Only a decade ago, things like PR and reputation management seemed like matters of concern for big businesses and celebrity personas. And it seemed like smaller brands had little to care about; their brand perception was a one-way alley with customers having little room for feedback.
After all, they could just choose to ignore the business’s products and services, but their perception had little impact. But we are now living in an era of an active audience, one where people express their opinions about brands and services on several platforms online all the time.
And, with 71% of consumers starting their customer journey with a Google search, no business can afford to show up on the SERPs appearing untrustworthy and disreputable.
To avoid any potential issues, here is an extensive guide on Online Reputation Management for businesses of any size and industry to help digital marketing professionals discover effective ways to manage their brand’s online reputation.
What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is a multi-faceted concept that is aimed at creating a positive public perception of a brand, business, or person. Reputation management includes monitoring reputation, addressing any content or customer feedback that could damage the brand, and using strategies to prevent and solve problems that could damage an entity's reputation.
How Online Reputation Management Works
In a nutshell, ORM is all about monitoring and managing your brand’s reputation across the web, about ensuring that your business is properly represented and that potential customers are left with a great impression of who you are and what you do.
That said, multiple channels fall within Online Reputation Management, and since it may seem overwhelming at first to embrace all these channels, let’s think about them in terms of the PESO model.
Paid Media for Online Reputation Management
Paid media implies all online content that requires payment to feature your brand (website, services, etc.). It involves channels like Google Ads, social media ads, sponsored posts, or promotions by influencers.
This aspect of ORM is fairly straightforward — you have full control over your own placements. You have to carefully check, though, if any of your competitors are advertising “against” your brand.
However, most paid media platforms have strict guidelines against such practices, and a single complaint can resolve this negative sentiment implication.
Earned media embraces the coverage that your brand receives from external platforms free of charge. They include:
- External articles,
- Press coverage
- Blogs and Vlogs
- Some industry-specific third-party listings (Glassdoor, Capterra, Trustpilot would all fall into this category).
Google My Business would also count as earned media as customers leave reviews for your business without you controlling it. Earned media should be a focus for all businesses; these sources help create a positive outlook and create trust with online visitors.
On top of your website, your business’s accounts across various social networks are the online version of your business card.
Unaddressed complaints, negative comments on Twitter, and low star ratings on Facebook can seriously harm your company’s reputation and turn potential customers off. You should pay attention to what is happening on your Twitter wall the same way you would treat the walls of your brick-and-mortar establishment.
It is important that you track what brand mentions are popping up within other accounts as well and address the mentions that negatively portray your business.
Owned media largely relates to your website and blog — the properties that are under your full control. So, if you work on improving the ranking of the pages that are of utmost importance to your brand’s reputation and perception, you are on the right track.
Although your online reputation management job gets easier when you deal with online spaces you control, don’t forget that you have to establish an all-encompassing ORM process. As Google’s Danny Sullivan has put it when talking about Google, “We’re not a truth engine. We can give you information, but we can’t tell you the truth of a thing.”
Basically, he implies that Google will showcase whatever is the highest-ranking page for your branded search. So, popularity matters, and not the inherent truth. Thus, you should focus on all the channels your brand gets mentioned on and try to manage your reputations across all of them.
Why Reputation Management Is Important for Your Online Business
We have explained why online reputation management for your brand is critically important. However, let’s get into how exactly an efficient ORM strategy can benefit your business.
1. Impact on Buying Decisions
The lack of management of your online reputation can actually cost you your customer base. As 81% of buyers do some online research before making a purchase, the way you appear online is the make-it-or-break-it factor in their final decision. And your online reputation really a business quality check with 88% of consumers reading reviews to determine if your business is reliable enough.
2. It Is the Online Version of Word-of-mouth
85% of consumers treat online reviews as personal recommendations and trust them as much as a tip from a friend. It is a great thing if your reviews are impeccable, but what happens if there was some bump on the road and someone posted a well-grounded negative comment?
In the age of social media when news spread like wildfire, it can be an absolute bombshell.
- 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.
3. There Is No “Delete "Button for Negative Reviews
It is not only the North that remembers. The Internet keeps everything, well, almost. Whatever people are saying about your business online is likely to stay online, but you actually have a chance of altering a negative opinion about your business.
