In the old pre-social media days, reputation management was more about word of mouth, but nowadays, everyone has an opinion which is why you need to be 100% on top of your online reputation management.
Websites engage directly with your customers, each of which have an opinion that they are not afraid to share! Whether you’re a small owner managed business or a large corporate, your customers will be talking about you, and you need to know what they are saying.
Do you know what people are saying about your business?
How much control do you have over what people are saying about you? If you are not engaging with social media, you should be, and you need to know what people are saying. If not, your company could be suffering as a result of poor public opinion, something that you can easily address by addressing negative comments and acknowledging positive ones.
Rather than allowing comments to circulate randomly outside of your website, why not provide your own method of reputation management, directly on your website?
Many smaller business owners will argue that their company is too small to worry about engaging with their online audience, but the reality is in fact the complete opposite. With a small business, it’s essential to maintain a communication channel between you and your customers, and to interact with them.
Reputation Management Essentials
- Monitor your online mentions – Online references to your business, particularly in social media are a goldmine in terms of interacting with your audience. It not only shows you care about your customers, but also that you’re active online.
- React proactively to negative comments – The worst thing you can do about a negative comment is argue with the reviewer or become aggressive with them. The most constructive way to respond is to attempt to understand the basis of the comment and attempt to re-assure the author that you have taken their comment on board, and will deal with it. Aggressive or argumentative responses will simply give the reviewers comment more kudos, and show you in a bad light.
So what if someone is deliberately defaming your business or name?
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, there are obvious limitations. If you believe a review or comment has been left maliciously, don’t respond in a negative way, simply contact the owner of the site or review platform where the comment was made, and report the post. Sometimes it can take a while, but if the publisher of the platform believes the post was malicious, then in most cases they will delete the post.
If the comment was a genuine post about a negative experience the user had, then you need to respond in a helpful, sympathetic manner and don’t rise to any unpleasant language. Remember, readers will be focusing on the way you respond just as much as the original comment.
Should I respond to all comments?
This is where you need to exercise good judgement. Sometimes it’s better to simply opt not to respond to some comments. You’ll know when a comment is necessary or when it’s probably better to let it go.
The key is to be pro-active and constructive, and don’t get into an online argument or insult reviewers, no matter how provocative their comments may be.
As well as reviews on social media or review platform sites, you also need to give consideration to editorial about your company on external websites. While this might be more akin to larger brands, if you have a notable local presence, people may well also be talking about you on other popular websites, not just social media.
Depending on how active you are in digital marketing for your business, it’s perfectly possible that a review or article on an external website may well rank higher than your own website in search engine results. If this is the case and the article is of a negative nature, this may well have a hugely detrimental effect on your brand.
Clever search marketing can overcome this problem by forcing your own content higher in search results than negative articles.
Earning your stars
Trust starts right from search engine results for many consumers. You may have noticed the yellow star ratings against some results when you do a Google search, these stars can be generated not only from Google reviews, but also other review platforms. But how do you earn your stars?
Most review platforms will output your aggregate rating in the form of rich snippets. Without rich snippets, your search results appear like the majority of others:
While the Currys result appears above John Lewis, the latter features rich snippets that includes the aggregate rating, as well as a price and stock status. This immediately draws the users eye and the confidence given by the customer rating is likely to generate far more clicks.
By marking up your aggregate rating, your search results will gain rich snippets and better search rankings as a result.
If your website doesn’t currently enable your customers to provide independent feedback about your product or service, make it a priority, be it via Google, Facebook, or one of the many review platforms such as TrustPilot, Feefo etc.
I recommend reviews.co.uk, which is a very affordable paid reviews platform that is a great basis for good reputation management. It outputs rich snippets and integrates with a number of ecommerce applications, automatically sending GDPR friendly review requests to customers.
You can also collect reviews from customers in your shop, office restaurant etc with the reviews.co.uk app. Users can submit a rating and comments via a tablet or mobile device setup with the app on site.
Make sure you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about your business, and interact accordingly in a positive manner.
Ignoring online opinions could already be harming your business.