Beyond 5 Stars: The Art of Online Reputation Management
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “reputation”?
For some, they think reputation is crafted in boardrooms or spun by public relations (PR) experts. However, in the digital age, your reputation is no longer confined to the corners of cocktail parties or the chatter at industry conferences. Today, the focus has drastically shifted towards how to manage your business online reputation, which is equally, if not more, important than your offline persona.
We live in an era where a single tweet, a Facebook post, or a Google review can alter the course of your brand’s future. So if you’re not already taking the reins of your online reputation, you’re not just missing out on the opportunity to shine – you’re leaving your business vulnerable to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a keyboard and an opinion.
How to Manage Your Business Online Reputation
1. Check Search Engine Results and Social Media Profiles
The first impression a potential customer gets of your brand is often not a physical storefront nor even a personal encounter. They first see your digital assets. Whether they stumble upon your company website or find your social media profiles through a cursory Google search, what they see in those first few moments can sway their decision to engage with you or look elsewhere.
This is why it is crucial to regularly check and maintain your online presence. The notion of “out of sight, out of mind” applies here; you may not always see the damage of an unattended digital footprint, but your customers do. And unfortunately, their perceptions of you are shaped by what they see online.
Now, imagine a restaurant named “Joe’s Grilled Pizzas” situated in a small town in Australia. It enjoys a local customer base but aspires to reach tourists who read online reviews before choosing a place to eat. One day, a potential customer does a quick Google search and finds a Yelp review from six months ago, complaining about an undercooked pizza. They find another one, on TripAdvisor, grumbling about a delayed order.
The customer sees that Joe’s Grilled Pizzas hasn’t responded to either complaint or any other negative feedback. Hence, they decide to go to another restaurant instead.
2. Engage With Customers
The second commandment in the Bible of online reputation management is to engage with your customers. This doesn’t just mean responding to complaints or queries but initiating a genuine conversation, building a rapport, and developing a relationship.
Engagement is a two-way street. It isn’t enough for you to push out content and expect customers to react positively. You have to show interest in them too, respond to their feedback, answer their questions, show empathy to their concerns, and occasionally, share a laugh.
Pro tip: Engagement breeds loyalty. By taking the time to engage with your customers, you show that you value them not just for their patronage, but also for their input and presence.
3. Build an Online Community
Having an online community can transform customers into loyal advocates. It fosters a sense of belonging, which in turn creates a positive association with your brand. Customers who feel heard and valued are more likely to stick around, spend more, and promote your business to others.
Let’s look at the example of two different health food stores – “Natural Health Store” and “Wellness for Life.” Both have Facebook pages with the same number of followers, but their levels of interaction are vastly different.
Natural Health Store uses its page purely for promotional purposes, with no interaction or community feeling. On the other hand, Wellness for Life has created an engaged community. They share healthy recipes, fitness tips, run monthly challenges, and encourage followers to share their health journeys. Followers of Wellness for Life are more engaged, more loyal, and more likely to recommend the store to their friends.
Your online community is a reflection of your business’ ethos. It allows your customers to see you not just as a faceless corporation but as a group of individuals who share their values and interests.
4. Optimise Your Website
When we talk about online reputation management, it’s easy to get caught up in external platforms like social media and review sites. But one of the most critical elements of your online presence is, undoubtedly, your website. It’s your home base, your storefront, your business card, all rolled into one.
Learn how to optimise your website by reading these articles:
5. Go Above and Beyond to Meet Customer Needs
Going the extra mile, offering that extra bit of attention, the extra service, or the extra value can be the deciding factor between you and your competition. Customers value and remember businesses that make them feel special.
So how do you exceed customer expectations? It starts by truly understanding your customer needs. Invest time in customer research, and get to know them, their preferences, their pain points. Only then can you begin to anticipate their needs and offer solutions even before they realise they need them.
For instance, consider two coffee shops in a busy metropolitan city. “Coffee A Day” provides good coffee and service but does not make any effort to remember regular customers or their usual orders. On the other hand, “Bean Lovers” not only provides quality coffee but baristas make an effort to remember regular customers, their favourite brews, and even go as far as asking about their day.
It’s clear which of the two coffee shops customers are likely to return to. Bean Lovers has created a personalised experience for their customers, making them feel special, valued, and more than just another transaction.
Pro tip: Customers don’t just buy a product or service. They buy an experience. They buy the feeling they get when they walk into your store, the attention they receive, the understanding they perceive. By exceeding their expectations, you’re not just earning their business; you’re earning their loyalty.
6. Showcase Social Proof
In the world of online reputation management, nothing speaks louder than social proof.
Testimonials, reviews, endorsements, and case studies are potent tools that can sway a potential customer’s perception of your business. They provide real-world evidence that you can deliver on your promises.
Social proof works on the premise of trust. People tend to trust the experiences and opinions of others. When potential customers see others vouching for your products or services, they’re more likely to trust your brand.
7. Seek Professional Help
Managing your online reputation is a full-time job. It requires constant vigilance, regular engagement, and quick responses to any potential issues that arise. For many businesses, especially smaller ones, this can be overwhelming.
If you need any help, there are companies that specialise in online reputation management, helping businesses monitor their online presence, respond to reviews and feedback, and develop strategies to improve their online image.
There are also other professional services that can be invaluable in managing your online reputation. For instance, a web design agency can help optimise your website, ensuring it’s user-friendly, SEO optimised, and showcases your brand in the best possible light. Legal services can be useful in navigating complex issues such as copyright infringement or false negative reviews.
From Crisis to Control: Let Manifest Website Design Manage Your Online Reputation
I get it. The internet can be a bane to deal with. There’s so much noise out there – so many voices and opinions. It feels like you’re constantly being judged, scrutinised, and put under a magnifying glass. You’re always one wrong tweet or one bad review away from a PR disaster.
This is where we, the Manifest Website Design team, come in. We’re not just experts in web design – we’re masters of business online reputation management. We’re here to tell you that it’s not about crisis, it’s about control. You see, in the digital world, it’s not about dodging bullets. It’s about creating armour so strong that the bullets don’t matter. Let us help you build that armour.
About the Author
Jillian has over 30 years of experience in technology, programming, and digital marketing. Her work with the stock exchange in Australia, as well as other large corporations, has given her invaluable business expertise.
At Manifest Website Design, she helps goal-driven entrepreneurs build their business, regardless of size and industry, using the power of the internet. She’ll walk alongside you every step of the way, making sure that your website is running smoothly, and most importantly, generating leads. Connect with her on LinkedIn.