profit, as well as keeping their existing customer base satisfied.
Reputation management has in turn become an increasingly important aspect of managing a business, and because most businesses have an online presence, your online reputation is your business’s reputation.
An entire industry has been spawned from this need for managing your reputation, with dozens of companies offering reputation management services. In many cases though, that’s not necessary, and you can manage your online reputation yourself with little effort.
In this article we will explain what online reputation is, how it affects your business, what happens if you neglect your online reputation, and how you can manage your online reputation in 2019.
What does online reputation mean?
Reputation in the online world generally refers to influencing and controlling the public relations, customer communications, social media, and search results to give users an idea of your business’s reputation.
It’s a fairly broad term and essentially whenever opinions are held by a large number of users, this is referred to as reputation.
A simpler way of thinking of it is if you were going to buy a product online, would you be more likely to complete the purchase if the product was rated 5 stars, or 1 star?
How valuable is my online reputation?
Your company’s online reputation is extremely important in determining the future growth of your business, as well as maintaining a solid customer base.
When people find your business online, they’re going to want to get a positive impression at a first glance. This means seeing engaging, meaningful content alongside good reviews and customer interactions.
The way websites work has changed dramatically over the last few years, changing from static pages with minimal to no interaction with the users, to dynamic content which users regularly interact with.
Having a good reputation can make a massive difference to the success of your company, and if you manage to gain a stellar reputation you’ll be able to reap the many benefits – which isn’t just bringing in new customers!
Good reputation means people are more likely to recommend you to their friends but it also means that your existing customer base will be more satisfied with the products and services they receive.
What can happen if I neglect my online reputation?
Reputation in the online world didn’t used to be a particularly important aspect of running a business, however the times have changed and the internet is now the most popular way to purchase goods or services.
In turn, the need for maintaining your online reputation has become more important than ever. Not everyone realises this though, and there’s plenty of companies out there that have spectacularly bad online reputation. Just take a look at Trustpilot and see the reviews on some of the lower rated businesses.
Failing to uphold your company’s online reputation can have catastrophic consequences. First and foremost, potential new customers will be turned away when they see inadequate content, poor reviews, or controversial PR – which will in turn lower the profit your business brings in.
Your existing customer base can also be affected by poor online reputation. If one of your current customers sees a very poor review of your company for example, they might want to move to a different company. Similarly if customers hear something controversial about your employees in a press release, they might feel uncomfortable and want to move to a different provider.
There are many more reasons why you shouldn’t neglect your online reputation, but now we’re going to move on to how you can maintain your online reputation, both actively and passively.
Have you checked your business reviews?
You may already be aware about product or service reviews, where influencers or popular reviewers take a look at a company’s product or service, and review it in terms of price, performance, and any other relevant criteria.
What you might not be aware of though, is just how important reviews can be when trying to improve and build on your company’s online reputation.
Having a popular reviewer or influencer review your products can make a huge difference to your online reputation, either negatively or positively.
If done correctly, you can help greatly boost your exposure and brand awareness, as the reviewer’s followers will see that your company is reputable and they might even be inclined to become a customer. Additionally you might find that other reviewers will be more likely to review your product, as they will be able to see that your company performs well and provides good products or services.
New customers considering choosing your company’s products will also be able to see that your company offers what they need, so they will no doubt be more likely to choose you over a competitor.
On top of this, your website’s SEO will improve because the reviews will contain backlinks to your website, so you may even have a chance of ranking higher on the search pages.
Getting positive reviews of your business will also bring a range of additional benefits however, this can also swing in the other direction.
Negative reviews of your company will bring with it a whole host of problems, which you want to avoid at all costs!
Negative reviews for your business will have a massive effect on your online reputation, not just in the short term, but in the long run as well!
As you have probably guessed already, new customers will be completely dissuaded from going with your business for that particular product or service – they’ll be able to see that your business operates at a low standard and provides poor quality goods or services!
This also extends to your current customer base – they may feel the need to switch to a different provider if the service you’re offering isn’t up to scratch.
Your SEO will also be affected by negative reviews, but not in a good way! If a popular reviewer or influencers gives a negative review of your website, it will quite likely rank high in the Google search results pages when people search for your business, meaning one of the first things they’ll see about you is bad reviews!
These factors combined can greatly affect your online reputation and as such, it’s important to try and avoid bad reviews in general.
For many content marketers and business owners, getting reviews for your website in the first place can be a rather difficult hurdle to overcome.
With the massive selection of product reviewers and influencers out there, how do you know where to start?
Before getting into influencers and reviewers, let’s take a look at websites we can use to gather reviews for our business.
When you create your business and establish your online identity, you should also sign up to review websites where you can collect reviews of your products or services from your own customers.
Many of these websites are free so you don’t need to account for them in your budge. Once you are setup on one (or ideally more!) of these websites, you can even prompt your users to submit their own reviews to help further build your brand’s reputation. Adding links to your review pages on your email signatures for example is a great way of doing this.
