Digital marketing pros have spent a ton of time offering advice on managing online reviews and content for local business — but online reputation is a more complicated concern than just reviews in the more popular directories like Yelp and Google.
If you have been in business for any length of time, you most certainly have run into an issue with a customer that resulted in a bad review. Ideally, you would like to resolve things before it reaches a point where a customer believes they can only be heard through social media or feels a need to warn people to avoid your business. Today’s review economy has made it so customer testimonials, even shared among strangers, can have a significant impact on a buying decision.
But, if you’ve taken a proactive approach to deal with online criticism of your company, the impact of one or two critical reviews can be minimized when an effective response game plan is at the ready.
Opting Out Of Reputation Management Is Not An Option
For many small businesses, the absence of a good reputation management program sets them up as a sitting duck. When you have little more than a website and a few social media accounts to represent you online, you’re in a precarious position if anyone starts a campaign to go after you. Just a simple thread on a popular social media platform could rank in search engines and appear higher in search results. For any established local business, people could frequently be searching for you by your business or brand name, and having bad comments or reviews rank in branded search results will, at some point, probably negatively impact your bottom line.
Online reputation management has been a growing segment of online marketing for years. It’s never been more critical than today when 93% of all consumers in the 35-54 year age group will 'always' look at reviews when making a purchase decision.(Local Consumer Review Survey, 2019)
An astounding 33% of consumers are reading reviews on a DAILY basis(Local Consumer Review Survey, 2019).
In this instant information age climate, it’s essential that you are telling your business story online and controlling the narrative. Because the internet will tell the story for you, if you - but you may not like the way they say it!
A business that doesn’t work on building a robust online presence and a 5-Star reputation will more than likely pay massive costs later in terms of lost revenues, crisis management episodes, and repairing an appearance, they neglected.
For businesses linked tightly to the identities of their proprietors and Founders, the profiles of their executives, can be another online presence that requires managing proactively. For similar reasons as the business, neglecting to build a positive story on the web for these executives leaves one as a big target if a negative story comes along because you have produced nothing to push back against such allegations. Choosing reactive over proactive is rarely the right choice to make.
One of the only things worse than not engaging in online media is mishandling it. You can do more damage to yourself than any outsider could if you handle your social media poorly or demonstrate to the world you don’t know what you’re doing. Entrepreneurs and local business employees sometimes develop a significant case of hubris. Sometimes out of a jack-of-all-trades necessity, and attempt to take on managing a social media brand awareness effort that they don’t have the skillset to pull it off.
Knowing how to build a great product or service and being able to do all the things necessary to manage and run a small business successfully doesn’t automatically make you a compelling online storyteller.
With these concerns in mind, let’s review 10 tips for your online reputation marketing plan.
1. Create A Presence On Relevant Web Properties And Social Media Sites
Your company probably already has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google My Business, at minimum. If you don’t, that should be your first stop! In highly competitive markets or verticals, if you don’t do this when your competitors already have, you’re giving away business opportunities.
If you’re in the B2B space or a professional type of businesses, having a LinkedIn presence may be valuable. For visually appealing products, using Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr may be necessary. And, most companies will benefit from some number of videos shared through sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Dailymotion. Both live, and pre-recorded video has exploded in importance on most of the major social media platforms.
2. Don’t Neglect Fresh Content On Social Media
It’s essential to keep a steady flow of content across your social media Accounts. Only having a Twitter, Facebook, and Google My Business profile for your business is not enough — you need to build and nurture your audience by staying in touch. Social media is where you can start and encourage the conversations and relationships that turn introductions into lifetime customers. Don’t pass up the opportunity. Not to mention the ability to increase your influence and authority in your market.
You want to build active accounts with healthy engagement to outrank any negative postings that might come along. We can’t predict how Google or Bing will rank and display the content in your social media accounts, but you can be darn sure that if you have a thin content profile, you will have nothing with which to counter.
3. Consider Both Your Brands And Your Products
You may need social media accounts for more than just your company name if you have a highly- recognizable brand. You might consider developing content to rank for those brand names as well. You may need to develop websites, landing pages, or social media profiles with collateral materials just to stake claim to those brand names.
4. Protect Company Individuals Associated With The Business
Develop a strong social media presence for your executives, particularly if they are prominent names in the community. As mentioned above, keeping a low online profile in pursuit of privacy just leaves you wide open for the drive-by haters!
