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5 Basic Rules For Online Reputation Management
Online reputation management can be a tricky business. It’s a fascinating combination of content marketing, social media monitoring, complaint management, and damage limitation. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Online reputation is vital for any business, even the ones with the smallest online presence — it all adds up. Learning how to deal with public spats and negative reviews before they snowball (all too easy in a social media-obsessed age) is a great skill to have, and it’s not that difficult to nail the basics of pro-active online reputation management.
Check out these five basic rules to keep your online reputation spotless.
1. Interact regularly, consistently and enthusiastically
Step one of mastering online reputation management: be visible.
This means maintaining a strong presence on social media channels, review sites and your own website or blog. You can do this by posting fresh, engaging content and interacting with your followers on a regular basis. This is especially important if you’re revamping a brand that’s got a bit tired and you need to boost your (relevant social followers fast. A content calendar will help to organise your marketing strategy and plan out interesting, compelling posts.
You also need to be consistent with your communications. This is easier to do if you’re a one-person business, but if you’ve got a wider team, you need to think about coordinating your messaging. You can do this by writing up a set of brand guidelines on tone of voice and social media style.
This will ensure that you and your team speak with one united brand voice, rather than that 10 different voices. It should also help to avoid any faux pas like crude jokes, inappropriate photos or swearing.
Lastly, make sure that everyone onboard is well-informed and enthusiastic. If your followers ask questions about any aspect of your business, you should be able to give helpful (and correct) answers.
Aim to be friendly and polite in all of your interactions and — if the occasion calls for it — you can let loose and have a bit of fun with your followers. Engaging in a lighter, informal way will make your brand seem less corporate and stuffy.
2. Respond to reviews and comments quickly
Time is of the essence when it comes to responding to mentions, reviews and comments. This is particularly true for negative feedback — a rapid response is crucial for damage control.
Aim to respond to your audience within the hour (or at least the day). This will avoid your critics getting angrier or your potential customers from getting tired of waiting for a response and moving onto a rival business instead.
Depending on the size of your business, you can either monitor social media comments and responses by yourself, or dedicate an individual or team to responding to your audience.
There are various social media tools to monitor online chat around your business — most social tools have monitoring features which will alert you whenever your brand, service or product gets a mention. Some will also scan major review sites such as TripAdvisor or Facebook Reviews so that you can engage with reviewers as quickly as possible.
Whether your business is an ecommerce store or a brick and mortar business with an online presence, catching bad feedback and highlighting positive reviews quickly is important. Reputation management services can be leveraged by existing websites, businesses, and brands at any time — it’s never too late to start. Remind happy customers to leave reviews and shout about those 5-stars on social media. Managed services will also alert you to negative feedback before too much damage is done.
Most importantly, do not be tempted to delete negative comments; this will leave your angry or disappointed customer even more unhappy. It will also not work in your favour with your wider online audience — people do notice these things, and transparency is key. Instead, tackle negative feedback head-on by using the tips below.
3. Always be polite and professional
It’s a basic rule of online reputation management, but one that people often forget — especially in the heat of the moment.
It’s crucial to your reputation that you remain polite and keep a professional tone to all of your online interactions. This applies to all situations — whether you’re getting the praise you feel you deserve, or you’re suffering from a bad review or negative comment.
Friendly and informal interaction is absolutely fine, but at the end of the day, you are a business owner running a service or selling products. If your potential customers see you being rude, blunt or unprofessional to others on social media, your website or Tripadvisor, then why would they have faith in your product or service?
Would they believe that your product is legitimate, works well, and gets to them on time? Or that your service is the best that they deserve?
This is especially important if you have any intention of selling your business on — potential buyers will see that you have a bad reputation for customer relationship management and will be nervous about taking your brand on. Many online business listings highlight customer feedback scores, and investors often conduct mystery shopping exercises before committing to a new venture. Customer reputation (both offline and online) affects brand equity.
Make sure you don’t cross any lines with your online language or behaviour. Think about the wider picture and the vision of your brand you are spreading with any comments or responses you make online.
4. Continue the discussion offline (away from an audience)
No one likes a public row. It’s embarrassing for all parties involved, and it really doesn’t paint your business in a good light at all.
No matter how respectful and responsible you or your social team are being, if you’ve got an angry customer who is desperate to vent in front of an avid audience, then you are never going to win.
It’s really best to take the discussion offline — provide your email address, ask your unhappy customer to DM you, or give your customer service or manager phone number and have a chat on the phone.
It will take the heat off speaking publicly, and you’ll be able to have an honest one-to-one conversation without other people getting involved on the sidelines (though beware of potential screenshotting and your angry customer reporting back what you’ve just said).
Discussing any issues over the phone is normally better anyway, as it leaves you less open to misinterpretation. The last thing you want when trying to resolve an issue for your tone to be misconstrued and aggravate the situation.
5. Don’t offer free stuff on social media
If you want to make up for any shortcomings and offer a customer a free stay at your hotel, a drink on the house, or an apology gift sent right to their door, then don’t do it on social media.
On the surface, it seems like a great idea. The rest of your customers and prospects will see how kind and generous you are, and they’ll grow to love your brand even more. They’ll be able to see that you wanted to make up for a poor product or shoddy service and offer compensation.
Unfortunately, people also love free stuff.
If you gain a reputation for handing out refunds, free meals or products, you may find that a watchful audience take advantage of this. We’re not saying that everyone’s a bad guy, but there are opportunists out there.
Not only will this result in your business losing money to recompense these customers, but it can also lead to an increase in negative reviews or comments. Regardless of whether these are false or not, your online audience are unlikely to know the difference and this will all contribute to tarnishing your reputation.
In a digital age where bad press about your business can spread like wildfire, it’s critical to manage your online reputation.
Keep these five basic rules in mind when posting online or interacting with your customers, and you’ll keep on the straight and narrow. Make a name for your business for all of the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Victoria Greene is a branding expert and freelance writer. On her blog, Victoriaecommerce.com, she regularly shares advice for brands looking to increase profits with new technologies.