What is online reputation management (ORM), and why should you take care of it? Brand reputation reveals how consumers view your company, the feelings it arouses, and how people respond to it. It acts as a mirror, reflecting how much people trust your brand. It significantly affects customer loyalty and revenue growth.
Additionally, brand reputation contributes to establishing your position as a leader in the field. Yet, your image may not be as good as you want it to be. That’s where reputation management comes to your aid.
Reputation management refers to all company’s efforts to build a favorable perception of the brand. How can an online merchant improve the store’s reputation? This article will cover online reputation management strategies and how they can ensure your business’s success if done correctly.
Eight Tips to Take Control of Your Brand’s Online Image
What if someone is dissatisfied with your store, product, or quality of service? You may revise the website usability and implement different ideas for enhancing the user experience for eCommerce. You may go mobile-first, improve employee efficiency, or optimize a pricing strategy. However, these steps may only be sufficient with digital reputation management. Let’s review some of the most efficient strategies to manage your online presence.
1. Install Reputation Management Software
Get a general understanding of what people already say about you online. It’s the first step before launching any ORM initiatives.
Open an incognito window in the browser and search for your company. These results will demonstrate what people normally see as the incognito mode removes any tailored information from the browser. Determine the general sentiment of reviews, comments, blog posts, and other brand-related content.
What is your place in the search results? Do you need to intervene and resolve an issue? What websites can you control, and what requires more complex strategies? For example, you may need to contact a blogger to discuss a possibly negative article about your company and find out why they are dissatisfied. Chances are they will remove or rewrite the post or generate a new favorable one.
However, a manual audit may be too tiresome, so you need special tools to streamline this process. Look at reputation management software. It’s a tool for helping businesses control their online mentions. Examples of this software include Reputation Studio, LocalClarity, Wonderflow, and others.
The systems run through various sources, such as websites and social media posts, to determine human sentiment based on keyword research. They aggregate reviews, containing keywords associated with a particular business.
So if the messages are negative, the software can offer a template to respond to this post and handle the issue. Or, if they’re positive, you can thank the customer and encourage others to leave their thoughts. Below is a screenshot of the Hootsuite interface and its free review tracker.
This tool lets you perform the following tasks:
- Get a full picture of customer feedback.
- Filter it based on various criteria.
- Post reviews to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in Hootsuite.
- Respond to reviews that come from Facebook or Google.
2. Create a Strategy for Managing Online Reputation
Step 1. Determine Your Priorities
Starting an online reputation management program can seem intimidating. How can you process every single mention at once while keeping the business running? The answer is prioritization. Determine the following factors that will be of utmost importance to your team:
- How fast should you reply, and what platforms allow you to control the situation;
- Who will be responsible for which channels;
- How much time and effort the ORM program should take;
- What platforms are more crucial for your audience;
- What tasks are easier to complete, and how do they influence your reputation?
Suppose your target audience surfs Twitter and leaves comments about your company there. As Twitter supports direct communication with the customer, you should pay close attention to this network and prevent any unfavorable information from destroying your reputation.
Step 2. Build a Company-Wide Tone of Voice
You need a solid strategy and a specific tone of voice for responding to good and bad messages. Watch your behavior and avoid escalating any disagreements. These guidelines apply to public comments and direct messages, as people can also share private conversations in public.
Suppose the customers’ perception of the brand doesn’t match how you intended it to be. Alter the brand voice to evoke the desired emotions in consumers. Different studies prove that clients’ emotions impact not only the desire to buy but also brand loyalty. And loyal buyers attract more prospects by spreading positive word of mouth. As a result, the correct brand voice will become your powerful sales leverage and contribute to a greater image.
Step 3. Prepare for a Reputational Crisis
While it may be hard to predict what may go wrong, preparing for unexpected situations is crucial. These steps include:
- using brand monitoring tools to receive notifications;
- checking current trends and changes in legislation;
- analyzing client behavior and preferences and focusing on the most popular channels;
- approaching each case individually;
- implementing employee training;
- protecting the company from cyberattacks as a data breach can damage its reputation.
3. Improve Your Customer Service
Buyers not only analyze your website and social media presence to make a purchase decision. They may contact your customer service department to find answers to their questions. And how well your specialists communicate with them can be a game changer. In most cases, a customer support agent is the only person interacting with the potential client. And they determine the future of cooperation between your company and customers. Fortunately, you can control the level of your customer service:
- Increase the number of touchpoints and go omnichannel. This strategy helps ensure a smooth transition between channels and customer recognition regardless of the platform used.
- Introduce workflow automation tools to increase employee productivity. Thus, you reduce the risk of burnout, streamline repetitive tasks, and focus on more strategic and creative duties.
- Leverage chatbots and conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Conversational AI is the ability of chatbots and virtual agents to understand human speech and support natural conversations. According to forecasts, the market for conversational AI will grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion in 2024. It means more than three times in five years.
