Keeping a Good Brand Reputation in a Digital World

A company is only as good as its reputation. Friends and neighbors sharing experiences with each other could make or break a business. The original word of mouth was powerful because the information came from someone with a personal connection.

Online reviews are powerful, too even when the reader doesn’t know the information source. According to a survey by Dimensional Research, 86% of the people who reported reading online reviews claimed that negative reviews influenced buying decisions. Positive reviews influenced 90% of the buying decisions.

If information provided in reviews was always accurate, companies that provide quality products and services would win the influence game with little effort. Since online reviews require little or no validation, anyone can say anything with no fear of repercussions. Online reviews should come with “readers beware” banners because the credibility police are asleep on the job.

Reputation management is an internal corporate issue. It is rapidly becoming a hot topic in meetings because customers and prospects are paying attention to review information. The addition of ratings to search results can stop prospective buyers before they visit the website or store.  The best marketing message on an optimized website and top notch customer service have no effect if people stay away.

Getting a Good Reputation:

Keeping a good reputation begins with getting one. Start by offering opportunities for people to leave reviews on your website. Encourage customers who have purchased specific items to leave feedback. This establishes your online reputation and provides information on customer likes and dislikes. Use the feedback to improve service and products.

Claim your business on major online review sites like Google Plus Local, Yelp, and Facebook Places. When appropriate, suggest that customers review your services and products there. Search for mentions of your company on other sites to find communities where your customers are participating. Join those communities so you can connect with the people talking about your business.

Keeping a Good Reputation

Negative reviews can be good. They establish credibility because people know that nothing is perfect. The five star rating is less believable than a 4.8. Negative reviews with positive responses are even more credible. Respond to every negative review with an offer to resolve the problem. Even if the reviewer doesn’t respond to your attempt to make things right, people reading the review will know you tried.

Consistently monitoring online conversations about your business helps you respond in a timely manner. There are tools that can alert you when there is a mention on social media or review sites. Google Alerts conducts customized searches and emails the user when a mention appears. Searches can be set up in HootSuite and TweetDeck to watch networking sites. Premium review monitoring services are also available. Using more than one tool is a best practice because they all have weak areas that may miss activity.

The Reviewers You’ll Meet Online

  • The Pollyanna never met a product or service that wasn’t simply awesome. Her reviews are so sweet and sugary your blood sugar level will rise by reading them. Don’t expect anyone to believe them.
  • The Know-It-All fills his reviews with so much techno-jargon no one understands what he is trying to say. His efforts to appear smarter than, well…everybody, confuses people. Even if they understand what he is saying, the products appear too complicated for normal use.
  • The Disgruntled Customer had a bad experience and wants everyone to know she has been slighted. She leaves reviews wherever possible. If you don’t require confirmation that an item has been purchased before it can be reviewed, this reviewer will fill your pages with rants.
  • The It’s All Good Happy Camper leaves reviews that explain why and how the product and service met his needs. These reviews are honest, balanced, thoughtful, and communicated well. They will sell your products and services.
  • The Troll loves stirring up trouble. She isn’t a customer but leaves bad reviews for fun. If anyone dares to challenge her, she’ll suit up for war. Don’t let emotions get involved or your company will lose every time.
  • The I’m Not Sure About This tends to be a satisfied customer that wants to leave a good review but doesn’t know exactly how to do it or what to say. His comments ramble beyond understanding. Occasionally he hits the wrong star and wants you to change the rating.

Debra Ellis is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting, which specializes in improving customer acquisition and retention using marketing, analytics, service, and strategic planning.

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