Everything you need to know about Online Reputation Management
The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine about Online Reputation Management and her response was ‘’You mean Social Media Monitoring?’’ There isn’t a clear understanding for a lot of them on what really encompasses management of someone’s online reputation. This particular someone could be a person, a brand or even a company.
Gone are the days where only big brands spent considerable money to be recognised positively across online platforms. We are in the digital age and we turn to google to find out anything and everything that we aren’t clear of. Consumers are actively voicing their opinions about companies and brand that touch their lives.
If you are a HR recruiter, the first thing you do when you receive someone’s CV is to look up their Linkedin profile. You might also search them in google to see what shows up. If you are trying to find your long-lost friend in school, you google their name to see if their Facebook profile is available. If you run a blog, readers look at your content and post comments. What does this all mean? Reputation is important irrespective of who, what and how big or small you are.
Today’s consumer is vocal. He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to express how he feels.
With the shift in how we interact with each other – read as comments on Blogs/Facebook, tweets, likes, answers on public forums, review platforms, your brand can get both positive and negative feedback. What one does with those feedback/comments/rants is nothing but managing one’s reputation.
So what is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management (ORM) is the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organisation, individual or other entity on the Internet. It helps drive public opinion about a business and its products and services. – Techopedia
Have you ever tried to google your name? I have, and I see my profiles in various places. Facebook, Linkedin, my company’s website, quotes I have shared for other companies, my PR articles, embarrassing teenage pic are more. How I wish I could remove that nerdy looking picture from the online space, so I can save myself from being the butt of the joke during my next college reunion!!
The same applies for brands and companies. As you spend more time online, reaching to customers through digital platforms, they are doing the same with your brand. They look for you, reach out to you, interact with you, compliment you, criticise you while some can downright hate you. Someone once told me that any publicity is good publicity. I don’t quite agree. While brands do benefit with positive reviews and feedback that are given by generous and content customers, they take a hit when a negative feedback is sent their way.
Why is Online Reputation important?
If you think you are protected by staying quiet, going about doing your business the way you have in the last fifteen years, hang on! You are living in a glass house and your walls are about to shatter. Let us look at statistics.
Did you know?
45% of people have found something in a Google search that made them decide NOT to do business with someone.
Your consumers are online
According to Internet Live Stats, around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1%. The number of internet users has increased over ten times from 1999 to 2013. The first billion users were reached in 2005. The second billion users in 2010. The third billion users in 2014. It is, therefore, important to know how you are seen and perceived in the online space.
They are talking about you
Yes, they are! Probably writing a bad review on trip advisor, or putting up a picture of the meal they ordered from your restaurant and how much they disliked it or probably ranting about the poor customer service you provide. It is there – Online – in front of million other readers to see, judge, infer and it is there to stay. Tsk.
What they say has a direct implication on your business
If you are planning a holiday, you will look up trip advisor or any other booking sites to see what is the review of a specific hotel before you click on the book button. These reviews are real, given by real customers who have had either a good or a bad experience at that particular hortel. 55% of the customers decide to not stay in a hotel after reading bad reviews posted by fellow travellers. What does that mean? You are losing business.
Imagine another scenario. You walk into Starbucks and have ordered a coffee. Your barista clearly forgot the order and you had to go and remind him after 10 minutes. He rushes to make your coffee. You are a little annoyed. He comes back, gives you your coffee and a Starbucks card that reads like this.
- You didn’t expect a free coffee and it came as a total surprise.
- You go back home/work and put up a post on social media saying how thoughtful the Barista was and how great Starbucks customer service is.
BINGO! What do you think just happened? Starbucks got a positive review in the online space.
Good reputation = Premium Pricing
Your business can command a higher price than that of your competitors and yet not lose customers if your online reputation is solid. Customers will come running to you because you are a reliable, responsible brand that they can relate with and the premium they pay would be for the trust you have built with them over time.
Builds goodwill & retains customers
When people have good things to say, your brand is seen in a positive light. When a grumpy customer wants to be heard and you genuinely apologise and make it up to him, the negativity goes down.
When you plan for mishaps that could happen (We are all humans and we understand) and have a solution that would let a customer walk out with a smile just like the way Starbucks did, you are building goodwill for your brand and at the same time, building a loyal customer base.
Great! Can I manage my brand’s online reputation?
