With each new year, new communication platforms get added to the marketing mix.
Years ago, your company would be fine with a simple website and email address for customer support. Now, consumers’ tech habits have gone multichannel (and omnichannel), and our marketing has had to adapt accordingly.
Your team likely manages at least half a dozen different properties and profiles, from websites, to micro-sites, to social networks.
And these aren’t just communication channels. Your customers are actually looking to do business with you on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and beyond. Millennials are around as likely to buy products on these social networks as they are from your own website or physical store, according to data from BigCommerce’s “2019 Omni-Channel Retail Report.”
The key takeaway here is that reputation management across touch-points is more of a business-critical issue today than ever before.
In any given day, customers, potential customers, and stakeholders are talking about your business online in virtually countless places.
For example, there’s:
- Journalists writing PR coverage, which their audiences engage with,
- Social media users posting their experiences and reaching out for support,
- Forum and community group participants discussing your products in comparison threads,
- Reviewers writing about their experiences with your solutions and their reactions to your marketing activity, and
- Employees talking about how their work days are going and/or actively trying to promote your job postings and engage with sales prospects.
“One of the biggest problems that companies face is that when they go to tell a story, it doesn’t look authentic because it’s coming from a brand and not a person,” branding expert Leonard Kim recently told Smarp.
“For years, companies have done everything in their power to become more relatable to people, but they have missed the key component when it comes to becoming relatable with people. The most important component is having the people inside the company communicating with people outside the company.”
As overwhelming as it might seem, it’s crucial for your communications team to stay on top of it all in order to manage your business’s brand marketing and reputation effectively. In this guide, we’ll break down what online reputation management (ORM) looks like today and how to manage your online reputation effectively.
Because of how democratized and open publishing is now, you’re less in control of your brand than ever before. It’s easier for any coverage, positive or negative, to amplify and spread – giving more power to the members of your audience.
What is online reputation management?
Online reputation management is the act of consistently monitoring, managing, and engaging with the public perception of your brand online with the overall goal of proactively crafting brand sentiment.
Not so long ago, if a disgruntled customer complained, it would only reach whoever was in earshot. Today, it can reach hundreds of their followers. If a critic wrote a poor review, it would appear in their local paper for thousands to read instead of their website, available to millions.
However, while other people have the ability to reach exponentially more people, so do you.
Online reputation management is when you take advantage of that. It includes both proactive and reactive measures and both talking and listening, depending on the circumstances and your brand’s goals.
Are you able to confidently say you're managing your own online reputation?
Before online marketing changed everything about how we do business, word-of-mouth (WOM) existed in more of a vacuum.
Now, anything said about your business or brand has the potential to impact your digital footprint. The same footprint that potential customers, employees, and investors see when they’re researching and considering your brand.
For example, according to customer review statistics, 49 percent of consumers check reviews at least regularly, and, in many cases, trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
(Image source: brightlocal.com)
What most brands are slow to realize is that their own content makes up a small fraction of their overall digital footprint. Digital marketing activities like blogging, paid ads, and online PR surely improve the overall picture, but they’re just one part of it.
That’s why online reputation management is such a crucial component of your overall communications strategy. While most of your other marketing activities are focused on adding your own content to that digital footprint, reputation management is more focused on monitoring and responding to the content other people are contributing to it.
TIP: Learn more about all best online reputation management software in 2019 and see real-user reviews for over 150 of the best tools.
Just make sure you don’t dedicate too many resources to the wrong places. Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks recommends measuring the web traffic referrals you get from various media channels, whether they’re paid, earned, shared, or owned.
“Once you know where your audience hangs out online, you can start to engage with them and build relationships. In the course of those conversations, you can use unique URLs to understand what those visitors are doing on your site once they get there,” she recently wrote.
“Over time, you’ll be able to fine-tune your shared media activities to not only focus on the channels sending you the most visitors, but on the ones sending you the right visitors.”
When done well, your company is in tune with everything key groups are saying about your business and able to turn those conversations into opportunities. The different types of ORM to focus on will depend on your type of business, as will the types of opportunities it creates. But it has the ability to impact your sales, customer satisfaction, brand perception, and more.
How exactly does managing your online reputation impact your business? Let’s look at the results you can earn in a bit more detail.
1. Acquire new customers and clients
Online press, reviews, forums, and social media conversations all impact your brand reach and image. By actively participating in reputation management, especially tactics involving creating new assets discussed below, you’re able to reach new people and drive them to your business.
Whether they visit your website then and there, or save the knowledge for later, new sales will come from a positive reputation.
2. Provide stellar customer support
When you actively monitor and manage your brand’s reputation, you’ll also find customer service and satisfaction opportunities you might not have otherwise. Not everyone talking about your brand online will do so on your official pages and profiles.
In order to find, for example, a customer complaint on Twitter that doesn’t tag your handle, you need a reputation management strategy that includes finding and responding to posts like these.
3. Retain loyal and satisfied customers
When you actively look for and engage with conversations about your brand online, you have a coveted chance to surprise and delight current customers. Whether someone is talking positively or negatively, there’s always room to improve the relationship.
For example, by finding people complimenting your brand and thanking them, they’ll feel seen and appreciated. And by responding to negative content and trying to solve the problem, you have the chance to turn around a poor impression.
4. Prevent a brand social media crisis
By monitoring and managing your online reputation, you can find and focus on anything with negative sentiment as soon as possible to avoid a potential crisis. It’s all too common for a casual complaint to go viral or spin out of control online these days, which is why if anything negative is posted, you want to be one of the first to find it.
Networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, are especially prone to negative conversations, so you’ll want to actively monitor and engage on those platforms.
(Image source: SentiOne)
Having a social media sentiment analysis strategy can help your brand detect negative comments and posts before they become a viral disaster.
5. Build relationships with publishers and influencers
Keep in mind that some of the people talking about your brand will have large audiences and influence. There will be journalists, reviewers, social media influencers, and more.
By engaging with them when they do so, you can cultivate a positive relationship with them that can lead to future marketing or PR opportunities.
Now that you know what strategic ORM can do, let’s look at a few fresh examples of reputation management that brands should aspire to or avoid. In addition to what happened, we’ll talk about why it was such a success or failure.
6. Winning customers from competitors
Poaching customers is always a risky move, but can be successful when done strategically. That includes knowing when to insert yourself into the conversation, and how, while keeping customers’ best interests at heart.
Recently, a ConvertKit alternative changed its pricing structure, and lots of Twitter users were grumbling about switching email providers. After being tagged in numerous conversations about it, ConvertKit CEO Nathan Barry tweeted out a public offer:
(Image source: twitter.com/nathanbarry)
He began booking sales calls straight from there. Notice how instead of having to search for and jump into individual conversations, this call out resulted in 21 retweets and 44 replies, which ranged from those interested in the offer, to middlemen tagging their colleagues to connect them with Nathan.
7. Making money by taking a viral stand
In 2018, Nike premiered their ad campaign with controversial figure Colin Kaepernick on social media ahead of its commercial slot in the NFL season opener. This is a great example of using monitoring for market research and taking calculated but significant risks.
Despite the commercial drawing outrage from many on social media, Nike’s online sales immediately spiked in support of the campaign as well, proving it attracted an audience as it hoped to. From a CRO perspective, this wasn’t just a sales win – it kept the conversation about Nike less focused on the company’s alleged abuses in East Asian sweatshops.
8. Lashing out makes you look guilty
When news of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal first broke in 2017, Cambridge Analytica went to Twitter to see how people were responding. Only, rather than crafting a serious statement or responding to individuals, they lashed out in a long Twitter thread that bitterly denied allegations.
(Image source: twitter.com/CamAnalytica)
This rant, with minimizing remarks like “This isn’t a spy movie,” caused Twitter users to believe they were panicking in the wake of guilt, rather than making a case for their innocence.
9. Don’t go dark in a crisis
If you do find your brand in a reputation management crisis, no matter how minor it might be, one of the worst responses is no response. In 2017, British Airways experienced a massive system failure during a holiday weekend, their social media accounts weren’t on top of providing help and information, drawing further criticism.
(Image source: twitter.com/British_Airways)
When they did post on Twitter, they’d frequently apologize without any other information or answers, and days after the original requests. The late and unhelpful public response only made the brand look worse and their customers more frustrated.
If you’re going to use digital channels, you need to be prepared for using them in bad scenarios as well as good ones. Otherwise they can just amplify the damage to your brand’s reputation.
If you do make the strategic decision to start managing your online reputation, there are a few different tactics you can start using. Which you’ll want to focus on depends on how your customers communicate and what your reputation management goals are.
1. Social media listening
Given how many of your industry’s conversations are happening on social media, social media monitoring is a core component of online reputation management. You should be listening and replying to important conversations from customers, press, and influencers on social media.
TIP: Research over 178 social media monitoring software platforms and read real-user reviews to help find the tools right for you.
2. Review management
Online reviews have long been an important part of a business’s word-of-mouth success. That’s no different online, but there are dozens more places for customers to read reviews. Fortunately, this also gives you the opportunity to monitor and reply to reviewers as well. You can also use reputation management software tools like PowerReviews to actively solicit reviews from customers you suspect are delighted by their experiences with you.
3. Search engine optimization
Managing how your brand is portrayed in search results is another important part of reputation management. While you can’t directly influence or reduce the ranking of negative coverage, you can work to outrank it with your own content and SEO efforts. In addition to building links to boost the rankings of your owned web properties, you might want to consider boosting third-party presences where you feel more in control of sentiment. Your social profiles may be the best opportunities.
SEO monitoring software like Ahrefs allow you to monitor and track search results for keywords related to your brand, as well as what domains are sending the most “SEO juice” to the search results you want to bury.
4. Social media advocacy
Cultivating your relationships with advocates, such as employees and partners, on social media is another strong tactic. When you provide a way for them to communicate and easily share content, they can help you amplify and spread content that gives your reputation a boost.
TIP: If you're ready to research a social media advocate tool, find out the best brand advocacy software in 2019.
5. Public relations platforms
Finally, public relations and working with the press can help improve your reputation as well. It’s another way to amplify good stories about your business, on many different channels. For example, the same publisher might create a video, search optimized blog post, and various social media messages for the same story. There are several ways to take advantage of that with reputation management. A good place to start might be to use HARO to connect with journalists looking for sources to add color to their stories.
TIP: Similiar to PR tools are platforms that monitor media outlets and specific keywords related to your brand. Find out the best media monitoring software from real-users in 2019.
Get started monitoring today
With the strategies and tools listed above, it’s easy to continually improve your brand’s image long-term. With the right mix of monitoring what other people are saying, and starting conversations yourself, you can shape your business’s reputation as needed.
Ready to learn more about review management? Learn the most effective strategies for improving online reviews in 2019.