Just as the internet has been a game changer for businesses and marketing, it’s been equally transformative in the buyer’s journey. Today, it’s common for potential customers to research customer reviews before purchasing. This makes brand reputation management an important part of your small business marketing strategy.
Brand reputation management is the practice of monitoring customer reviews and other online resources to improve or maintain customer perceptions of your business. By monitoring reviews, you can stay on top of what customers are saying and potentially improve negative customer outcomes. Additionally, you can bolster perceptions of your company by accentuating positive reviews.
These days, online reputation management is so important it is considered a cornerstone of maintaining and building brand presence. Whether you’re seeking to improve a customer’s experience or navigating a business crisis, the techniques, tools, and, ultimately, outcomes of your efforts will depend on planning and the methods you use.
What Online Brand Reputation Management Is
You work hard to provide each customer with a positive experience and ensure they feel they’ve received good value for the money they’ve spent with you. From the beginning, you’ve built a positive reputation among customers. Brand reputation management allows you to maintain that perception. There are three primary reasons to monitor what people have to say about your business.
When a customer has an unsatisfactory experience with a business, they might leave a negative review of that business on a site like Google Reviews or Yelp. Businesses that monitor online reviews can reach out to affected customers and offer solutions to the problems the customers experience.
As the owner, you can reach out directly to that customer if they provide enough information to identify them. Sometimes, though, you’re left replying to the negative review with a request to reach out so that you can address the issue. Answering negative reviews greatly increases positive perceptions of your brand because it shows you are responsive to customer needs.
Another key method of growing a positive reputation is to respond to customers who share a good experience with your business. This tells potential customers your business cares about how customers perceive it, and it shows you value your customers’ feedback.
Responding to positive feedback can be a pleasant experience for business owners, as they’re simply thanking customers for taking the time to share their experiences. It’s also one of the easiest parts of brand reputation management. Yet, surprisingly, many owners overlook this aspect of reputation management.
From time to time, a business owner might experience a crisis. Perhaps a customer’s bad experience has gone viral and your business is experiencing hundreds or even thousands of negative reviews from people who’ve never patronized your business. This is known as review bombing, and it’s one of the most common crises small businesses face.
Because you’re monitoring your online reputation, you’re able to respond quickly and nimbly to these fraudulent reviews. Almost all customer review sites provide methods by which business owners can report fraudulent reviews for removal.
With some understanding of the whats and whys of online brand reputation management, now you’re ready to dive into the places you’ll need to monitor, as well as the tools you can use to make your job easier.
Where Customers Leave Reviews
The first place most potential customers will see your online reputation is through Google Reviews. According to a BrightLocal customer survey, 87% of customers consult Google Reviews before making a purchase. That’s a staggering portion of customers, so it makes sense to keep tabs of the goings-on in your Google Business Profile.
Because of the popularity of Google Reviews, you’ll need to check those reviews regularly. Once you create your Google Business Profile, you can set notifications to let you know every time someone leaves a review. This makes monitoring reviews on Google quite simple.
Other places customers leave reviews are sites like Yelp. Where a Google Business Profile is primarily aimed at providing customers with the location and contact information of your business, Yelp is focused on reviews about specific businesses operating in certain industries. But the techniques are the same. Business owners should respond to positive and negative reviews. Yelp also offers an easy process to challenge false reviews.
Additionally, numerous websites specialize in aggregating customer reviews for specific industries or products. Depending on the industry you’re in, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with their reviews and the process for responding to or challenging those reviews.
Other Areas of Online Brand Reputation Management
Online reviews will be the primary focus of your online reputation management efforts. However, those reviews should not be your only focus. Your reputation also includes what industry and news websites have to say about your products and services. There are literally thousands of websites reporting information about small businesses—Fit Small Business is one.
To stay informed of what these kinds of sites say about your business, consider setting up a Google Alert containing your business name and any other pertinent keywords. That way, any time someone publishes something about your business, you’ll know relatively quickly.
When the information published is positive, you should share that piece on your social media or link to it from your small business website. If the information is negative, you can reach out to the publisher of that information and ask for the opportunity to respond. Sometimes, the information may be incorrect, in which case you can request the site remove that information.
Pro tip: When it comes to challenging negative information published by third-party websites, proceed with caution. Websites are under no obligation to allow you to respond to negative reviews. Nor are they required to remove incorrect information. When you reach out to these sites, some may choose to escalate negative attacks on your small business.
4 Key Steps to Managing Reputation
Brand reputation management can be a large undertaking. In fact, there are numerous reputation management services to which you can outsource monitoring and managing your online reputation. However, you can do a decent job of this yourself following the four steps below:
Make a list of all the sites where you need to monitor customer reviews. Most of these sites provide businesses with some way to monitor and respond to reviews, usually through signing up for a business account and setting up email notifications.
You should also set up Google Alerts notifications to let you know when something is posted about your business. These alerts come to your email.
Sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, and Angi provide businesses with the ability to respond to reviews—whether positive or negative. You should endeavor to respond to all reviews because it shows potential customers you’re engaged in maintaining a positive customer experience.
Set aside a regular time to respond to reviews. This will keep your business profiles fresh and up to date. In some cases, this can also improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of your business. Maintaining good SEO is a key part of search engine marketing.
While one hopes your business never faces a crisis, it’s nevertheless important to be prepared should one occur. This means creating a crisis response plan. This plan should include the following key components:
- Resources list: Catalog the resources available to respond to the crisis, including team members you can task with responding to negative online reviews
- Reputation management tools or services: Make a list of several reputation management services you can contact if your business’ needs exceed capabilities. You also might consider subscribing to a reputation management tool to help prevent a crisis.
Finally, take the time to familiarize yourself with the processes review sites have in place to respond to negative or fraudulent reviews. If your business becomes the target of a negative review campaign, you can report these reviews to the site to have them removed.
These steps present a good start to the complex process that is brand reputation management. The more you actively manage your brand’s reputation, the more you’ll learn about what you can and cannot do. By following these steps, you can help ensure your business’ reputation remains as positive as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Brand reputation management is the practice of maintaining and improving the online reputation of a business. It involves tracking customer reviews online as well as monitoring formal reviews, news reports, and blog entries about the business.
Online reputation management is one of the cornerstones of building a good online brand presence. It helps a business attract new customers, retain existing customers, and prevent business crises when customers have a negative experience. Additionally, brand reputation management allows businesses to respond to negative events, thus improving customer outcomes.
You can create and manage a brand reputation management strategy for your small business without hiring a third-party provider. This requires establishing a monitoring protocol, responding to online reviews and postings, and ensuring false reviews are removed in a timely fashion.
Brand reputation management is a complex process, but it’s one you can manage if you take the time to plan, gather the resources you need, and lean into good customer service practices. Through an effective reputation management plan, you’ll be able to improve how shoppers view your business and attract new customers, growing your online reputation and revenue at the same time.