Ask an Expert: The Beginner’s Guide to Online Reputation Management

Your online presence, whether it be your personal social media, brand or website is shaped by your online reputation.

It’s how others see you.

Since feedback from customers or anyone with internet access can be freely entered into a variety of websites and social media platforms, your reputation is online and public like never before. Therefore, it is critical that you have a process for online reputation management (ORM).

In this article you will learn some simple steps to measure and manage your reputation online.

For many this topic is not well understood, and for others it may seem overwhelming. Keep reading and we’ll break it down into easy and actionable steps you can take to shore up your online reputation.

What is Your Online Reputation?

Whether you have an ecommerce website or are a public official such as a politician, your reputation is your most important attribute. Trust is important in any relationship and is directly related to your reputation.

Building a positive online reputation is critical to making sales, since customers will only buy from sites they trust.

Online reputation management refers to the process of generating, maintaining and promoting your company’s reputation. Customers use a wide variety of sources to form perceptions of a brand’s trustworthiness, including online reviews, social media accounts and posts, and the quality of the company’s website and content. Building a positive online reputation is critical to making sales, since customers will only buy from sites they trust.

Company Reputation Management

Depending on the size of your company, online reputation management can be as easy as answering a few Facebook messages each week, or as complex as organizing, evaluating and responding to thousands of emails, messages, calls, reviews, mentions, videos and more. We’ll focus on the online reputation management techniques that work best for small- and medium-sized businesses, since most ecommerce merchants fall within this category.

Managing Product Reviews

To start, put yourself into your customers' shoes and think about how you shop online. If you're on Amazon, chances are you look at the product reviews and the "Customer Questions and Answers" section to see what other people are saying about the product.

Would you buy a product that has mostly 1 star reviews? Probably not.

Check out this feedback for an anonymous movie we found on Amazon:

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While some movies can be so terrible they receive cult status, this doesn’t appear to be the case here. One of the key components of maintaining a positive online reputation is ensuring that you’re offering a high-quality product — it’s much easier to get positive reviews and mentions if your product is noticeably better than the competition.

Managing Your Online Reputation within Google and Other Search Engines

Let’s say you're looking for a coffee maker and are interested in Nespresso. The reviews are good on Amazon, and the price is higher than most others so before buying you want to do a little more research about the company.

So, you go to google and type in the brand name:

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As you can see, besides organic links to the Nespresso website there is a Twitter feed from the brand as well as the company social media apps like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages. All of this information is critical to a brand’s online reputation. If you see negative results when Googling the name of your business or your business’ reviews, addressing these should become a top priority. Ideally, you’d like to solve the customer’s problem so effectively that they remove the negative review and replace it with a positive (or at least neutral) review. At the very least, you want to show anyone else reading the review that you’ve responded promptly, politely and have taken every reasonable step to resolve the issue.

Managing Your Reputation on Facebook

Facebook is a place where people can go to tell the world how much they love your product or company — or how much they hate them. Facebook has become one of the most popular ways for customers to reach out for support, and the last step for most unsatisfied customers is to leave negative reviews on Facebook and other platforms.

Customers pay attention to what people are saying about you, but also what you’re saying back.

Customers pay attention to what people are saying about you, but also what you’re saying back — if you’re responding to user issues quickly and effectively and displaying how much you care about customer satisfaction, you can not only mitigate the effects of the negative comment, but actually build brand trust. Customers love to see brands go the extra mile for customers, and great customer service is the best way to retain customers.

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How to Respond to Negative Reviews?

The best way to respond to negative comments or reviews is with a helpful, positive response. In the examples above, the business was respectful and sensitive to the poor experiences that their customers faced, and took every reasonable step to resolve the issue and ensure the customer is happy.

This is how you should communicate, especially if you want to build a solid online reputation.

Even if a customer review is grossly misinformed or misleading, you must approach it calmly and professionally.

The surest way to damage your reputation is to be rude and lack empathy with your customers, or to be defensive. Even if a customer review is grossly misinformed or misleading, you must approach it calmly, professionally and show that you understand the source of the customer’s unhappiness and display that you’ve done everything that you can to make it right.

If future readers see that a customer is still unhappy after you’ve bent over backwards to try to solve an issue, they’ll usually side with the voice of reason. Also, you may often find that giving the customer the benefit of the doubt can turn into a positive experience — they may be having a unique problem that helps you improve your product, or you may be misunderstanding the source of their dissatisfaction entirely.

Relationship with Customers

It's not always just about the product. You may not see this right away, but your customer is thinking about the relationship with the brand.

In my business, Oransi, we sell air purifiers and replacement filters. When a customer buys one of our products they will need to purchase filters at some point in the future. If they have a bad experience with us and we don’t take care of them, how likely are they to buy the filters?

Online reputation management is even more important for retaining your existing customers than it is for attracting new ones.

