Our co-founder Joanna recently spoke about Online Reputation Management at one of our events, and since all of the attendees were super engaged, interested in learning more about OMR, and we got tons of follow-up questions, we figured we’d extend some education on this subject to those who couldn’t make it. Let’s get to it. Shall we?
You already HAVE a reputation online and otherwise, whether you manage it or not. Opinions will be formed. Reviews will be written. And word of mouth will be spoken.
So, what do you want your reputation to be?
If you’re anything like the small business owners we work with, you’re probably feeling like a marathon runner who (at the same time) is constantly juggling a bunch of different projects and deadlines, with a billion things to worry about every single day. (Sound familiar?)
You probably feel like there is no time to, I don’t know, have a personal life. (What even is that?) Let alone stop and “Google” your business and respond to any online feedback.
But we hope at the end of this that you’ve changed your mind and see the value in managing your online reputation because it is absolutely critical in today’s climate.
What’s in a Reputation?
It’s impossible to over-stress how important a good online reputation is today. Having customers creating a positive buzz around your product on Instagram can exponentially grow your business, while a slew of negative reviews could do a lot more damage to your business than you think… if you don’t handle it, or if you don’t handle it the right way.
But don’t fear. That’s where this article comes in. We want to equip you to drive more positive chatter about your business online and help you respond in a mature, professional way to any negative feedback you may receive. Because if you’re a business owner for any length of time, you WILL get a negative review. It’s going to happen. But you don’t have to fear it.
There’s definitely some confusion about online reputation management. To some it stops at just social media monitoring, while to others it’s a mysterious art that their marketing agency barely explained and just handles for them. And maybe others have never heard of it until now and have no idea how it can affect their business. We don’t know where you fall in that group, but it’s our hope that after reading this, you all feel informed and equipped!
So What Exactly is ORM?
According to Techopedia, online reputation management (ORM) is the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organization, individual, or other entity on the Internet. It helps drive public opinion about a business and its products and services.
With so many websites available for people to talk about and/or review your business—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Bing, etc, etc—managing your online reputation can seem overwhelming. But the reality is, ORM involves much more than just monitoring your brand across social media platforms and commenting back with some witty emojis (although that is fun… and important ????????). It’s more than just responding to negative reviews, driving more positive reviews, and having a clear plan in place for both. But we’ll start here because managing online reviews is a big part of the work you’ll do from month to month when maintaining your ORM.
Whether users are commenting on your latest Instagram post, leaving a comment on your blog, or posting a Google review about their experience, people are talking about you online. So, what are they saying? And why does it matter?
What People Are Saying About Your Business
Here’s a statistic— about 500 Yelp Reviews are posted every second. EVERY. SECOND. Wait, Whaaat? That’s crazy. But it’s true. And did you know that 88% of online users trust reviews as much as personal recommendations? And 50% of people from the age of 18 to 34 say they trust online reviews even more than the opinions of friends and family.
Driving New Positive Reviews
Not only do users value reviews, but so do search engines. Do you always feel like you’re trying to figure out the highly elusive “SEO”? Well here’s at least one piece of the puzzle you can bet on: search engines highly value positive, recent reviews. So the more monthly positive reviews you have, the higher you will rank in your local area.
Here’s the good news: if you’re a great business, people WANT to leave a review. But the bad news is, they get busy or distracted and may forget. So, it’s important that every business needs a strategy in place to drive positive reviews. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a great place— just ask for them. It’s that simple. Encourage employees to ask for them, and ask again (when customers forget). Make it personal, and thank every reviewer, either with a reply or with a gift.
Responding to Negative Reviews
Alright now to the doozy…. Negative reviews. Our number one piece of advice and biggest takeaway from this article would be: always reply to negative reviews. Always. But never reply while emotional. When answered well, negative reviews can work to your advantage, as they’re a great opportunity to show current and future customers that their feedback matters. Everybody makes mistakes, and your customers know that. But it’s up to you to show them that you know how to handle criticism well—to acknowledge your shortcomings, apologize for them, and communicate how you’ve learned from them.