By using a proper 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. Furthermore
4. You Can Get Valuable Feedback
Monitoring is a critical part of managing your online reputation. You can start collecting some useful insights on customer satisfaction and feedback regarding your product or services. So before doing some polling, surveys, and going around the globe for customer feedback, you can simply pay attention to what your customers have to say about your business.
How to Manage Your Brand’s Online Reputation
You need a process you can put in place for successful online reputation management. Of course, the process will vary from company to company, depending on your size, your industry, and your resources. But take the eight rules we outline below as the key milestones for establishing an efficient ORM strategy. You can elaborate it or shrink it, but the key steps will remain the same.
1. Perform an Audit of Your Online Reputation
Before putting any ORM process in place, you have to conduct an extensive online reputation audit.
Basically, the idea of an online reputation management audit has to do with uncovering how people see you online and what kind of issues you are facing in challenging that view. And to do that, you have to do some brand monitoring.
Clearly, there is a way to conduct some quick audit of your brand reputation manually:
- Just open up an incognito window and enter your brand name into a Google search.
- Take a good look at the sites that appear on the very first page.
- Identify what Google My Business-related features come up on that page and evaluate your presence there: ratings, comments, reviews, user-generated photos, etc.
- Separate the websites into the ones you control and the ones you have limited power over. With your social media accounts, they are highly manageable; with third-part listings, you can reach out to site owners and add/remove misleading bits. With a critical news piece, you can reach out to the author and try to talk to him about his dissatisfaction or convince them that they have got a wrong perception of your company or product.
- Read through the reviews on these sites and try to understand the general sentiment; this is an important step for further prioritization over the platforms that require the most urgent attention.
Certainly, at this stage, this may seem like an exhausting process to conduct the audit manually. Below you will see how — a tool designed to help you manage online reputation — can give you a helpful overview at the end of an audit.
By and large, your audit has to help you answer the following questions:
- What top websites within my search results do I have control over?
- What kinds of websites do I see appear for my brand name?
- Am I popular online (look at the number of mentions)?
- Do most visitors find my business from search engines or external sites (check your Google Analytics -> Traffic Sources)?
- Is the overall sentiment for my business positive (including neutral) or negative?
2. Establish an Online Reputation Management Strategy
Now when you know what the online landscape around your brand is, it is time to set up an online reputation management strategy. However, before we get into details about it, you have to get your priorities straight.
Getting started with online reputation management can seem overwhelming. Thus, prioritization is of paramount importance, as you cannot jump on every single mention. Once your audit is complete, it should be easier for you to prioritize what you should focus on first. Try to balance out a few factors that should impact your decision:
- Set up your online reputation management goals: If it is about response time, it is wise to focus on platforms you have direct access to. You can filter out your mentions within the Brand Monitoring tool by these criteria and monitor those.
- Define your boundaries and limitations: Review how many resources you can allocate for the ORM project. And keep in mind that this is an ongoing process. So be realistic in your assessment.
- Prioritize your ORM by impact: Although you may feel like you have to deal with everything at the same time, be realistic about the scope of the job. The impact is the biggest criterion for your choice as you have to try and allocate your resources into the channels with the highest stakes for your business.
- Prioritize tasks: Which tasks are critical and must be addressed first? There should be a plan for handling critical and challenging tasks. Choosing the easier tasks to get done first isn't always the best option.
So, by considering these factors, you can create a matrix like the one below, and whatever channels appear within these criteria the most could be the ones you start your work on.
Policy Definition, Guidelines & Tone of Voice
To be successful at ORM, there is some red tape you have to go through. It is crucial to establish company-wide guidelines and tone of voice when dealing with online reputation. Once again, the scope of these policy docs will vary from business to business, but the general idea will stay.
Once you start your ORM project, you will always be alerted about a new comment, review, or other types of mentions. So, it is important to have a somewhat strict definition of what is urgent and what can wait, who is in charge, and how to respond.
You have to define what kinds of reviews are of the utmost urgency for your business. If your customers are surfing through Reddit frequently and any negative info there can be a deal-breaker for your product, pay special attention to mentions from there. You can also prioritize cases by importance to your brand and customers.
