We are all familiar with the advice to always “put your best foot forward.” This helpful, age-old tip applies not only to first dates and job interviews but also to your business.
Ensuring your brand is perceived positively by your target audiences online is critical to ensuring success. Even if your business is primarily brick-and-mortar, potential customers will still research your company by looking you up on the Internet. In fact:
- About 88% of consumers read reviews to discover local businesses. (Source)
- Approximately 93% of consumers say online reviews factor into their shopping choices. (Source)
- About 60% of consumers read online product reviews at least once a week. (Source)
Unfortunately, what it takes businesses many years to build – an excellent brand reputation – can be torn down in much less time by bad feedback. While a few negative reviews are nothing to panic over, they shouldn’t be ignored either.
Left unchecked and unmanaged, bad feedback can turn a well-respected business into one that consumers wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Fortunately, long-term online reputation management can prevent this from happening.
Read on to learn the importance of online reviews to reputation management and how to create a long-term ORM plan that effectively protects your business from the impact of negative feedback.
Online Reputation Management: Why It’s Important
In the old days, people were moved to purchase decisions through advertising, promotions, events and other traditional marketing approaches. Consumers today are much more complex in their needs and motivations.
They expect more from businesses in terms of brand experience and prefer brands whose values align closely with theirs. Businesses that try to stick to the old ways might as well be trying to fight a tidal wave.
Instead, companies should figure out ways to appeal to modern consumers and present themselves as the right choice in terms of shared values and beliefs. By doing so, they reap a vital benefit: Loyal customers.
Research by SproutSocial found that 86% of Americans value transparency. The same survey found that:
- Almost nine out of 10 people are likely to give a business a second chance after a negative experience as long as it is transparent or has a history of transparency.
- Nearly 85% of consumers are more likely to continue patronizing a business during a brand crisis if they have a history of transparency.
- For 89% of consumers, brands can regain their trust if they’re honest about their mistake and clear about the steps they will take to address it.
However, online reputations are fragile – a single poorly worded response to negative feedback could result in long-term harm even to an established company’s hard-earned good name. The damage can be especially severe for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well as start-ups that are just beginning to get known.
An online reputation management strategy helps businesses control the narrative. It allows you to preserve the brand image you’ve built while maintaining consumer trust. Also, it helps you promote brand values and beliefs as well as earn customer loyalty and increase customer engagement.
With an online reputation management plan in place, you can head off potential damage to your online reputation, stay prepared in case of crises and even significantly improve how your target audiences perceive your business.
Apart from protecting your image online, online reputation management also sets you apart from the competition. Of that, there is a lot. According to the Small Business Administration, the U.S. has approximately 33.2 million small businesses, comprising 99.9% of all U.S. businesses.
Improving your online reputation improves your brand image as well as boosts your digital presence, empowering your business to cut through the noise. After all, if given a dozen choices, consumers are more likely to notice and purchase from a better-known company with more positive reviews than its competitors.
Defining Long-Term ORM vs Short-Term ORM
The first step in reputation management is to be aware of what is being said about your business online. It lets you know how your business stands in the eyes of your consumers and, importantly, shows you areas where you can improve.
There are several ways to do this. Some examples are using social media monitoring tools and hiring a reputation management agency to track mentions of your business, product or service online.
Your next step is to choose: long-term ORM vs short-term ORM.
A long-term online reputation management strategy is a comprehensive plan that aims to control the narrative around your brand. Long-term reputation management consists of several parts, each one involving a multitude of tasks. Typically, it includes online reputation management techniques, such as review management, that:
- Protect a business’s online reputation
- Maintain its positive brand image
- Control crises
- Recover its reputation
- Improve its brand reputation
Long-term ORM is so-called because the work to preserve and improve brand reputation must be continuous to ensure continued results. For instance, while improving online reviews might take just a month or so, suppressing negative search results can take six months to a year or longer.
Also, long-term ORM isn’t just about quashing negative online reviews. It also involves online reputation management techniques that focus on:
- Increasing your local search rankings
- Strengthening your digital presence
- Establishing your business as a thought leader
- Changing consumer perception about your brand
Meanwhile, short-term reputation management is, as its name suggests, meant to be a temporary fix. Some experts also call short-term reputation management “damage control,” a “crisis management plan” or even “reactive ORM.” However, there are short-term yet proactive ORM ways to preserve and improve your online reputation.
“Respond to reviews publicly, get 5-star reviews to push down the bad reviews or reputation stories,” said Tim Clarke, senior reputation manager at Rize.