So if you have a few bad reviews, don’t stress. It’s not as bad as you think. Did you know that 95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores? So, embrace the bad reviews. Respond to them in a professional and meaningful way, and drive those positive reviews up as best you can to outweigh the bad!
Here’s our rule of thumb: always comment back publicly to every review, whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral. But for negative reviews, first filter if the review is a legitimate one. If you did something wrong, own it. And we’d suggest publicly and privately messaging the reviewer and offering to make the situation right. However, if it’s an over the top, troll-like negative review and you believe it to be not legitimate, comment back anyway, but you don’t necessarily have to go above and beyond unless you want to! Viewers can generally filter those out themselves as invalid.
Comments on Your Own Posts
So, we’ve gone over reviews on review sites, but what about when people are commenting negatively about you in the comment section of your own posts? Anyone remember the Taylor Swift snake emoji situation…?
Listen, Taylor Swift went from thousands of people flooding her comment section every day with snake emojis, to then spinning it and even capitalizing on her bad online reputation by turning the snake into her brand for a massively successful album and record-breaking world tour. Here’s a fun article about all of that if you’re into that sort of thing.
But what does this have to do with you? You may not even have a thousand followers. But the principal still applies. Taylor Swift didn’t comment back or really ever even address those comments. When it comes to commenting back or not, that’s a judgment call you’ll have to make. If someone is unfairly blasting you in your comments, it may be best to simply delete the comment. However, if it’s legitimate like a review, don’t delete it and treat it exactly how you would a negative Google or Facebook review.
To sum up, in general you want to respond to comments just like you would reviews, but in some extreme cases, when responding Misty likely won’t do any good, you could make a judgment call to delete the negative messages and private message the user if there’s no way to resolve it well publicly.
Are People Posting About You?
Besides reviews and comments on your own content, a great way to build a good reputation is to have followers post about you, also known as User-Generated Content.
Today, user-generated content is a must. If you’re a really awesome company and have a great service or product, people will go a step beyond just leaving a positive review on your page and even share about you on their own page. This is the user taking on a role of actively promoting your product for you. Hello, free advertising. You can literally just rock so hard that people post about you for free.
If you have a shop or restaurant, you could give users an avenue like a cool backdrop or a very visual area to post on their own social media. When you provide a place for them to take a photo and post it, it’s very likely that they will. If you don’t have a brick and mortar shop, a great way to get users to post about you is to share posts that people are tagging you in. It will make them feel important and seen, it will give them an incentive to keep posting, and it’ll also show others that if they post about you, it could get shared, too! It’s a win-win for everyone.
What You Say About You
So we’ve talked a lot about what others say about you online and how it attributes to your reputation, but what about what YOU say about you?
Business Account Vs. Personal Account
A big part of your business’s online reputation has to do with your own personal reputation. As a business owner, you’ve tied yourself to your business, so whether you like it or not, how you represent yourself personally (both online and offline) will have a direct effect on your business.
You may think that since you have a separate personal social media account, you can compartmentalize that as separate from your business account. That’s true to an extent, and we applaud you for noticing a difference between what you should post on your own account vs. a business account. However, keep in mind that what you post on your personal is always going to impact your business as well. Like, if you’re slamming people on your personal account, that could greatly affect your business.
Knowing what to post on a personal vs business account can be tricky. For your business account, be sure to develop your unique brand voice and always stick to that. Your brand voice should be distinctly different from the voice of your personal account. And we’d say keep personal posts light-hearted and fun, more behind-the-scenes content on your business account, whereas you can share a lot more on your personal account.
If this is all confusing for you, there are a lot of professional and freelance social media consultants who would love to help you develop your business’s brand online, so feel free to utilize one on a consulting basis for that if you have further questions!
Basically, we’d say online reputation management is a must. Make time for it, even if you don’t feel like you have the time. What are people saying about you? What are you saying back? These are both wildly important to the success or failure of your business.
If people aren’t talking, get them talking! Your customers love you and they may just need a little push to get out there and let the interwebs know just how much they love you!
Good online reputation management is about reacting the right way and at the right time to what people say about your products and services. Sometimes an emotional or a “too late” reaction can cost you. So breathe, and remember, one negative review won’t hurt. You’ve got this. And we hope we’ve helped you get started!