Are people talking behind your back on a platform seen by tens of millions? Better hope it's nice things. In a world where over 50% of people's online time is spent on social media, managing your online reputation, whether you're an individual or a business, is more important than ever.
Why should you care about what people say online?
Research shows that 85% of your potential customers use the Internet to research your company before they decide to make a purchase. This includes any social media presence you have, as well as reviews and any online news that might pop up when they type your business's name into a search engine. Part of effective online reputation management is understanding how your customers are using the web. Your website might be the last place they go to find out more about you.
Today, people are more savvy about sales and marketing from businesses. People are beginning to value the opinions of other customers and online reviews higher than anything you might have to say about your brand. Customers not only value online reviews, but are willing to pay more for a service from a company with higher reviews and ratings.
If people aren't happy about how you're doing business, they won't just send you an angry letter or write to the paper. They'll call out your short comings on social media and before you know it, you could have a PR disaster on your hands.
Social media is essentially a giant echo chamber of people's views, so small complaints can get out of hand very quickly. If you're a large public facing business like, to use a recent example, Southern Rail, complaints can magnify into movements in a matter of hours.
How can you manage your brand's online reputation?
Here are five quick and actionable takeaways you can use to manage your brand's online street cred.
1. Monitor Your Social Footprint
Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media platforms, but of course, they aren't the only ones out there. Perform regular searches on your brand name or product on each platform to get an idea of what people are saying about you. In addition to being able to respond to problems (see below), you can gain valuable insights into consumer sentiment towards your brand. Remember to check all platforms, not just the ones on which you have a presence.
2. Respond to People Promptly
If you have a social media presence, people expect you to be sociable. When your customers reach out to you on social media, they expect you to reply quickly to their query. Even if it's something you can't solve immediately, at the very least acknowledge them. If you're posting content, engage with people who post comments to cultivate a lasting relationship with your audience.
3. Ask for Google/Yelp Reviews
Online reviews are powerful tools, especially for attracting customers who are early in their buying cycle. If you are making your customers happy, ask them to post a review to express their views and increase your collection of reviews. If you have a large customer base, create an email marketing campaign to encourage customers to leave reviews. Research shows that the majority of people will leave a review when asked. If you're having trouble getting reviews, incentivise the process in your campaign with a giveaway or competition.
Customers looking for products and services value online reviews. Google reviews and Yelp reviews are some of the most prominent types of reviews because they show up in search results, making your brand look more trustworthy and valued by others.
4. Encourage Brand Advocacy
You can use social media to cultivate a base of strong brand advocates. Give your audience a reason to follow and engage with you by sharing content they enjoy, starting discussions and hosting competitions. Encourage your audience to share their content too - user generated content, like user reviews, are highly valued by users.
Brand advocacy can be encouraged internally too. A firm set of social media guidelines for employees should detail the culture and nature of their reference to your brand in an open and honest way.
5. Be Transparent
Transparency builds trust. In a world where millions of eyes are on not just everything you say, but everything you've EVER said online, trying to cover-up the truth can have serious backlash potential. Practice honest communication and marketing on social media. Always admit your mistakes because if you try and cover something up, it will be found out sooner or later. If someone complains to you on social, don't delete or hide the comment, address it. Remember, the eyes of millions are always watching.
Careful cultivation of your brand's online reputation can lead to increased sales and a huge increase in positive sentiment towards your brand. People expect businesses to engage with them on social media to at least some degree, so it's important to do it right. Avoid the pitfalls because the world is watching!