Clarke recommends this for businesses that want a quick yet effective way to control their online reputation.
Reactive ORM methods are similar to a crisis management plan. They may include publishing positive content, putting out press releases and utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure only good things about your business end up on page 1 of Google.
Long-term ORM vs Short-Term ORM: Why Not Both?
However, you don’t have to choose between proactive ORM and reactive ORM. While long-term reputation management strategies ensure you stay on top of your reputation at all times, short-term reputation management approaches like a crisis management plan quickly put out fires before they have a chance to spread. Simply put, including short-term fixes to your long-term ORM strategy covers all bases.
Below, we talk about developing an ORM plan for long-term success.
How To Create a Long-Term ORM Plan: Factors To Consider
Your Current Brand Health
As discussed previously, before sitting down to work on your long-term ORM strategy, you should have a thorough understanding of where you’re at in terms of online reputation. You can find out what people are saying about your brand by:
Conducting general research via searches on Google, other search engines, social media websites, review platforms and public forums. It’s crucial to pay attention to your Google Business Profile ranking in particular, as this is one of the first things that will show up when potential customers look up your brand.
Depending on the industry in which your business operates and the kind of service/product you offer, some websites you might want to check are:
- Better Business Bureau
- Consumer Reports
Defining your goals is key to the success of any plan, such as your long-term ORM strategy. While the overarching objective of brand reputation management is to create, promote and maintain positive brand representation across all online channels, you should also set smaller objectives. Make sure to keep them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART).
Some examples of SMART ORM goals are:
- Get 50 positive reviews within six months.
- Increase customer engagement rate from 1% to six% within one year.
- Reduce review response times by 50% within six months to a year.
Plans You Have in Place
Does your business already have an ORM strategy specifically for dealing with negative feedback and other symptoms of poor online reputation? Which of your online reputation management techniques is working well? Does your current ORM strategy need to be realigned with your new goals?
These are just some of the questions you should ask to determine what needs to be improved, changed or retained in your current online reputation management strategy.
Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are metrics you should monitor to ensure that your online reputation management strategy is working as well as expected. Tracking your KPIs is a sustainable way to stay on top of your progress and ensures you don’t get overwhelmed by all the data produced by your ORM monitoring tools.
Some common ORM KPIs are:
- Star ratings: Google has confirmed that star ratings influence local rankings. What’s more, 58% of consumers feel positive about a business if it has a high star rating. (Source)
- Review volume: A large number of reviews indicates that a business is trustworthy. It also helps reduce negative reviews’ effect on overall ratings.
- Review frequency: Nearly 40% of consumers only read or consider reviews written within the past two weeks. For this reason, it’s critical to always have a steady supply of fresh reviews.
- Percentage of negative reviews: According to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, negative reviews influenced 94% of consumers to avoid a particular business.
- Percentage of reviews responded to: How well and how fast you respond to feedback, whether positive or negative, significantly affects your online reputation and your bottom line. According to a survey by BrightLocal, approximately 57% of consumers are unlikely to use a business that doesn’t reply to reviews.
Available Resources for Online Reputation Management
Some businesses can’t spare the people, time and resources to continuously monitor the progress of a long-term ORM plan. Others don’t have the necessary expertise to kickstart and manage a long-term reputation management strategy.
If either of these situations is the case for your business, an ideal solution is to hire a reputation management specialist with experience in review generation and monitoring.
Protect Your Brand’s Reputation With Rize Reviews
Rize Reviews is an online reputation management agency serving business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies of all sizes and niches. We specialize in helping clients improve the quality and quantity of their online reviews, improving how their brand is perceived and establishing their good reputation.
For instance, no-deposit electricity provider Pogo Energy approached Rize Reviews for help with increasing their good reviews. We developed an online reputation management plan and utilized Spanish-language text campaigns to help them achieve this goal.
The results: Pogo Energy increased their total reviews from 11 to over 603 in just five months.
What’s more, Rize Reviews provided valuable customer data to help inform Pogo Energy’s customer service approach.
Pogo Energy is just one of many. You can review some of our other brand reputation management case studies here.
Beyond review generation, Rize Reviews offers a full suite of services to help you take control of your online reputation and achieve your long-term ORM goals. These include:
- Website widget for displaying your review rating
- Customizable dashboard where you can access customer feedback data
- Automated email review requests with personalized messaging that captures your brand voice
- Integration with over 100 major review websites
- CRM and POS Integrations
- In-store review generation kiosks
- Video review editing
- Competitor analysis
To learn more about Rize Reviews and how a reputation management plan will benefit your business, book a free demo today.