Online reputation management is more important than ever, as research proves that reviews, testimonials and social media pages hold heavy influence over a prospect's likelihood of becoming a customer. In fact, Search Engine Land reported that 88 percent of people are as likely to trust your digital reputation as they are to trust a recommendation from a friend.
Whether they're managed by you or someone else, you'll want all facets of your digital presence to paint your company in a positive light. But realistically, that won't always be the case.
In this post, we'll discuss some of the challenges to managing your digital reputation and how you can train your team to respond promptly and appropriately. Let's start with the most common problem facing brands with a digital presence: the negative review.
How to Handle Negative Reviews and Comments
When people start leaving reviews for your business, the first response is probably excitement — people are not only buying your product, but they're inspired to tell others about it! Your first review is a good sign, but you'll soon find out it's not all fun and games.
Most online review sites allow businesses to respond to customer reviews, and how you reply to your critics says a lot about your brand. No matter how harsh the testimonial, stay professional and positive, and send a strong message that you hear their complaint and are taking steps to address it.
If you know the review to be false or misleading, you may be able to contact the site administrator and ask them to take it down, but be prepared to make a good case. Review sites are meant to protect customers, not businesses.
Use the same courteous, attentive approach when responding on social media. Just because you can delete the comment doesn't mean you should — it could further inflame an already-upset customer and escalate the situation.
Proactive online reputation management means facing your tough critics head-on. While it's not always easy, gracefully handling negative comments can not only neutralize them but can also leave readers with a positive impression of your brand.
Here are a few tips for responding to online criticism:
- Is the complaint true? If so, acknowledge it and list actions taken to correct the issue.
- If the review is false or subjective, try to engage the commenter to see where the problem really lies. Ask specific questions to get to the bottom of it.
- Make apologies when necessary, but don't lay it on too thick for minor grievances. Admit fault with dignity, not shame.
- Never, ever put down the commenter or suggest they go to your competition. Chances are they will, and so will everyone else reading the review.
- If you encounter trolling on your social pages, you can block the offending parties. If comments were pervasive, you may want to consider issuing a statement on the page explaining what happened.
Of course, many business owners and managers already know to grin and bear it in the face of criticism, but that's not always enough. Next, let's talk about how you can help your staff excel at online reputation management.
Employees Are the Voice of Your Brand
Crafting a cohesive digital presence helps brands become as transparent as possible, allowing customers a glimpse into product development, company culture and values, sourcing, financing and more. Unfortunately, it can also allow them to see when you have a rookie managing your online reputation.
People say the wrong thing all the time, often with good intentions. In addition to hiring smart people who align with your brand, you'll also need to set rules and guidelines that give them actionable directives for how to manage your brand online.
It helps to develop a list of talking points that employees can use when responding to comments or reviews. For example, if you're an auto dealership, people are bound to post on your page that they found a better deal elsewhere, so there are a few talking points you should emphasize in that scenario:
- Thank the person for their feedback.
- Tell them you provide the best quality possible and sometimes that means higher prices.
- But you're dedicated to giving them a good deal, so they should call to see if something can be worked out.
- Sign off with a name and a greeting.
You don't want your responses to sound rote, so talking points let your social or digital managers handle situations in their own words but with your message.
Additionally, you may want to teach your staff how to triage complaints so that low-priority situations can be handled promptly and high-priority issues get the attention they need from the right people. Provide solution options for common complaints and set a process for serious problems that may involve a more detailed report and investigation.
Finally, it's important that you don't miss a beat, so next we'll talk about how to monitor your digital presence 24/7.
Monitoring the Internet is a Full-Time Job
People can post their complaints about you at any time of day, and they often will. Look out for negative reviews, comments and news even on nights and weekends.
To keep up, you can use an automated solution, an agency or ask your staff to check pages periodically. Be sure to set a Google Alert for your brand name and any names associated with your brand so you get a notification anytime someone online mentions your company.
The most effective and efficient thing you can do to manage your reputation is to ensure that when you search for your brand on Google, the first page of results includes strong, positive content.
This means having great content on your site that ranks highly, as well as having news stories and third-party articles about your brand. Hiring a content team or an agency to handle this for you puts your strategy in the hands of experts, meaning better, faster results. SEO and content marketing are a proactive means of online reputation management.
With processes and strategies in place, it's easy to gain a positive online reputation so that your team can focus on your product and services — and not on the trolls.