If you’re an online businesses, most of what your customers know about you—and their willingness to trust you and buy from you—is based on your reputation. Managing your reputation requires constant attention, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Be proactive and positive — and monitor, monitor, monitor.
Build Your Reputation
Building and protecting a good reputation requires not just consistently great products and wonderful customer service, it requires a solid online presence.
Dominate the search engines. Invest in strong search engine optimization to stay at the top of the results pages. Be everywhere your customers are. The more people see you, the stronger your reputation.
Set up profiles in social media. Push out your message on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any others that apply to your industry and your audience.
Be present. Stay active in social media so people get to know you. If you suddenly appear when there’s bad press about you, it’ll be pretty obvious you’re interacting only to save your own skin.
Involve the corner office. Who better than your CEO to make your customers feel important? Emails, tweets, Facebook posts and blogs from the company VIP tell customers that the organizational culture is open and in touch.
Keep up a constant flow. Regularly post positive content on your website, in your blog, guest blogs, e-newsletters, YouTube, and the press. Positive content not helps people think favorably of you, it also pushes negative content off the search results page.
Share positive reviews. Thank customers for their kind words, and then ask to share those good vibes. A third-party review boosts your reputation far more than your own promotional efforts can.
Encourage brand advocacy. Ask loyal users to review your newest products and talk about it on their social media pages.
Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
Active monitoring it gives you useful insight into your customers and competitors and actionable data with which to predict future behaviors. This “business intelligence” helps you steer your strategies and campaigns.
Use monitoring tools. This handy list from Social Media Today includes 50 tools from Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and more that will track, measure and analyze the buzz across the Internet.
Analyze conversations. Are there trends and triggers? If lots of people are saying the same thing, look into it. Find out why they’re saying it and what you can do to fix it.
Know who’s talking. Customers, supporters, critics and competitors all have different agendas when posting comments. The President of the United States logging a complaint about your product means a whole lot more than your competitor taking a cheap shot.
Don’t forget staff pages. What your staff says (and shows) on their own pages can be good or bad for you. If you don’t have a policy clearly delineating their personal from professional opinions, develop one now.
Weigh the impact. How much of a positive or negative impact will comments have on your brand? Press coverage of a scandal involving your CEO is far more problematic than complaints about shipping. Each can have an effect but they warrant different responses.
Respond and Deflect
Ultimately, all anybody really wants is to be acknowledged and dealt with fairly. When someone is posting a comment, they’re giving you the chance to make things right. Responding can prevent a negative review or rant from going viral.
Plan ahead. If your company’s crisis plan doesn’t prepare for attacks on your reputation, rework it now. The Internet is not going to wait while you figure out what to do.
Respond quickly and publicly. Acknowledge a comment, whether positive or negative, right then and there. Keep it in the same sphere in which it was posted, unless it grows into a problem that warrants a global response.
Open the conversation—again, publicly. Posting a quick invitation to talk often disarms a complainer and defuses the situation. “We’re so sorry to hear this—it sounds like we really failed. Call us so we can talk about what happened and how we can improve our service.” And then follow through.
Involve the highest level appropriate: Back to our point about keeping the corner office visible and involved: Unhappy customers want resolution from Somebody Important. A customer service rep may just be reading the script; the CEO is, presumably, taking it to heart.
Apologize and thank. Your community’s time is valuable. Spending it on your company, whether complaining or complimenting, means something. An apology for problems and a thank you (both for the constructive criticism and the compliment) go a long way towards maintaining a good relationship with your community and a good reputation.
Two final words about protecting your reputation: Customer. Service. If you keep your customers happy with stellar service all the way through their experience, you’re less likely to be the subject of online rants. Treat your customers well and respond when they talk about you.
For a demonstration of customer service that’s truly excellent (if we do say so ourselves) and advice on reputation management, contact New Perspective today.