A business’ reputation used to be what they said about themselves in their advertising and the reach their customers had via word-of-mouth. Now, consumers are pushing out a company’s reputation and image collectively by providing real-time feedback online through review sites, social media, forums, and other channels. Basically, if it is an online source and a consumer can say something about a business on it, then it is a channel where your business’ reputation should be managed.
Digital marketing and online reputation management for businesses
Online reputation management is a part of a greater digital marketing strategy that works alongside review management, business listings, paid search/ads, social media management, and SEO to help your business stay competitive and relevant online. While your business should be managing each of these segments of digital marketing to maintain your online presence and (consequently) offline reputation, many businesses are not. They really should: four in five consumers surveyed use search engines to find local information from multiple devices to find store address, business hours, product availability, and directions.
Online reputation management: your business has options
Your business’ reputation can be affected at anytime on just about any source across the web. You can use products (SaaS), services (outsource services), or people (outsource or hire a digital marketer) to cut down on your reputation management time expenditure. Even if your business tracks and constantly checks on social media, there may be sources that your business is unaware of such as a new review site from a listing that your business never knew that existed.
Your business should weigh the pros and cons of conducting online reputation management in-house or outsourcing, but there are definite best practices when responding to reviews that your business should be aware of. Maintaining your business’s online presence is one of the most worthwhile services a digital agency or local media company can provide your business and is one of the most worthwhile services you can invest in.
Why your business’s online reputation matters
An online reputation needs to be backed by reviews and ratings by consumers. Without them, there would be no reputation to manage and quite frankly, it would appear as if no one ever visited the business.
Ready or not, consumers are talking about your business
Whether a business chooses to manage their reputation online or not, consumers are talking about their favourite and not-so-favourite businesses. If a business simply ignores their reputation online, the consequences can be detrimental.
Unmanaged negative responses can create an angry mob mentality and bad word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire. While a business may not realize how exactly one instance can affect their online reputation, it is possible that only one negative post on a highly ranked site can actually be what shows up near the top of a search results page when a consumer searches for that business’ name.
Consumers Control the Conversation and Everyone’s Feedback Matters
Social media is a two-way conversation — businesses can no longer broadcast the message they want people to see. There is a democratic nature to social, with brands, consumers, and everyone having an equal voice in a shared space. Customers can rave about a business or let everyone know they had a terrible experience. Social networks have dramatically changed the way businesses communicate. Today, consumers can converse with brands and vice versa as if they were talking to a friend. As a result, businesses have had to become more personable than simply a business entity and manage their social presence in a manner that reflects as such.
Reputation drives conversion
What people see online matters. Approximately 74% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—this is a huge shift in thinking that has become more prominent as time goes on. This trust in reviews translates to dollars, as customers put their money where their trust is. A Harvard Business School study found that a restaurant that sees a one star increase on Yelp will see revenues increase anywhere from 5-9%.
As discussed previously, many businesses find that cultivating their digital profile on their own is too time consuming. There are reputation monitoring tools that make keeping up with customers way easier, saving time and money. Whatever your business does, it is essential that you are not perceived to be ignoring your customers online. The worst thing your business can do is appear unresponsive.
What makes a good online reputation?
Being present (listed online) and having a good reputation (reviews and reputation management) go hand-in-hand. Not being listed on a reference site customers use is just as bad as having bad reviews on that site. Building a consistent online presence and a positive reputation is important for both consumers and search engines. Some of the most important aspects of the online footprint include:
- number of business listings
- consistency of business listing information (name, address, phone, website)
- overall sentiment in reviews
- frequency or current velocity of new reviews
- overall volume of reviews
- social activity and engagement (especially with reviewers)
Customers now view social recommendations and reviews as more authentic, expecting reviews to be a mirror of the actual customer experience that they would experience themselves. This means that maintaining your business’ online reputation is gaining importance as each review is a perceived snippet of what your potential customer expects to experience.
Online reputation management: the main sell
According to Google, 9 out of 10 of local searches lead to action, with more than 50% leading to sales. If businesses have a good web presence, customers will go to them rather than the competitor. Once they’re in the store, 79% of customer use their smartphones inside to look at reviews or compare prices and 74% of them end up making a purchase. Those numbers alone make the opportunity clear: online reputation management is essential for your business to get consumers through your doors to make the sale.