Trustpilot is a great website for gathering reviews and is widely used for businesses of any kind. This free website lets users post their own reviews and even lets you reply to customer reviews, if any customer submits a factually incorrect review for example.
Yelp is another great alternative to Trustpilot, and provides a very similar service in that customers can submit reviews and comments. While Yelp is especially helpful due to businesses that rely on local trade, due to it’s location tools, it’s helpful for any kind of business and is definitely worth trying out.
Which? is another good website to use when looking for customer reviews. Most business types are included on this site, and as usual you can gather customer reviews and expand your business reach.
Google allows for reviews of physical locations or businesses so make sure not to forget about the biggest search engine of all time!
Social media websites such as Facebook also commonly allow for reviews to be posted on businesses and companies, and as these sites are used by so many people it’s important to try and make sure that these reviews are good ones.
Things to avoid:
When gathering reviews for your company or business, there are several “black hat” techniques that have been used in the past to get positive reviews for your company.
These techniques should be avoided at all costs, because the search engines have become much smarter and can now easily recognise these types of techniques.
Using these will not only not improve your online business reputation, they could also damage it irreparably.
Avoid doing the following things:
- Paying for reviews from websites or other sources. Not only will Google and most other search engines recognize this, but most websites of these kind aren’t reputable and won’t help build your reputation
- Posting fake reviews on review websites. If you do this you run a huge risk of being seen as fraudulent, and you may also be banned from obtaining legitimate reviews from these websites.
- Deleting negative reviews from customers. While many websites don’t allow for this, some do, and it’s important for your company’s integrity as well as it’s public image. Don’t delete your negative reviews as they show legitimacy in your business.
- Responding poorly to negative reviews. If the person has factually incorrect information then of course you can correct them, but avoid arguing or saying controversial statements in reply to customer reviews. You don’t want people to think your customer support is rude!
How to manage your company’s online reputation
Many companies nowadays would have you believe that you need to hire their services in order to keep a good reputation in the online world.
Fortunately, this is not the case, and there are a great number of steps you can take both actively and passively, to give your business the best chances of having a good online reputation.
First, let’s start with what you can actively do to improve and maintain your company’s online reputation.
Active ways to build your online reputation:
In this section we will go over all of the steps you can actively take to improve and manage your online business reputation.
By this we mean proactive measures that can be taken whenever you feel necessary, rather than passive measures that need to be implemented over time into your existing company’s structure.
Social Media, do you have it?
As you may be aware, in this day and age social media forms a huge part of the reputation for any business.
Since interactions between prospective customers, existing customers, and also staff members take place, it’s important to make sure that all communications are handled professionally and courteously.
This can be managed in a more passive way though, which we will cover later on.
Managing social media needs to be done in a proactive manner as well. The most popular social media platforms are first and foremost, spaces where content is shared between like minded individuals and companies.
As such, one of the biggest ways you can maintain your online reputation in social media is to regularly share high quality content with your followers. Good content to be sharing from your business’s social media pages include:
- Relevant news articles and posts from your industry
- Valuable content from your own website such as new pages or products
- If you run a company blog, then well-written and engaging blog articles are a great way of gaining interest
- Promotions or special offers relating to your products or services
- Competitions and giveaways
Before doing this though, you should make sure to fully understand exactly what kind of content your followers are interested in.
This can be understood by using the tools that each respective social media platform offers for researching follow interests.
Facebook for example has an ad targeting service that lets you target particular demographics by their interests, location, or a number of other variables.
To save time with managing different social media platforms, it’s worth using a social media management platform. Online platforms such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Social Pilot offer affordable plans with tools to help save time with everything from scheduling posts, to creating targeted ads.
Blog Posts, do you put your expertise to good use?
Managing and maintaining an active blog for your website is a great way of gaining interest in your brand, as well as your products or services. It’s also a good way of maintaining your online reputation.
Most industries have an active community of like-minded individuals and companies creating content based on their respective products or services. High quality blog articles deliver useful, interesting, or humorous information to people who are interested in the business.
Take your favourite brand or company, where you go back to time and time again for the products or services you need. Do they run an active blog on their website? Chances are they do. If you are interested in a particular product and you see that the company doesn’t run a blog, you might be inclined to think that they aren’t invested in knowing the industry and helping out the customer.
Before you start writing your blog articles you should do some research into what competitors in your industry are writing about. Take notes on the kind of content they’re writing about, what topics they focus on, what news they write about, and how successful their content performs.
Don’t copy your competitors, instead get an idea of how you can design blog content that will not only provide useful information to your customers, but also outshines whatever content your competitors are delivering.
Some ideas for the types of content you can write about include:
- Current and ongoing news content in your relevant industry
- Upcoming promotions, deals, or special offers
- Detailed analysis reports, case studies, or research pieces
- Press releases for your business’s products or services
On our blog for example, we write on a lot of different topics covering everything related to the internet or web hosting, from SEO and WordPress plugins, to online marketing.
