In the past, a business's reputation mostly hinged on whatever they said about themselves in their advertising and customers' word-of-mouth. But, things have changed. Today, customers collectively influence a company's reputation by providing real-time feedback via online reviews, social media, forums, and other channels. Therefore, you should take action to manage your online reputation on any source where customers share their opinions about your business.
Digital marketing and online reputation management for businesses
Online reputation management is part of a holistic digital marketing strategy that works with review management, business listings, paid search/ads, social media management, and SEO to help your business stay competitive and relevant online. While your business should manage each digital marketing segment to maintain your online presence and—consequently—offline reputation, many companies are not. However, they should since four in five consumers surveyed use search engines to find local information from multiple devices to find store addresses, business hours, product availability, and directions.
Online reputation management: your business has options
Your business’s reputation can be affected at any time on just about any source across the web. You can use products (i.e., SaaS), services (i.e., outsource services), or people (i.e., outsource or hire a digital marketer) to cut down on your reputation management time expenditure. Even if your business tracks and constantly checks on social media, there may be sources that your business is unaware of, such as a new review site from a listing that your business never knew existed.
Your business should weigh the pros and cons of in-house online reputation management or outsourcing. Furthermore, your business should know best practices when responding to reviews. Maintaining your business’s online presence is one of the most valuable services a digital agency or local media company can provide your business.
Why your business’s online reputation matters
An online reputation needs to be backed by reviews and ratings by customers. Without them, there would be no reputation to manage, and quite frankly, it would appear as if no one ever visited the business.
Ready or not, consumers are talking about your business
Whether a business manages its reputation online or not, consumers are talking about their favourite and not-so-favourite companies. The consequences can be detrimental if a business ignores its reputation online.
Unmanaged negative responses can create an angry mob mentality, and bad word of mouth spreads like wildfire. A single negative online review could be what appears at the top of a search engine when a consumer searches for a business's name.
Consumers Control the Conversation — Everyone's Feedback Matters
Social media is a two-way conversation — businesses can no longer broadcast the message they want people to see. There is a democratic nature to social, with brands, consumers and everyone having an equal voice in a shared space. Customers can rave about a business or tell everyone they had a terrible experience. Social networks have dramatically changed the way businesses communicate. Today, consumers can converse with brands and vice versa as if they were talking to a friend. As a result, business brands have had to become more personable and relatable and manage their social presence to convey that impression.
Reputation drives conversion
The information that people see online about a business has consequences. Approximately 74% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—this is a massive shift in thinking that has become more prominent as time goes on. This trust in reviews translates to dollars, as customers put their money where their trust is. A Harvard Business School study found that a restaurant that sees a one-star increase on Yelp will see revenues increase anywhere from five to nine per cent.
As discussed previously, many businesses find that cultivating their digital profile on their own is too time-consuming. Reputation monitoring tools make keeping up with customers much more effortless, saving time and money. Whatever your business does, you mustn't be perceived to be ignoring your customers online. The worst thing your business can do is appear unresponsive.
What makes a good online reputation?
Being present (i.e., listed online) and having a good reputation (i.e., reviews and reputation management) go hand in hand. Not being listed on a reference site customers use is just as bad as having bad reviews on that site. Building a consistent online presence and a positive reputation is vital for both consumers and search engines. Some of the most critical aspects of the online footprint include:
● number of business listings● consistency of business listing information: name, address, phone, website, hours● overall sentiment in reviews● frequency or current velocity of new reviews● overall volume of reviews● social activity and engagement—especially with reviewers
Customers now view social recommendations and reviews as more authentic, expecting reviews to reflect the actual customer experience that they would experience themselves. Therefore, maintaining your business’s online reputation is gaining importance as each review is a perceived snippet of what your potential customer expects to experience.
Online reputation management: the main sell
According to Google, 9 out of 10 local searches lead to action, with more than 50% leading to sales. If businesses have a good web presence, customers will go to them rather than the competitor. Once they’re in the store, 79% of customers use their smartphones to look at reviews or compare prices, and 74% make a purchase. Based on those numbers, the opportunity is clear—online reputation management is essential for your business to get consumers in the door so you can make the sale.