For many businesses, the company is tightly associated with its executives. In situations like this, a solid reputation management strategy is crucial. Consumers will often search by name for doctors, dentists, and lawyers (for a few examples), so reducing association risk through the use of collateral brand-boosting should be considered.
5. Deploy Authorship When Possible
Declaring Authorship can be a top marketing tactic when done correctly. Especially for businesses where a proprietor or /owner is closely associated with the business’ identity.
Using the author tags appropriately in posted content assumes you’ll be doing some ongoing publishing of articles or blog posts over time. Otherwise, it’s not a worthwhile exercise.
6. Blog Consistently
Blogging is the apparent followup to the previous tip. Article writing is the perfect answer for maintaining a fresh stream of content for a website. These blog posts can then be shared or summarized in supporting social media accounts for double the benefit.
As a reputation strategy, it provides you the opportunity to rank the company, the brand, and the author at the same time. It also provides a “home turf” scenario where any incoming critical comments would be in a forum and format where you are better prepared to control the narrative.
7. Listen With Empathy
Responding to online complaints is a strategy within itself. When done correctly, it becomes an opportunity to showcase your superior customer service for all the world to see. You must be open to recognizing where there may be flaws in your business or your process, there is nothing to fear. The feedback may expose weaknesses that you may otherwise not be aware of and present the opportunity for corrective action.
Be flexible, be responsive, and be genuinely interested in making the customer happy at the end of the day. It will pay huge dividends over the long haul.
8. Apologize When Necessary
If you’re in business for any length of time, you’ll have a “‘dinger.” That one customer who is hard to please or that situation that is simply beyond your control. If you or your company messed up, apologize! Be sure it’s genuine. Be as transparent as possible with the customer and work with them toward a resolution that satisfies both parties.
But don’t be disingenuous or defensive. It will make a bad situation worse in almost every case.
You would be surprised at how many bad reviews have resulted in positives or at least neutrals with the proper approach.
9. Don’t Get Into Online Arguments
We’ve all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.” That’s true even if they are wrong. ☺
It’s easy to get drawn into an online spat — but even if you’re technically in the right, you will probably lose out overall because you can come across as petty, harsh and unprofessional. Worse, you might be wrong. When you let your emotions get the better of you, you may end up saying or doing things that damage your brand’s reputation even further. There are some classic examples of this across the web.
Your best plan is to diffuse the situation, move the communications offline, and attempt to resolve. Go out of your way to be more agreeable in online interactions than you even might be otherwise. Because in those situations and how you deal with them in front of all to see are disguised opportunities.
Customers understand that issues will arise. They want to know and feel that they will be treated fairly and with respect when they do.
10. Investment In Reputation
Building a 5-Star online reputation requires an investment of both time and money. But it does not have to be prohibitively expensive, either. Most local businesses are either ignoring this need or attempting to do it themselves. Maybe on a shoestring budget, or on a “when they have time” basis.
That’s going to hurt, eventually.
We suggest that social media and a proactive reputation marketing plan should be considered vital elements in an economy where reviews are served up so quickly and frequently in the customer journey.
But if you don’t have the technical expertise, doing it yourself may not be good enough or could hurt your brand. Consider investing today. If you don’t have the time or don’t know how to consider hiring a professional. But don’t continue putting it off until it’s too late later.
Some Final Thoughts
Implementing some of these strategies can help put you and your business in a better position if or when someone comes along to attack your good name. Putting in place a solid reputation management plan is going to cost a little today, but it can save you a bunch later. A positive reputation is a form of insurance.
It won’t magically prevent an incident, but it can mitigate the damage. Better yet, take it to the next level and market that shiny new 5-Star reputation and it can pay dividends well into the future with increased revenue and brand awareness, adding to your bottom line.
We can’t remove legitimate negative items about your or your brand. But we can build, over time, a massive bank of positives that push them to the back pages of the internet.
Small business today is much more susceptible to online attacks than at any time previously due to the speed and the reach of the internet.
This is why a proactive reputation strategy will pay off!
We hope you found these tips helpful.
We believe we have the perfect platform for all of these needs, and we would be happy to have a free consultation to show you how we can help.
Reach out to us at Chamber Boost today or leave a comment below with specific challenges you are facing with online reputation.