Passive Steps can also help:
Now that you’ve learned how you can actively improve your online reputation, let’s go through some of the ways you can passively manage your online reputation over the upcoming days, months, and even years.
The way you communicate with your customers will be the first thing that prospective customers see when they interact with your social media pages, reviews, or customer support.
Good communication is essential in keeping a good public image – as well as keeping your existing customer base happy.
Customer communications may seem like another way of saying customer service etiquette, but it doesn’t just involve the way your customer service agents communicate with your customers.
Firstly, how you communicate with your customers over social media channels is very important, as it’s one of the first things that prospective customers will see when they search for your company’s name in any search engine.
Areas that you will most often find yourself speaking to customers are: instant messaging systems, comments on posts, FAQ sections, and groups.
- Handling instant messaging is fairly straightforward, just make sure to keep a fast response time to messages, speak politely and be informative.
- Comments on posts can be handled similarly, as long as your replies are informational enough to resolve the query without needing additional comments.
- FAQ sections can be dealt with in the same way, just ensure that you’re providing the correct information.
- Communicating in groups on social media can be a more complex problem, depending on the type of industry you’re in. As always, just remaining courteous and polite, while providing as much information as possible.
Another key point is to remain transparent with your customers. In other words, don’t withhold important information from them, especially if it’s involving a technical issue they’ve raised with you or an important query.
Obviously don’t give out confidential information, but don’t keep your customers in the dark about what’s happening behind the scenes.
For anyone coming from a customer service background, handling customer communications may seem like second nature.
It’s always useful though to check over your replies and make sure that you’re not getting sloppy, otherwise potential customers will notice!
Handling Criticism, use it to build your brand!
At some point when running your company, no matter what type of business you’re in, you’re going to come up against some criticism and complaints.
No business is exempt from this – just take a look at the reviews for any company you can think of, and you’ll undoubtedly see some bad reviews riddled with complaints.
Unfortunately even if you run your business in the most professional manner possible, you may still get criticism and complaints from time to time.
The most important thing you can do though, is to make sure you know the correct ways to handle criticism or complaints, in a way that doesn’t backfire on your or your reputation. That doesn’t mean that you can accept any criticism even if it’s factually incorrect though.
Complaints over instant messaging platforms are the easiest to handle. Most of the time you can direct them to a manager’s email address to contact, or a support platform to go through. You don’t often need to deal with complaints over instant messaging platforms, unless you are having technical issues with your official complaints escalation methods.
Criticism over social media on public-facing posts requires you to communicate in a professional, polite manner. Understand exactly what the customer was unhappy with, explain to them that you’ll make the necessary changes where possible, or explain why you can’t make the changes they want.
The customer isn’t always right, but without an explanation from your side you may find that your replies can backfire on you.
Review sites are typically where you’ll find the majority of the criticism and complaints against you. Most customers won’t post reviews when they’re satisfied with the service, so you’ll often see more bad reviews than you do good reviews – this is common.
While you don’t always have to reply to reviews, with some particular reviews you might be inclined to respond to the customer, especially if they have the facts wrong.
Make sure when replying to complaints that you remain extra polite and courteous, while also making it clear that certain facts in their complaint are inaccurate. Customers will take the negative review less seriously if they see that the person complaining is in the wrong.
Feedback from users
While you manage a business or an online website, you will from time to time receive feedback from your users. Whether it’s negative feedback, or positive feedback, it’s all constructive and can be used to improve the level of service your company offers.
When possible, try and get feedback from customers as much as possible, because otherwise you might not be able to recognise where you should focus on improving.
Negative feedback should be used as an opportunity to improve on the area that has been complained about. If a user complains about a lack of service, specific products, or staff conduct, then how can you guarantee that someone else isn’t going to complain about the same thing?
The only way you can guarantee that is if you take the opportunity to fix the issue, where possible. You may not be able to make positive changes from all the feedback you receive, but when you can, try and improve.
Positive feedback doesn’t require you to take as many proactive measures, as nothing has been highlighted as an area that your business lacks in. When you receive positive feedback, it’ll help you realise which aspects of your business are succeeding in making customers happy. You can then build on those aspects and aim to provide an even better experience for your customers.
There’s simply no one conclusion to arrive to when it comes to managing your online reputation in 2019, however there are some clear steps you can take when starting out which will make a big difference in the long run.
First and foremost, it’s imperative to ensure that all of your online communications with your customers or potential customers are as courteous, polite, and friendly as possible – as nothing is a bigger deterrent than bad customer service!
The next most important area to consider is your online reviews. While you can’t directly change customer reviews, you can take steps to ensuring that bad reviews are submitted less often. This includes not only listening to criticism, but also adapting to overcome your shortcomings to give your customers less reason to review you badly.
Finally, never forget to try and see your business from a potential customer’s perspective. Doing so will more easily allow you to identify the areas where you need to make changes, as well as where your strengths are.