Online reputation management is even more important for retaining your existing customers than it is for attracting new ones. More accurately, ensuring that you provide a customer experience that is positive enough to ensure repeat customers is the best way to build an online reputation. If you never let them down, your customers can remain loyal for a lifetime.

How to Think About Your Online Reputation

To buy products 30 years ago, you went to the store or purchased from a catalog. There were no product reviews in the stores. There were no social media sites. You were mostly in the dark to how good a company was, and what others experienced. A small number of big brands dominated overall sales.

With technology advances, new and small brands can now compete like never before.

With technology advances, new and small brands can now compete like never before based on the strength of their online reputations. Now, anyone can post feedback about your company, product or service for the world to see. They can give a shoutout on Twitter or influence your brand on Instagram to give it a positive boost.

This presents a huge opportunity for small businesses.

A key to success is leveraging your positive reputation and learning how to manage negative comments. But before we get to that, here are some tools to give you the insights to what is being said about your business:

Online Reputation Management Tools & Services

There are several tools and services that can make it much easier to manage and maintain your company’s online reputation.

  • Google Alerts: One of the best reputation management tools is Google Alerts. Here you can enter your brand, product name or any keyword and choose how often you want Google to send you any mentions of your keyword. This is a great way to instantly know if someone has said something about you online, and can be key to finding and fixing negative reviews before they’ve been seen by thousands of potential customers.

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  • Feature Reviews Directly on Your Website: Collecting the bulk of product and customer review on your own website has a number of advantages. Customers have to navigate to your product pages to view them, increasing the likelihood of a sale. (If the reviews are good, of course!) We use the new Volusion V2 software as our ecommerce platform, which includes a Yotpo reviews plugin.

    • Other software programs for reviews include PowerReviews, Bazaarvoice and TrustPilot. Besides offering social proof, these programs can also help with your search engine optimization.
  • Facebook Notifications: Review your Facebook Notifications regularly. Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can see all comments, messages and likes from both social sites for your company in one dashboard.

  • Twitter Notifications: Similar to Facebook, you should review your notifications regularly and respond in a professional manner.
    Knowem allows you to search your brand across a host of additional social networks as well as the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark) site.

  • If you sell on Amazon, then you'll want to remember to review it for your products or for any new shopper questions or product reviews. Additionally, Amazon has a program called Vine where you can send your products to professional reviewers that are screened by Amazon to give your product some reviews. This is especially important if you are launching a new product and have few product reviews.

Protecting Your Brand Name

One of the most critical but commonly-overlooked forms of reputation management is copyright enforcement. To protect your brand you should have your brand name trademarked with the USPTO. Once you have the trademark there are some protections provided by Google in advertising and by Amazon for how your brand name is used on their platforms.\

Be diligent about enforcing your copyright.

Be diligent about enforcing your copyright — knockoffs and imitators can do serious damage to your brand reputation. Furthermore, you do not want them to use your brand name in online ads. It creates confusion with customers and could be a huge headache for you.

How can a negative online reputation affect you?

For any business a negative reputation can be costly, but for a for a smaller business it can be devastating.

If there's just one bad review you can overcome it; however, you will need to work a little harder to sell and encourage your customers to write a review.

Think like a PR Company

Managing your online reputation is about projecting your positive image and taking care of customers. One way to think about it is to think like a PR company. Try to put out valuable content to shoppers and engage with them. If you can do this, you will build a brand community.

In most cases you should be able to work through negative reviews with some work.

If your reputation takes a hit, you should act quickly. In most cases you should be able to work through negative reviews with some work. If the negative publicity issues are too large, you may want to consider a reputation management company or a public relations firm. They can work on your behalf to manage reviews and online discussions with customers, put out press releases and other positive media and help you make sure that both your content and your interactions with customers are high-quality and effective.

Another strategy is to publish press releases. Smaller companies, however, will likely be better off engaging directly with their community on social media accounts rather than pursuing a press release.

The personal touch provided by interacting directly with someone highly familiar with the product (like the founders of the business) helps make customers feel valued and appreciated. However, avoid being overly personal — this is not your personal social media profile, so avoid posting anything that could ever hurt your brand reputation.

Being transparent and producing high-quality content is the way to go.

Positive Reputations Drive Sales

Reputation management isn’t all about avoiding a negative reputation.

Building your brand reputation gives you some of the best marketing opportunities available, such as testimonials, recommendations and positive mentions of your brand on blogs, social media or via face-to-face interactions.

If you have positive reviews, a strong reputation management strategy includes leveraging them in your marketing:

  • Retweet glowing reviews and positive shoutouts
  • Create graphics to show in your social media marketing programs, especially Facebook and Instagram
  • Include testimonials on your homepage and product pages

At the end of the day, it’s trust that drives sales, so make sure to protect your most important asset — your company’s online reputation.

Have any questions about reputation management? Leave us a comment!