If you’re Gen Z, like me, you’ll remember hearing this classic phrase in PSHE classes at school: 

“Once you’ve put something online it’s out there forever… even if you delete it”

Another favorite of mine is “don’t post something you wouldn’t if your mum was leaning over your shoulder”. That one’s a bit of a stretch seeing as I don’t know how many of our mums would approve of our bikini photo dumps but anyway…

Online reputation grows in importance as the internet gets smarter. It is for this reason that online businesses carry out Online Reputation Management. 

What is ORM (Online Reputation Management)?

Online reputation management is a combination of strategies marketers use to shape people’s perceptions of a business. When done correctly, it builds trust and positively impacts buying decisions.

Some of the most important facets of online reputation management include review management, social media monitoring, and online community engagement.

Reputation Management VS Brand Safety

Reputation management and brand safety are related in that they both fall under the realm of digital marketing and public relations.

Reputation management involves the overseeing of the public’s perception of a particular business or organization. Brand safety, on the other hand, measures the pros and cons of placing your brand name and/or ads in the specific channels.

Depending on the industry you’re involved in, this includes avoiding inappropriate or offensive material like hate speech or adult content. 

Online Reputation is a First Impression

Your online reputation is your first impression, and you know what they say about first impressions — they’re tough to change. So why not do everything you can to put your best foot forward?  

When you manage your online reputation, you’re ensuring your business appears credible and trustworthy in every consumer interaction.

Your online presence can have a major impact on buying decisions — especially since consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling trust for a business.

If that didn’t convince you, consider the fact that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Reactive vs Proactive Reputation Management Strategies

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but basically reactive reputation management involves responding to negative reviews or feedback posted online.

If your business includes a review section on its website, Facebook profile, or Yelp page, you should monitor these areas so you can react appropriately.

Responding to negative comments shows accountability, and that you’re willing to resolve issues customers have with your product or service. 

Proactive reputation management entails actively promoting and maintaining a positive image of your brand. For example, if your business makes a mistake, the proactive strategy would be to get ahead of the bad press by reaching out to customers, explaining the situation, and providing a plan for how you’re going to fix it.

Active Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation Right Now

Taking a peek at your current reviews is a fantastic way to get the lowdown on what people are saying about your business. Don’t worry if the whole online review scene seems overwhelming – we’ve got some key players to keep in mind.

Google takes the lead with 63% of consumers giving it a thumbs up before checking out a business. Yelp follows closely at 45%, TripAdvisor at 30%, and Facebook at 23%. Focusing on these fab four will help you get a handle on your reputation.

Also, depending on your industry, there might be some niche review sites worth keeping tabs on. Healthgrades for hospitals and HomeAdvisor for home improvement enthusiasts, just to name a couple.

So, what exactly are you looking for in your audit? First, check that your store locations, contact information, and hours are up to date on each review site.

Then, see what customers are saying. Are there positive reviews you should thank customers for? Any negative reviews to respond to?

Are there certain store locations with more negative reviews than others? Are your reviews better on one site than another?

Implement an Online Review Strategy & Respond to Every Review Openly and Honestly

You should also create a system for responding to reviews on every platform. Having a clear, uniform approach with designated parties responsible for responding will help ensure that no positive review goes unnoticed.

Naturally, responding to a positive review and responding to a negative review require entirely different responses. Responding to a positive review usually requires thanks.

Responding to a negative review, however, is more difficult, but that’s why it’s even more important to have a process in place. Always treat the exchange as a conversation and see it as an opportunity for growth.

In general, you should acknowledge the issue, apologize, and never get defensive. You can also request to move the conversation offline to follow up further. A response to a negative review for that same hospitality company could read:

“We’re sorry to hear that you had a negative experience during your recent stay. We’re dedicated to providing the best experience possible. Please call our office — our team is happy to discuss this with you further.”

Encourage Brand Advocacy from Within Your Organization

Happy employees are like the easy-to-reach fruit on the tree of brand advocacy. They’re not only well-versed in your product or service but also eager to give you a shout-out on their personal social media.

Traditional word of mouth works wonders too, and considering their diverse social circles, they might introduce you to entirely new audiences.

Encouraging their engagement with a little incentive can also showcase the perks, inspiring others to join the positive parade. It’s a win-win!

Create Strong Brand Values and Live by Them Every Day

Crafting robust brand values and sticking to them day in, day out is a surefire way to make a lasting impression. When a business aligns its actions with its words, customers sit up and take notice! 

Consistency in messaging, embodying values through actions, and ensuring your online presence mirrors your brand’s core values all contribute to building trust with your audience, cultivating a positive reputation, and fostering customer loyalty.

A mission statement, values, and goals, when not just written but lived, can work wonders for your online standing. 

Establishing a strong brand reputation not only sets you apart in the competitive online landscape but also draws in new customers, enhancing your overall credibility.

Take a page from Patagonia’s book – their commitment to environmental causes, exemplified by a hefty $3 billion donation to fight climate change, earned them a stellar reputation boost in the world of outdoor apparel.

Listen to Your Customers and Make Genuine Improvements to The Buyer Experience

Effectively managing your online reputation isn’t about concealing imperfections or misleading your audience; it’s genuinely about tuning in to their feedback and addressing their concerns.

By consistently ensuring customer satisfaction, you can proactively avoid negative reviews. Yet, this task can be demanding, especially given the current high expectations for the customer experience.

Whenever you come across a negative review or mention on social media, it’s crucial to delve into the root cause. Understand what specifically led to the customer’s dissatisfaction.

Was it an isolated incident involving a particular employee or location, or does it have broader implications for your entire customer base?

Once you identify the issue, take the necessary steps to rectify it. For instance, if a billing problem wasn’t adequately resolved by an agent and left the customer frustrated, consider providing additional training for your team in that area.

Following up with the customer and offering a discount or special incentive can also help smooth things over and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Effective online reputation management is essential for businesses navigating the digital landscape. Strategies like proactive reputation management, responding to reviews openly, and encouraging internal brand advocacy contribute to shaping a positive image. 

Aligning actions with strong brand values builds trust and loyalty. Implementing an online review strategy, staying responsive to customer feedback, and ensuring accurate store information further enhance a brand’s credibility in the competitive digital marketplace. Prioritizing these efforts is crucial for long-term success amid evolving digital trends.

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