Why does conversational AI grow so fast? This expansion is because conversational AI provides fast interactions, data processing, and personalization, which creates a positive impression about the business.
- Migrate to cloud communications. Cloud infrastructure entails moving resources online rather than storing them on-premise. People no longer need to stay in one physical location to access information. Cloud architecture lets employees work from anywhere, contributing to hybrid and remote work adoption. At the same time, it streamlines cross-departmental collaboration and leads to stable data exchange.
4. Personalize Communication on Various Channels
Personalization is the act of treating people like individuals with their names, preferences, and characteristics rather than a number in the list. It takes various forms, from personalizing emails to creating products based on consumer parameters. And it’s a vital component of a reputation management strategy.
According to Forbes, 92% of online buyers purchase things from personalized shopping cart recommendations. People like relevant suggestions. And 91% of consumers will more likely shop in a store with such functionality. Consider possible ways to personalize eCommerce operations in the list below.
- Implementing customization features. Customization involves creating unique products out of an assortment. Suppose you have comfortable shoes, but visitors demand a more versatile color range. You can create a customization page for clients to use basic shoes but apply different colors, patterns, or elements to them.
- Sending personalized emails. It’s all about the recipient. Although you send emails with automation tools, if the copy doesn’t speak to the audience in their language, bring value, or grasp attention, your campaign’s efforts become a waste of time and resources. Therefore, the capability to understand who’s getting the message and finding a way to connect with that “one pair of eyes” on the receiving end is key.
Email personalization helps you reach out to the audience and offer them the most needed products while remaining efficient and caring. You can send various types of personalized emails: promotions, cart abandonment notifications, surveys, reports, etc.
Let’s look at an email from Food52. The header of the email says: “Your Cart Called”, reminding the user what goods remain in their cart. Below is a button to go to the checkout page.
- Adding cross-sell blocks with relevant products. Artificial intelligence helps online retailers determine suitable content for various audience groups. For instance, a customer who viewed or bought a winter coat may want a hat or gloves. Or if they frequently browse high-end cosmetics, they will likely get more expensive apparel or perfumes.
Analyze consumer behavior and find similar patterns. People with similar interests may like the same goods, so configure a special section to display goods they might like.
For example, let’s look at how this feature works on the Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts site. At the bottom of the website, the user sees a list of “You May Also Like” items. It provides customers with a seamless shopping experience, increases purchase likelihood, and drives conversions. All these factors improve your online reputation.
- Launching loyalty programs. A loyalty program aims at frequent purchases to encourage shoppers to stay with the brand. They may join a closed club, gain access to early launches or discounts, or collect points to redeem on future orders. Take this strategy to the next level by personalizing it.
An excellent example of a personalized loyalty program is PetSmart. The site offers bonuses for general actions, such as placing an order for a certain amount, downloading an app, etc. But also it provides a reward, for example, for your pet’s birthday.
As much as personalization can improve brand perception, it may divert visitors from buying. How? If you are too intrusive. Keep in mind that people have extremely high privacy standards and don’t like to disclose too much information or feel forced to do it. Over-personalization could make them suspicious, so avoid it at all costs. Don’t cross this boundary.
5. Collect Customer Reviews
Even regular visitors to your website can’t be familiar with every single item you sell. People always have reasonable doubts about things they can’t touch and try on. But if you provide clear backing for your goods, the willingness to purchase will be remarkably higher. Indeed, we mean gathering feedback from customers as an online reputation strategy.
Many small online stores don’t support leaving reviews which is a huge omission! It’s much wiser to follow the example of Petite Studio, a garment brand from NYC that has review sections on every product page.
Ask for a review, but only after providing exceptional service. No one would share a mediocre experience. But you will always know when something disappointed a customer, even when you don’t expect it to appear in public. That’s why you should guarantee positive reviews prevail over negative ones. Ask satisfied clients to leave feedback, for example:
- create a small pop-up on the website;
- use social media to encourage people to share their comments about the company;
- include a request to write a review in an email;
- establish a special encouragement program, like points for every review.
6. Deal with Negative Reviews
Poor feedback hurts the company’s revenue due to its influence on current and potential customers. According to a ReviewTrackers survey, 94% of consumers believe that a bad review may divert them from a company. That’s why you should work with negative reviews as part of your online reputation management strategy. But the issue is not only with lost buyers.
Although modern shoppers rely on reviews, there is also a search engine optimization component to this. With 200 ranking factors, Google considers the website’s online reputation. Bad reputation involves everything from a sloppy eCommerce design to sluggish loading. And reviews may also point to some problems for search spiders to de-rank websites.
How should you react to negative comments? First, run through various places where clients may leave feedback. They can be your online store, social media, or third parties like Trustpilot, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others. Determine whether these are legitimate users or trolls. Haters will always accompany your business, so it’s better not to start a conversation with them and fuel a fire.
