How to Monitor and Maximize Your Online Reputation
It may surprise you to learn that online communication where we can talk in groups, solicit opinions, answer questions, etc. (like social media), has roots that go back over 40 years to the online bulletin boards that formed in the early days of the internet.
Even then, and ever since, we humans have used these platforms to interact, and, yes, to compliment and complain about each other.
What in days of yore was word of mouth has become world of mouth, and it doesn’t matter if you are in the room at this particular party or not; people will talk about you. The impact it can have on your business can be substantial.
So, how do you maximize and manage online conversations for your benefit?
While it can seem daunting, particularly if you’ve had a bad experience or just not really thought about this before, there are very specific steps you can take to move forward.
Here’s what we’ve learned in 35 years of online conversation:
Accept that having a solid online reputation matters, and you can have an impact.
The graphic accompanying this article says it all about how people are using online sites and reviews to influence their purchasing behavior.
Whether you are a b2b or b2c company, staying out of the conversation really isn’t an option anymore. The technology is widespread, mature, and innovating all the time.
Find out where your customers are talking.
Since each industry is different, you need to spend some time investigating where your own customers are discussing issues and providers like you. Some platforms, like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, are obvious places to monitor. Yelp matters because Bing indexes those reviews in its maps listings.
Food, travel, and entertainment reviews can show up on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and travel sites. Even sites like Glassdoor, which employees use to rate their employers, can show up when someone searches your company name. And, specialized forums and review sites exist for almost every industry.
Use monitoring tools to track mentions of yourself, your company, and your competitors.
One way to discover these mentions and keep track of them is to test out some online monitoring tools.
Tools that are free or have a free trial (as of this writing) that you should experiment with are: Mention, Talkwalker Alerts, and Google Alerts. Paid tools that have a good reputation include Brand24, Sprout Social, and Buzzsumo.
When setting up your alerts, include all variations of your company name, including misspellings, plus the names of your key owners and managers. As a bonus, you can also use these tools to track the doings of your competitors and various key terms in your industry.
Claim listings on those platforms.
With hundreds of platforms out there, this step may need professional assistance, but we always recommend claiming your Google Business listing and setting up a simple Facebook page so that Facebook doesn’t auto-generate one that would need to be merged or claimed later.
Set a policy and procedures about responding to online mentions and reviews.
Designate one person in your company or a specific team to monitor and respond to online reviews, both positive and negative. Try to customize each response a bit.
For negative reviews, we recommend this four-step process, assuming that responding won’t further inflame the reviewer:
1. Apologize for what happened.
2. Empathize with the frustration or disappointment.
3. State what your normal policy or procedure would be.
4. Offer to make amends in some way or what you’ll do in the future.
Here is what that looks like in practice:
“Jason, we are so sorry that we didn’t have record of your reservation. We know it was a special night for you and how frustrating that must have been. Normally, our voicemail is checked multiple times a day, and those requests are carefully recorded in our reservation system. Somehow, this didn’t happen, and we will be looking into it immediately. We’d like to offer you the best table in the house and a complimentary dessert if you will give us another try. Please get in touch with Josephine, and she’ll take it from there.”
Have a systematic way to gather new reviews.
Often, the best defense is a good offense. A one-star review or ranting comment looks pretty isolated when surrounded with other glowing, authentic reviews. Since these can take time to gather, don’t wait until something negative happens.
Begin reaching out to your customers now, via email or social media, and explain how important their opinion is and give links to where to leave reviews under your company name.
Publish content that search engines will index for your name.
Since over 75% of searchers don’t read past the first page of results, it’s important to fill that first page with quality content by and about your company. Filling out online profiles is one way. Publishing regularly on social media or writing blog posts is another.
Open an “incognito” window in your browser and start searching variations on your company name and a key, larger competitor in your space. See what they are publishing and where. That can help guide your content plan to maximize your first-page visibility.
The online conversation ship has sailed. We hope these tips will help smooth your journey and make it a boon to your business!
Kae Kohl is the co-founder of Kiwi Marketing Group and partner in Agis Internet Marketing. She has a BA from Cornell University and an MBA from Eastern University and has been participating in and managing online conversations since 1985. Kae loves building visibility and reputations for Pennsylvania businesses and nonprofits. www.kiwimarketinggroup.com