Protecting Your Online Brand Reputation

A positive brand image can undoubtedly influence a consumer’s decision to buy a product — and in today’s culture building a positive brand image starts online.

No matter the size of your business, people are talking about you. Prospects, customers, clients, and their friends. They are tweeting about your latest product or service, leaving a comment on your blog, posting a Facebook update about their customer experience, and leaving comments on your social media pages.

Did you know that 71% of consumers start their customer journey with a Google search? And that purchasers need to read an average of 10 online reviews before they feel they can trust a local business?

If you think you can grow a profitable business without considering people’s voices, opinions, and reviews online, you need to think again. Your reputation is very dependent on social media and online reviews.

There are a lot of misconceptions about online reputation management. Some folks think it has something to do with public relations, while others believe it’s just social media monitoring, and many have no idea the impact it can have on sales.

What Exactly is Brand Reputation Management?

Brand reputation management is the process of monitoring how consumers perceive your business and taking strategic action when necessary to improve your brand’s image. Nowadays, reputation management is centered around monitoring and protecting your brand’s online reputation in reviews, social media, and Google.

Why Does Reputation Management Matter?

The internet was very different just a few years ago. Brands didn’t really engage customers. They just sold (or tried to sell) to a listening audience. Followers did not have the ability to express their voice in a powerful way, and the overall communication landscape was very “top down.”

That situation has drastically changed. Today, regular interactions on social networks are vital for any business success.

The Key to Online Reputation Management: Listen To What People Are Saying About Your Brand and Respond Appropriately

What are people saying about you? Good online reputation management is not just reacting well to what people say about you, your brand, or your products and services, but also about whether to react at all and, if so, when.

Sometimes a reaction is not necessary, and sometimes a reaction that is too late can cost you thousands of dollars or more!

We’ve seen many “fails” when it comes to handling online brand management:

  • United Airlines lost over $1 billion in market value after a video of a passenger being violently forced away from an overbooked flight went viral. The video earned over a million mentions a day and over 100 million views. The CEO of United Airlines was accused of failing to deal with the situation and the lack of PR crisis management.
  • Nestlé also faced a notorious failure in reputation management when they were publicly accused by Greenpeace of harmful environmental practices. While Nestlé failed to react to the rising social media crisis, it even worsened it by asking YouTube to remove the Greenpeace video. In the aftermath, the company was forced to temporarily shut down its public page as people started posting the altered version of their Kit Kat logo all over the web.

Although these are examples are larger organizations, you have likely seen someone in the small business world reply inappropriately and damage their brand.

Remember: There Is No “Delete “Button for Negative Reviews

The Internet keeps almost everything. Whatever people are saying about your business online is likely to stay online, whether it’s good or bad. But you actually have a chance of altering a negative opinion about your business.

By using an appropriate response, you can turn an unhappy customer into a loyal fan. According to a Lee Resource study , 70% of customers who complained and got a satisfying response from the business will come back and do business again. Harvard Business Review also published a study that revealed that customers whose complaints got handled in less than 5 minutes tended to spend more on future purchases from your business.

How to Manage Your Brand’s Online Reputation

Your online reputation is your reputation. You need to take a proactive approach consists of monitoring your public reputation regularly.

How do you do this? Here are a couple of tips.

  1. Monitor what people are saying. You can do this by using social media monitoring tools that keep an ear on what people are saying about your brand. It can be both DIY (Google Alert is an example of a free web monitoring tool accessible to anyone) and professional, depending on the size of the business involved. In addition to all the reasons to monitor your online reputation, social media monitoring also can increase sales. Lots of people ask questions on your social pages because they evaluate whether or not they should buy from you. Showing you are responsive makes your brand look reliable.
  2. React quickly and politely. If you have a customer complaining about you on social media, a prompt and simple “Thanks for making us aware of the problem. We are working on it and will get back to you as soon as possible.” is better than a late reply with more information. Do not respond in a negative or aggressive manner.

Managing your online reputation starts with listening to what your customers have to say and finding ways to connect with them. Listen to customer feedback and respond to negative feedback with helpful, actionable solutions when possible.