To be relevant online is more important now than ever. Whether you call it online reputation management, or simply just reputation management, it aims for the same thing; to influence what and how people perceive your online presence.
What is online reputation management?
Online reputation management is, simplified, the effort to influence what and how people think of a brand, company or a person online. Since the reputation of a brand has a direct impact on the business, it is of utmost importance that companies see the correlation between a good online reputation and the conversion rate. Because if people don’t like your brand, why should they buy your products or even care about what you do?
In our digital age, it is safe to say that a lot of communication happens online. A lot of reputation management is therefore centered around monitoring and protecting your brand’s online reputation in reviews, social media, and on Google. Companies can use different social listening tools and monitoring software to keep track of how their brand is perceived in real-time. Some tools can even compare your brand to competitors for factors like a share of voice, reach and influence – but more on that later.
What is brand reputation management?
Unlike online reputation management, brand reputation management focuses on the processes of monitoring how consumers perceive your business and taking strategic action when necessary to improve your brand’s image. Some might say that key factors to a successful brand reputation management include openness and honesty, that you show the actual value of your products, that you have a community management strategy that allows you to talk to your customers directly, but also act on the feedback you receive from them.
But before you do anything, you need to understand what people say about your brand and why. You also have to actively work on how to actually improve your online reputation, it is not done in the blink of an eye and needs to be a part of a long-term strategy.
Why should you care about your online reputation?
How people perceive a brand can have a big impact on a company’s success. You cannot control what a person thinks and why, you can however control what they see, which – in turn – shapes the way they think. What people think of a specific brand influences everything about that brand and to sell a product to an audience that doesn’t trust or believe in your brand is difficult, if not impossible.
According to recent studies, over 93% of consumers take online reviews into account when making a purchasing decision. That means that reviews, whether they are positive or negative, have a big impact on a business’s sales. Online reputation management is therefore crucial for the success of a company and you can be sure that a good online reputation will clear the way for a more positive tonality regarding the brand, product or company as a whole. There are, of course, examples of companies where the brand reputation has taken a lot of damage due to external factors, but where a better reputation management plan could have reduced the damages; Ryanair’s failure to act upon a racist incident on a flight in 2018, or how Google failed to to take the necessary steps toward being more accountable and fair employer which led to what is today known as The Google Walkout the very same year, as examples.
What can you control?
So, if you can’t control what people think of your brand, at least, you can take control over what people see and thus what they think about you, but even here your control might be limited. A company may have a reputation problem for years because a customer service agent has a bad day. This means that you, for most part, leave your reputation in the hands of those who perceive your company. In an effort to maintain a positive online reputation, you can:
- Creative positive content and focus on the channels you can actually control, such as your website, blog and social media channels. Reviews on external sites can be improved by using different kinds of online reputation tools.
- Be transparent and open about your shortcomings. A bad customer experience can be converted to an advantage if it is handled the right way since the experience is driven by the customers’ expectations
- Monitor your search results with the help of social listening tools or media monitoring tools and see what is being said about your company and brand. Respond to both positive and negative comments and work actively to improve the problems mentioned.
How to start working on your online reputation
First and foremost, when working on your online reputation management, you will need to set up a strategy. Once you have found out what the overall perception of your brand or company looks like, you will have information about where you need to focus on the improvements. An online reputation strategy will make your challenges, but also your goals more visible.
The next step would be to create a consistent management strategy. This means your target audience is being exposed to core messages, visual branding, and other brand elements repeatedly, which can help to solidify and give credibility to your company. The management strategy should include questions like:
- How do you decide which comments, reviews, or mentions need responses?
Some people might interact with your brand with the sole purpose of diminishing your reputation. Your focus should of course be on responding to comments from real consumers with real problems or questions. If you have too many comments, reviews or questions to handle, prioritize.
Responding to comments and conversations about your brand is not worth it if you don’t have a consistent tone of voice that you follow. If you respond to criticism harshly but with positive comments with returned positivity, it will probably do more harm than good.
- Remember that it is okay to change what is not working
Sometimes, what seems like a really good idea doesn’t work at all. Even though consistency is key, if something in your communication is flat-out not working, change it.
Create the right presence on sites that you control
You have control over your own channels, such as your website and social media channels, so make the best out of them. Make sure that your consumers have easy access to you if they have a problem. Community management is of great importance and to be available 24/7 is today more of a hygiene factor than a market advantage. These days, we are almost surprised if the websites we visit do not have a chat function, and who wants to sit in a phone queue for hours?
Content on your channels should give your audience something more than just information about your products. If you can also educate them with the content you create, you will earn their trust and not appear as someone who just wants their money.
Make sure that people find your message
When working with your online reputation, you will need to encourage search engines to boost important content to the top of the results, where most people will find it. There are many factors that influence the ranking of search results – too many to cover here. In fact, entire websites are dedicated to just that topic, but there are great ways to increase your organic traffic which you can read more about here.
Research and Google yourself
It is not as “egoistic” as you think. In fact, a study from 2017 showed that as much as 82% of companies admitted they Googled themselves as part of their company image control. Googling yourself means you can roleplay as your potential customer – what you see, they also see, whether it is good or bad. Googling yourself is also a great way to find out how you are perceived compared to your competitors.
Media monitoring is the process of scanning public information on digital platforms looking for keywords on particular topics and contexts. By implementing a media monitoring strategy you can find out what and how people talk about your company and brand. For this, several media monitoring tools are available to help you keep track of what is being said about you.
The automation of the media monitoring process can be achieved by deploying machine learning techniques.
Social listening is a way of computing the popularity of a brand, a person, or a company by extracting information from social media channels, such as blogs, social media, different search engines, news sites, and forums with the purpose of collecting data that allows companies to react to these conversations fast, and thereafter interact with their consumers.
Plan and prioritize
Once you know what the overall perception is of your brand, you will know where you will need to focus to improve it. For example, suppose your audit shows that the conversation around your brand is unfavorable. In that case, you will want to employ practices that will help you improve the experiences that people have with your business.
Ask yourself, who will consistently monitor online conversations and how do you decide which comments, reviews, or mentions need responses?
Once you have your online reputation plan in place, it is time to ensure that the plan is complied with and that your employees understand why it is needed and how to apply it in their everyday work. Audit current reviews to understand what people are saying about your products, implement an online review strategy and don’t forget to encourage happy and satisfied customers to leave positive feedback.
Online reputation management is more necessary today than ever before. Every brand and company are at risk for reputation damage, every single day. A fake review on Facebook or a photoshopped image on a forum is all it takes to have your online reputation damaged, or in worst case, destroyed. But, even though it is largely out of your control, there are both proactive and reactive things you can do to manage your reputation. But remember, prevention is better than a cure.