Businesses have always had to manage their reputation; the only things that have changed are the medium, the speed at which information is transmitted and the number of people that are reached by that information. Your reputation used to be what you said about yourself in your advertising and the limited reach your customers had via word of mouth. Now, customers define businesses by providing real time feedback on review sites, social media, forums and other channels.
Managing a successful online reputation takes a lot of time. You can use products, services or people to cut down on your time expenditure, but whatever you do, maintaining the online presence of a business is one of the most worthwhile investments you’ll make.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Foursquare have dramatically changed the way businesses communicate compared to traditional media. Your reputation is both what you say about yourself, and what your customers say about you.
Social media is a two-way conversation — businesses can no longer broadcast the message they want people to see. There is a democratic nature to social, with brands, consumers and everyone else having an equal voice in a shared space. Customers can rave about your business or let everyone know they had a terrible experience. Earned media — like mentions, reviews and shares — has empowered consumers to advocate for brands they care about. Today, consumers can converse with brands and vice versa. This has created a world of opportunities.
Though some people think of monitoring their reputation as a scary chore or a daunting task, instant feedback is something most business owners are constantly searching for. Responding effectively to negative reviews and amplifying positive feedback is essential for success. Not responding to customers on review sites and social media is worse than having a phone line you never answer because there are thousands of people witnessing your neglect.
While review sites and social media are essential parts of managing a successful online reputation, monitoring your digital profile is about much more than responding to reviews and social media. It’s about being proactive and creating your online image with the help of your customers.
What Makes a Good Online Reputation?
Being present and having a good reputation go hand-in-hand. Not being listed on a reference site your customers use is just as bad as having bad reviews on that site. When many of your online profiles have user generated content like reviews, your reputation drives tangible results. You need to maximize visibility and reputation simultaneously.
Building a consistent online presence and a positive reputation is important for both consumers and search engines. Some of the most important aspects of the online footprint include:
- Number of listings
- Consistency of listing information (name, address, phone)
- Overall sentiment in reviews
- Frequency or current velocity of new reviews
- Overall volume of reviews
- Social activity and engagement (especially with reviewers)
People trust traditional advertising far less than social recommendations and review sites. Customers view this user generated content as more genuine and authentic, expecting them to mirror the actual customer experience. This means that maintaining your reputation is getting increasingly more important.
Nearly 95 percent of smartphone users have looked for local information online. Google has reported that 9 out of 10 of those searches lead to action, and more than 50 percent lead to sales. Much of the time, a customer decides to purchase before even entering the store. If you have a good web presence, customers will come to you rather than your competitor. Once they’re in the store, 79 percent use their smartphones inside to look at reviews, compare prices and compare other metrics, and 74 percent of them end up making a purchase.
Those numbers make the opportunity clear: maintain a good online reputation, get people in the door and make sales.
Reputation Drives Conversion
What people see online matters. Around 74 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations — this is a huge shift in thinking that has become more prominent year over year. This, of course, translates to dollars, as customers put their money where their trust is. A Harvard Business School study found that a restaurant that sees a one star increase on Yelp will see revenues increase anywhere from five to nine percent.
Most businesses find that cultivating their digital profile on their own is too time consuming. There are Reputation Monitoring tools that make keeping up with customers way easier, saving time and money.
Whatever you do, make sure that you’re not ignoring your customers on the platforms they use. The worst thing you can do is nothing.