Raise your hand if you scan the web for reviews about your business on a consistent basis. My guess is that very few of you are doing this.
When you’re wearing a thousand or more hats while managing your business, it’s easy to forget one of the most critical things you should be paying attention to: your online reputation.
Let’s face it, most business owners don’t pay enough attention to their online reputation, even though it’s a critical piece of an effective digital marketing strategy. While it’s important to be paying attention to your topline KPIs like new customer acquisition, percentage of new traffic, click-through-rates, conversions, revenue, etc., ignoring your online reputation can be detrimental to your business.
I can’t tell you how many times business owners ask me why online reputation is so important. Search behavior has changed over the years, and many of your customers are going to be typing in generic search terms to discover companies that cater to their needs. After discovering companies within that niche, your customers will do additional research to decide what business to work with, and they will likely pick the one with stellar reviews and ratings. If you’re not shining above your competitors in search results with those 4 or 5 yellow stars, your potential customers will scan past you and go with your competitors instead.
This just goes to show that reviews have become more important than ever to facilitate the decision making process for customers. In fact, Search Engine Land published a Brightlocal survey results that shows 88% of customers trust online reviews more than word of mouth recommendations.
So what does that mean?
Online reviews are more powerful than reviews that customers personally receive from friends and family.
Managing reputation is actually a lot more than just scanning the internet for reviews–it’s about building relationships with your customers, spreading positive sentiment, and taking negative feedback to heart to improve your product or service.
I cringe when I scan through potential clients’ social media profiles and listing pages and see how they claim to “manage” their online reputation. I like to tell potential clients that I don’t focus on the management aspect of reputation, I focus on developing a strong online presence that showcases consistently outstanding customer service.
With that being said, I asked some individuals who work in the digital marketing and online reputation space about the biggest ORM mistakes they see businesses make with their reputation. Here we go:
1. Not Responding to Complaints
“Some customers are totally unreasonable and are just out to slam you online in an attempt to get free service or just because they are nasty people. A business should respond to all complaints and calmly give their side of the story. If the customer persists with a nasty attack, the business should calmly respond a second time, but that is the last time. Continuing to respond, or getting hostile with the customer, just makes the business look bad. Always take the high road and be prepared to walk away knowing that you didn’t solve the problem. Then, work on getting more positive reviews so that the one negative one is a very small part of the overall review process.”
Bob Bentz, Purplegator
It’s important to remember that no business is perfect and it is impossible to please all customers. With that being said, having some bad reviews is not the end of the world. When I see a company with 5-star ratings and over 50+ reviewers, something looks fishy and some potential customers may question your integrity. No customer expects you to be perfect across the board. As long as you respond to complaints and show potential customers how you handle those complaints, it will be enough for potential customers look past it and do business with you.
2. Not Realizing YOU Have an Online Reputation
“The biggest mistake I see when it comes to businesses managing their online reputation is that businesses don’t realize they have one! They don’t do anything to craft it, guide it, or even monitor it. There are still CEOs and business managers who won’t go online or be active on social media because they think that will cause people to say negative things about them. They’re GOING to talk about you, good or bad. You MUST invite yourself to the conversation by being present online and developing a reputation or at least giving people the opportunity to reach out to you with problems, questions, or complaints.”
J. Colin Petersen, J – I.T. Outsource
Just a comment to add to J. Colin’s — you may have a Yelp profile with scathing reviews and not even know it! Customers are free to post reviews about you even if you don’t set up your own profiles — keep that in mind. A word of advice: set yourself up on all review sites so you can claim ownership and respond to reviews. If you don’t claim your review sites, you will not be able to address reviews written about your business.
3. Not Dealing With Negative Feedback in Public
“In my opinion, one of the top mistakes is not dealing with negative feedback in public. Consumers sometimes act like they can hold companies hostage with negative feedback on social media, review sites etc. but I’ve found that immediately addressing the feedback in public can quickly avoid any deeper repercussions for online reputation, as well as providing great customer service.”
