3 Rules for Managing your Brand's Reputation Online

Your business can be made (or destroyed) purely on its reputation. Going back a couple of decades or more, that often meant word of mouth referrals were the backbone of your new business enquiries. If you gave a customer bad service, news could travel fast, but not as far and wide as it could travel today with social media, forums and online review sites which consumers are using more and more for research before buying anything from holidays to cars to shoelaces.

This is more prevalent in industries such as hotels, restaurants and bars with platforms such as TripAdvisor, but it doesn't end there. with sites such as Review Centre, Trust Pilot and Reevoo, no one is immune to receiving customer feedback in the public domain; good or bad. 

So, how do we manage our brand's reputation when people are able to talk about us across multiple platforms to millions of potential customers? Here's 3 rules for getting it right:

Be Present

I've worked with businesses of all shapes on sizes, helping them put together an appropriate social media strategy that will get them noticed for the right reasons and help them establish and build lasting relationships with existing and potential customers. However, not all the businesses I've worked with have been enthusiastic about joining in the conversation.

The argument I've heard many times is that they don't wish to get negative feedback or open another channel of communication which they fear they won't be able to manage effectively. For them, they feel it's safer not to be on social media altogether.

My argument back is that they are already on social media; whether they like it or not. It doesn't matter whether you have profiles set up on each platform, your customers are already set up and ready to let the world know about the experience they have had. If this has been good, you're already benefiting from social media, but if it's been bad, your reputation could be damaged without you having the ability to respond and put things right.

Therefore, the most important thing you can do is be present wherever your customers hang out. You don't need to be creating content and posting every hour to every platform, but you should have some system in place to monitor people talking about you and responding as soon as possible.

Use tools such as Hootsuite to listen out for people talking about your brand.

Be Proactive

Someone once said to me, if you give someone a good experience, they will tell a friend. If you give them a bad experience, they will tell 10. And it's so true when it comes to online reviews. So much so that I believe reviews online are often skewed by the higher proportion of people leaving reviews after bad experiences.

For people to take the time to review a company they either have to have had a truly remarkable experience, or a bad one. People are less likely to leave a review for company if their experience has been good. Unless, that is, you are proactive in engaging with your customers and asking them to leave a positive review.

I've seen this done with follow up emails, pointing people to Facebook or Google to leave the review, or even on restaurant till receipts sending people to TripAdvisor. However you choose to do it, start collecting as many good reviews as possible.

By collecting as many reviews as possible, it gives people a more balanced view of how your business performs. It also means that if you do get the odd negative review, people can see it's more likely to be a one-off; nobody's perfect, after all.

Be Human

Responding to reviews (both and good and bad) is the best way to manage the feedback you get online. If the feedback is negative, don't take things personally as you can't please all of the people all of the time. Instead, be professional, thanking people for their feedback and letting them know that you value their opinion and what measures you are putting in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Make sure your responses are tailored to each review. It's really obvious when companies copy and paste standard responses to customer reviews. It's almost like saying you don't care enough to make it personal or the customer isn't important enough. Every customer has the potential to refer new business, so turning round a negative review into a positive could be one of the best things you do for your company's reputation.

With that in mind, make it personal and be human. Speak to them as you would if they gave this review in-person.

In summary

1. Find out where your customer's hang out and make sure you have accounts set up to be able to respond.

2. Be proactive in asking all customers to leave a review to give a more balanced picture of your brand on online review sites.

3. Don't automate responses - be human and make the customer feel valued, they could just turn out to be your biggest fan.