Online Reviews & Reputation Management
Once, businesses would live and die based on the strength of their word-of-mouth reputation. If your friends and neighbours said a particular business was good, you trusted that recommendation and went there first when you needed that type of product or service. Now with online, you need proper reputation management.
Now, those same dynamics play out online. Millions of people weigh in on businesses every day online through Google reviews and other online review sites, and each of their reactions is forever preserved for anyone to see. A single misstep can be all it takes for a business to lose hundreds of potential customers.
- Reputation Management
- Google Reviews
- Facebook Reviews
- Dealing With Bad Reviews
- The Power of Professionalism
This new paradigm may be more permanent, but it also gives you, the business owner, more opportunities to steer the conversation in a flattering direction. By paying attention to your online reputation, you can help to cultivate the loyal customer base your business deserves.
1) Reputation Management
Reputation management refers to the process of constructing a positive online business identity (as mentioned above). As of 2018, its primary focus is social media websites and their business rating and review systems. Using user input, these platforms aggregate reviews from customers to display a comprehensive average rating between 1 and 5 stars. The higher your rating, the better your business – or so the theory goes.
A poor rating damages your prospects in more ways than one. Not only will you have fewer visitors and customers, but you’ll also lose out on potential clicks through to your site, damaging your Google page ranking metrics and further reducing your online visibility. Reputation management aims to not only reduce the number of bad reviews a business receives, but increase the number of positive ones as well.
If your business is successful and your customers generally satisfied, you may think you’ll never need to worry about this. Unfortunately, that may be a short-sighted conclusion. Reviews don’t always form an accurate representation of what a company’s products or services are truly like.
Negative experiences are often more likely to stick in a person’s mind afterward and prompt them to leave a review than positive ones are, simply by virtue of how they stand out from what is expected. This means that every business, no matter how stellar or well-established, should be mindful of what is being said about them online.
2) Google Reviews
Getting a strong Google reviews score is a critical point for marketing investment in any business. Every business listed on Google My Business and Google Maps carries a rating with it, and this is one of the first indicators of the quality of your establishment that any potential customers will see. The important thing about Google ratings is that they do not exist in isolation.
When someone searches for a certain type of business in a given area, they will be shown all similar nearby businesses and the review scores of those establishments. 4-star Google reviews might look respectable with nothing to compare it to, but put it next to two 5-star ratings and a 4.5-star one and suddenly it’s the worst option by a sizable margin. This is why ‘close enough’ isn’t good enough in this marketing sub-field. If you don’t strive for the top spot, someone else will – and in this critical way, it’s a zero-sum game.
3) Facebook Reviews
Because Facebook searches are not location-based in the way that Google Maps searches are, it’s easy to think that Facebook reviews are the less important of the two primary review sources. In some ways, this is true, but Facebook’s real marketing power isn’t derived from what it shows random searchers about a particular business – it’s derived from how it automatically broadcasts reviews to everyone in a person’s friend group.
Facebook functions somewhat like town gossip used to in our opening example. If someone didn’t enjoy their meal Friday night and decides to post a negative review about it, they could easily damage that restaurant’s reputation for hundreds of people by Monday morning. It’s a less direct sort of bad press that kills any interest before it can even begin to grow, and a robust reputation management strategy will never discount it.
4) Dealing With Bad Customers
While every establishment is bound to get negative feedback from time to time, it’s important to do damage control afterward to ensure that it doesn’t start a trend of complaints. Fixing this involves reaching out to the customer following a key series of steps:
- Apologize for the negative experience
- Promise to do better next time
- Invite them to leave a new review in the future
- Optional – privately extend some kind of compensatory offer (a free or discounted visit is common) as a show of good faith
Some poor reviews will also be based on things outside of your control as a business owner (for example, bad weather on the day a wedding planner has arranged an outdoor ceremony), and there will be little you can reasonably do to address the problems. In these cases, you may be able to have the review removed by reporting it to the host company as fraudulent or irrelevant. In order to avoid undermining people’s trust in the review system, though, this option should be used as infrequently as possible.
5) The Power Of Professionalism
Reputation management is very important, but it can be difficult to pull off properly without years of successful practice. Any number of things can pose problems or go wrong during the process. Some reviews might be scathing to the point where maintaining civility becomes challenging. Some may be left by users with stringent privacy settings that make it difficult to find an initial point of contact. Some might even go viral. All these situations require a thorough, swift and detached professional’s attention in order to be remedied with the best results.
Additionally, it’s important to note that these interventions must be done delicately in order to produce the desired effect. Neither customers nor social media platforms think kindly of businesses trying to cover up legitimate criticisms, and it’s easy for reputation management strategies to be misinterpreted as such. If your requests carry an expectation that the reviewer must alter their rating to your benefit or that only a perfect 5-star rating will suffice, they risk sounding manipulative. Customers who sense this will often act contrary to your stated wishes and may even make the problem worse. Having a knowledgeable marketer at the helm can drastically reduce the chances of such harmful impressions.
Securing your online reputation is a difficult task, but The Digital Marketing People are here to help. Contact us at your convenience to hear more about how we can assess, monitor and nurture your business’ virtual presence with our expert reputation management services.