You can but it isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and effort, which is best outsourced to a company or a freelancer. An online reputation manager comes with a certain skill set. He is well versed with digital media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Linkedin or any other social media platform. He understands SEO and has tech skills up his sleeve. He is constantly monitoring what the world has to say about you or your brand. He has a knack with words and can respond to negative reviews with empathy to soften the blow. He can address criticism without having to defend your brand but at the same time get the message across. He is good with Public Relations, which means he reaches out to bloggers, media, and influencers in your specific niche. He also has attention to detail, great with research and has the ability to crack analytics to make some sense out of it.
Above all, he is the man with a plan, who systematically gets positive feedback about your brand out there in the digital space and reduces the impact of negative reviews.
Here are some brands that handled their social media crisis quite effectively
- Kitchen aid
A team member of Kitchen Aid sent out a tweet about Obama that wasn’t appreciated. Their Online Reputation Manager sent out the below tweet in less than 8 minutes and got the situation under control. Not just that! She also was proactive to reach out to press and media, apologising for the mistake and how sorry they were.
2. Benefits Cosmetics UK
Here is another brand that handled social media crisis pretty well. They got involved in a fat-shaming tweet and the situation was about to get out of hand. They came up with this response and a sincere apology did the trick. They went beyond with few more tweets of apology. Good stuff!
3. SouthWest Airlines
Formal, professional and to the point. See how Southwest airlines dealt with an unhappy customer. They were sorry for letting their customer down with a bad experience.
4. Gold’s Gym
Must give credit to the speed at which they respond. Customers are unable to reach them on their phone. Instead of a chaotic situation, Gold’s gym got online and started responding to customers queries immediately. The response time in each of their tweets is amazing.Check it out.
When you screw up, at least be funny? O2 has had a lot of negative reviews in the past, Each time, they come back and tackle it so well. They are empathetic, polite and fast in their response. This one time, they put their wit forward and it cracked me up.
Still want to do it yourself? If you have time, you sure can.
I am listing a step-by-step guide on how to go about it. This should help you start from scratch on your ORM exercise and manage your negative reviews.
Set up Google Alerts
Whether you are a person or a brand, you are part of the online world. Set up google alerts for your name. Google will let you when anyone mentions you online. Based on the mention, whether it is positive, negative or neutral, you will be able to take action.
Create a Website
Even if you are an individual, it is best if you have a website in your name. Let us say your name is John Doe. If you have a website that reads www.johndoe.com, you are searchable and people looking for you will land on your website. You control what you want to show on your website. You have the power to carefully craft your profile to establish a positive reputation
Create social profiles for you/your brand and keep it active. Add relevant information, awards, accolades, testimonials, get customers to write reviews for your brand/product on it. All of this will build your reputation and highlight you in a positive note. Recommendations and endorsements in Linkedin, reviews and response rate in Facebook are some examples of how you will position yourself in social media.
Kick some ass in Search
SEO is very important and ensuring that the right article shows up in the first 10 search results determines what your consumers perceive of you. When you kick ass at search results, google will rank your website within the first page to show a reputable profile of you
Avoid Negative Arguments online
An unhappy customer can make you lose 10 potential leads. If your customer is unhappy and has decided to use social media to vent, try to respond to them with empathy. Avoid playing defence and do not go down the accusation route. It would work negatively towards your brand.
Email unhappy customers
Reach out to unhappy customers, individually and try to see what upset them. Make it up to them with a nice email, a discount voucher on their next buy or even a plain simple sorry email. When your customers know the length you have gone to make up to the mistake, they are bound to cool down and forgive you. You can ask them to take down their comment and hopefully, they will.
Identify websites that rank above and below a negative review in google search
When you have a negative feedback, look for websites that rank, around it in the search results. Reach out to them and see how you can bring in a positive image of your or your brand. The thing is, when users look for you and bump into a negative review, they will also see websites around this review who have good things to say. Kind of balances out your reputation.
Last word of advice?
Don’t be afraid to apologise. Mean it. Be transparent. Be proactive and go out of your way to please an unhappy customer. Work on your search. What you find about your brand online is what other see too. Ensure that it looks good. Respond fast. Be sympathetic, empathetic and downright funny. Be polite. Write well. Avoid grammar mistakes. Be active in review sites. Employ an online reputation manager if you don’t have the time. Understand customer’s sentiment. Thank people for notifying you of a problem.