While there once was a time when business owners and their community only interacted via commerce; a time when the company released their product and the consumer interacted by purchasing or holding their purse; however, the social media boom of the late ‘aughts’ has completely obliterated that landscape. The social media boom has provided new tools to the consumer: A level of connection previously unforeseen, and a loud voice which can be heard via that connection in a matter of seconds. This can be a great thing for business, or a disaster. Therefore, how you manage your online reputation is more crucial now, than ever before.
Beyond the social media boom, the internet as a whole has changed the way businesses need to interact. Instead of relying on positive word of mouth, there needs to be an urgency to craft an online reputation that extends to great search engine results, that display a positive online reputation. Marketing is no longer done solely on the ground, it must be done in the cloud as well.
So, how does a business steer the consumer into positivity? The reality is, even providing A1 service, there may always be unsatisfied consumers. There are a few ways to handle this however:
When faced with scrutiny, an often-affective response is transparency
This can be a gamble, however, when a company is transparent, there is a humanizing of sorts, which can pay off big time. When the consumer can empathize with a business entity on a personal level, loyalty is generally on the cards. Approach the issue head on and acknowledge the issues, before moving the user into a more private form of communication, such as email.
Fix the issue
This may seem basic, or alternatively, it could be impossible. If it is possible, however, with a long enough track record of listening to reasonable consumer negativity, often will result in great online reputation and brand loyalty, to boot. A quick fix, accompanied with a customer service flourish can turn a negative customer into an advocate.
Understand the consumer
It may be a hard pill to swallow, that your business falls short in certain aspects, but looking within can provide new perspective, and even berth new ideas. This will not go unnoticed, and will be rewarded with defenders of the brand, and a level of respect few businesses receive in this day and age. Early anticipation of the consumer’s needs can go a long way to minimizing any negativity. Understand your customer the best way to predict their complaints, resolve them before they happen, or better yet, ensure they do not happen at all.
Perhaps it is clear from above that brand loyalty, maybe more than ever, is of utmost importance. With social media taking hold, and vastly connected communication providing consumers with a new type of word of mouth, businesses can utilise these tools to drawn out negativity, depending, of course, on the offense.
Interacting with the social media audience in a humanizing way, though it has its detractors, will show the consumer a personality, and in doing so, personify your business. Personification should be a sought after goal within the social media realm. The more human a company appears; the more likely consumers will put emotional stock into that company.
SEARCH ENGINE REPUTATION
As stated, social media, though extensively important, isn’t the only aspect of online marketing that needs to be addressed. How one appears on search engine results, particularly the first page of those results, is almost equally important.
For starters, is your business the first result?
When googling your business, are you the first result? and do the majority of the first page results direct to your business? This is called a branded search, you should see your brand in almost every spot of a branded search.
If your own business isn’t the majority of the results on the first page, your online reputation is likely non-existent. This is presently a good and bad thing. No reputation means a clean slate, but it also points to irrelevancy in the market. You should be hoping to see search results that your brand ‘owns’, your Facebook page, your Instagram, for example.
However, in some industry verticals it is common to see market place entries, directories and other media that you do not have direct ownership of, depending on what appears this can be normal or bad. Ultimately, we are looking for pages that direct to your brand or website, if you own those pages then that is all the better. Anything that drives traffic to your website and raises brand awareness will all contribute to your online reputation.
If there is another business with a similar handle with a poor reputation, there is a lot of work to be done, perhaps legally if their handle infringes on your copyright. Otherwise, distancing needs to occur.
Are your results mostly negative reviews?
Similar to the actions you would take against social media detractors, one will have to address this issue as swiftly and delicately as possible. Why would anyone trust a business with first page results marred with poor reviews?
How did this occur? Do these reviews revolve around legitimate issues? If not, then perhaps legal action can be taken.
Of course, all of this may lead to questioning how exactly to either become ranked highly in search engines, or how to distance oneself from a similarly named poor business. The answer is simple: search engine optimization. Depending on the size of your business, it may take adjusting the results by receiving feedback from outside, reputable sources, or taking things into your own hands. The former is much more effective at building a consumer base.
While receiving reviews from outside reputable sources is more effective at building your consumer base, it’s a must, regardless, so your name may have to be initially spread on your own, via sending out samples for review, and simply maintaining an active web portal. This will not be quick, but it absolutely is required in today’s landscape. An online reputation cannot be managed without a reputation to, well, manage.
Be sure to have proper frontend and backend structure on your website, or in simple terms, make sure your company site is coded in a way that communicates what services you provide to search engines.
It’s not as simple as keeping your website up-to-date, you should also be sure that all of your company information is clear and each post or published news contains clear keywords that point to what services are provided. Search engines feed off of this information to determine where to rank your results for said keywords.
It’s clear that a positive identity, brand loyalty, and discoverability, are key to online reputation management. But what if one doesn’t have the time to build a strong level of online presence?
If the task of providing consumers with a much needed online identity that answers and respects its needs is simply too much, then it is paramount to look in the direction of a PR representative, or agency.
It’s important to do this before one requires a reputation cleansing, as not only will it be easier on the PR, it takes less to build an online reputation than it does to rebuild one.
This may come off brash, but it’s highly suggested that one makes time, however possible. PR agencies can be expensive, and weigh heavily on the finances of a young operation. Controlling your online reputation is almost more important to business growth than building through local on-the-ground reputation. Especially if one’s business has any focus at all on millennial audiences.
Despite the main coverage of pitfalls any one business can fall into with regards to their online reputation management, there really are endless opportunities of growth brought out by social media and search engine management. Though once a business relied on great service and word of mouth, we are now entering a market age where a positive identity-almost regardless of service quality-can drive consumers and clients to their services. It may be scary at first, as the consumer voice is the loudest it has ever been, but there is certainly a way to control those loud voices, in ways and to levels businesses never could before.