At the same time, make sure to leave all reviews, even though you may want to delete negative ones. Having only positive comments may seem suspicious, damaging your reputation.
Negative feedback is time-sensitive and requires a solid online reputation management plan, so respond to it as soon as possible. Thank customers for taking the time to share their opinion, and apologize for the inconvenience.
You may start a private dialogue to determine the next steps or offer a discount to compensate for the disappointing experience. Public conversations are good for your image, provided you don’t require sensitive information. If you do, publicly specify the need to switch to the private dialog to get the issue resolved.
Below we can see how the Brian Gavin Diamonds online store handles adverse situations. The store representative comprehensively explains what happened and minimizes the customers’ frustration by using polite phrases.
7. Share User-Generated Content (UGC)
Whether you represent a large or a small company, posts by shoppers are a must in your reputation management strategy. Let’s model a situation. A person bought a mug in your local store, shared their new love with followers, and tagged you. If you repost it, the person will likely be flattered. That’s it! The connection between the brand and the customer has strengthened, and your image improved.
In the screenshots below from a new pottery manufacturer called Keeeps, you’ll see how it stays connected with the audience. The shop has a “Testimonials” section in its Instagram Highlights and takes users’ photos as a base for posts as well.
8. Be Careful When Selecting Influencers
Influencer marketing entails collaboration between brands and bloggers. It can be a one-time review or a full-fledged promotional campaign in which the influencer encourages people to buy your products or services.
What conditions can you offer a blogger? You can pay them money or partner up with them for mutual benefit. But of course, we don’t mean paying to deceive followers with unreasonably pleasant testimonials, which may spoil your reputation.
Below is an example of how the Tentree online store works with an influencer, Billie Anderson (1,096 followers). She puts the product in a favorable light and offers an exclusive discount code. Note that a special discount helps measure your influencer marketing return on investment.
Let’s say you own a developing cosmetics store. The easiest way to find a blogger is to explore Instagram. Sometimes you communicate with the influencer directly, but many have a manager to settle on the terms. You decide on the type of collaboration you’ll provide, including the following steps:
- outlining the company you represent and the items you sell;
- specifying the frequency of ads;
- determining the payment for cooperation: money, products, or a store discount.
But what are the strategies to find the right opinion leader? After all, they should meet your values and influence your target audience. The procedure for researching and approaching influencers may be the following:
- paying attention to hashtags;
- figuring out keywords to search on Google. When you do it, include “site: Instagram.com” before your keywords to explore the platform;
- conducting competitive research;
- leveraging influencer tools and databases;
- creating a separate landing page for ambassadors on the website.
Influencer marketing is the most effective in the spheres with a broad target market and geographic scopes, such asЖ
- baby products;
- application and software development;
- food industries, among others.
Furthermore, since influencers work on social media, they can inspire followers to buy spontaneously, even though they watch their content without a purchase intent.
What can go wrong with influencer marketing? Finding the right person is the biggest challenge when working with opinion leaders. Many people artificially increase the number of followers and likes. Use audience engagement metrics to see the actual popularity of a blogger. Secondly, advertising money can go nowhere if you select an irrelevant blogger without your potential buyers among followers.
The current influencer marketing trend is the growing popularity of nano and micro-influencers. These people have several thousands of followers, 100,000 people at most. Why do companies prefer bloggers with smaller audiences? They allow businesses to reduce marketing costs while addressing their target buyers with the highest engagement rates.
As mentioned above, you shouldn’t decide how opinion leaders should review your products. Paying for positive feedback is a significant reputational risk in this case. Another issue lies in the lack of control over influencers’ personal lives and behavior. You may collaborate with them successfully, but their behavior may also take your brand down.
Take Laura Lee, PewDiePie, or Logan Paul as an example. These are influencers with large audiences who joked inappropriately, ruining their reputation due to massive scandals. For example, Laura Lee, a makeup artist and YouTuber, had to pay a high price for her offensive and racist comments in 2012. Her old tweets emerged in 2018, causing brands to stop lucrative sponsorships with her.
To Sum Up
Can a successful company exist without a solid internet reputation? No, it can’t, as 65% of prospects rely on search engines when analyzing a business. They consider the website’s position in search, reviews, and various online conversations to determine the company’s credibility.
People may discover different content about you. Your task is to make a favorable impression and encourage them to buy regardless of the harmful content dissatisfied clients or competitors spread.
Reviews, articles, and social media posts with your brand mention impact its reputation. Ideally, it should be a positive reflection of who you are and what you do. That’s where digital reputation management becomes essential. Online reputation management offers the advantages such as:
- creating a positive public perception of a brand;
- gaining customers’ trust;
- acquiring and retaining clients;
- boosting sales and revenue.
Art Malkovich is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Onilab web development agency. He has been providing the company’s clients with the most efficient eCommerce solutions for 8+ years. Art gets the team acquainted with innovations in mobile commerce, PWA development, and UX/UI design as soon as they’re available.