Urgent: By and large, cases that can be detrimental to your brand’s reputation go way beyond a casual negative comment. Also, don’t forget to review the profile of a person who wrote the review; if it is someone popular in some circles, you may anticipate some potential for virality. So, once you discover such a review, you have to take care of it straight away.
Non-Urgent: Normally, a non-urgent response is okay when you are dealing with cases that can be easily resolved by a typical response (maybe, a template you have prepared in advance for typical questions and concerns).
But even if you know an immediate response is not needed, still define the timeframe for responding to such comments. And make sure you’re reaching out to the commentator with an acknowledgment of their concern, even if it will take you a while to get back with a response.
Blacklist: Every business has come across trolls and pure haters who cannot be convinced to act reasonably. So, sometimes it is just better not to issue any official response because it will only escalate the conversation and lead to a more negative impact on your business. You can start a “blacklist” everyone can refer to when looking at your policy docs.
It is always a good idea to create a doc that includes FAQ about your brand. Keep all the answers within this doc so that your colleagues (and you) can use it as a general guideline for responding to reviews and comments.
Who Is in Charge?
If it is everyone’s responsibility, it is no one’s responsibility. So, clearly define who is in charge of a certain channel and try to stick to this policy. Collaborations are welcome, but it has to be clear to everyone where their responsibility begins and ends.
Tone of Voice
It is really important to establish a certain tone of voice for replying to negative (or, even positive) reviews and comments. For each brand, this part of the policy will vary, but make sure everyone is sticking to these guidelines.
Generally, it is a good idea to make sure you are not acting like a bully and not escalating any conflicts. Some conversations can be moved to DM, but even then, try to stick to your tone of voice rules as people can share private conversations publicly as well.
Have a Crisis Management Strategy in Place
You can never anticipate a crisis, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for one. So, a sound crisis management strategy should always be in place as things escalate online at an unprecedented speed.
Clearly, this is a huge area to cover, so we won’t go in too much depth. But, generally speaking, there are a few things you have to prepare to be ready for an ORM crisis:
- Make use of brand monitoring tools as they will quickly alert you if there are any unexpected conversation peaks about your brand.
- Keep an eye on industry trends, as some legislation changes or the arrival of new cutting-edge technology can put your business under a lot of stress.
- Know where your audience is and how to most efficiently communicate with them. If a large part of your audience is more active on Twitter, choose this channel as your primary communication space; this way, you will reach a wider audience in less time.
- React quickly to every negative comment or review and draft a copy of your response as quickly as possible. But make sure no one copies & pastes it in mass — at the time of a crisis, your response should look tailored to each comment and personal.
- Set up a chain of command beforehand, as everyone should know what their roles are in advance, especially when your colleagues are facing a crisis and may lose their cool.
3. Monitor Brand Mentions Efficiently
Being proactive in monitoring online conversations provides you with a real-time view of your online presence and gives you an opportunity for a timely reaction. However, it is not just about checking what reviews rank on Google.
Here, you can set up a campaign to monitor the web for mentions of your brand, products, and people to make sure you always know what others are saying about you. And you can jump straight in and attempt to resolve any negative mentions or references.
How to Monitor Your Online Reviews Efficiently
Once you have entered your brand name and domain, you will be walked through the set-up process, choosing your target country, Brand Keyword, and will have the ability to schedule daily, weekly, or monthly email reports.
How frequently you should schedule reports very much depends on how often you are mentioned online; it is dependent upon the activity and scope of your business in many ways.
Once set up, the tool will return a whole host of brand mention insights for you:
You will be able to understand, from the dashboard and reports, the overall sentiment of brand mentions across the web (a great way to quickly understand whether people’s perception is positive, neutral, or negative), as well as to see specific mentions (both in terms of sentiment and those with highest traffic potential and estimated reach).
4. Dominate SERPs for Brand Searches
No successful online reputation management strategy takes place without some. Your main job is to show up on the SERPs for your branded keywords. The best way to get there is to have a website that ranks highly. Also, focus on optimizing your official social media channels, as these sites typically appear within the top 10 for branded searches.
But chances are, you won’t fill the entire space with your owned media. Here is how you can review what sites to look out for to give away a positive vibe within SERPs for your brand searches.
source - https://www.semrush.com/blog/online-reputation-management/