-Christina Jones, Christinajones.online
I have some digital marketing clients that avoid responding to negative reviews because they don’t want to “feed trolls.” Many people think that when you respond to negative reviews, you are adding fuel to the fire, and the negative reviews will show above the positive ones. This is an old-school mentality that needs to stop.
Every review site has an algorithm that determines the placement of reviews, but generally, the most recent ones show up at the top. It’s important to address negative reviews in public so potential customers can see how you handle criticism and can be reassured that if they have any issues with your product or service, you will provide them outstanding service to rectify their issue.
4. Ignoring Good Reviews
“The top mistake businesses make when it comes to online reputation is not responding to good reviews. Reputation management carries a negative connotation akin to “damage control.” Since many businesses treat it this way, they often miss out opportunities in boosting positive signals, deepening relationships with customers and increasing brand loyalty.
Monitoring reviews is the key. Addressing positive reviews is sorely overlooked but it could set you apart from your competitors. Spend time to answer questions or clarify statements. Graciousness is the extra mile. Be sure to thank existing customers for their good reviews or positive mentions.”
Courtney Capellan, prWorks
Some people think that reputation management only pertains to damage control — meaning responding solely to negative reviews. ALL reviews need a response. You should thank your positive reviewers for taking the time out of their day to express their positive sentiment toward your business. This will help you strengthen your relationship with them and let them know that you appreciate them.
5. Not Generating Enough Content to Position YOU
“If you can’t get away from trolls who seem to have nothing better to do than make false or unjust claims against your business, the best way to get around that is content. Create, create, create. Fill the Internet with content that promotes you and all the good you do. Do as much as you can by winning awards, producing articles, posting pictures, joining clubs, organizations, getting in the news, etc. Eventually, this will provide a mountain of evidence that balances or overtakes the negative content of the other person. It will, at least, give two sides to the story, along with that incredibly important third party validation businesses thrive on. While I may not completely overtake the white supremacist I have, at this point, created enough content for people to see the difference between me and the other people.”
-Shaun Walker, HEROFarm
Here’s a strategy for you! If you are being inundated with negative reviews or there are negative threads about your business online, curate content to overshadow the negativity. Be sure to include your name everywhere so you can be indexed in search engines for it.
6. Posting Fake Reviews
“You are going to get caught eventually and the repercussions are worse than having no reviews. It makes your company look less credible. Don’t have friends or family write inflated reviews either, they are easy to spot. If your business thrives on reviews, encourage real customers to write their honest opinion, people with a positive experience (unless it’s over and above outstanding) generally don’t think to write reviews.”
Shielaugh Divelbiss, Urbangroupsf
This is a big no-no. You can try it, but Yelp and Google My Business have developed sophisticated algorithms that will filter out reviews that come from individuals who are not active on their sites. They’ll also detect your IP, so forget about creating 50 fake email addresses to write fake positive reviews. They will likely be flagged or thrown in a sandbox. Earn reviews the honest way, even if it takes significantly longer.
7. Handing Responsibility to the Under-Qualified
“Too many businesses hand the reigns of their social media efforts to an intern, or a kid right out of college, or the owner’s nephew “because he uses Facebook a lot.” Yes, indeed, those businesses save money initially but what they don’t realize–until it’s too late–is that it’s very risky to put your brand into the hands of someone who doesn’t have a true grasp of your brand, target markets, industry, competitors, current trends, or basic online reputation management.
The companies that underestimate the importance of their online reputation and put someone inexpensive into that driver’s seat end up paying me to fix the damage that their social media intern inadvertently causes. Sure, I like making money, but I’d rather see people who have worked hard to establish their brand protect their online reputation the same way they guard their bank account–because ultimately it’s the same thing.”
Marilyn Heywood Paige, FiG Advertising & Marketing
You can manage your reputation on your own or pass it onto someone else in your organization, but make sure to exercise caution. If you are giving authority to a junior level executive at your company to manage your online reputation, make sure that you have trained them on replying with your brand’s voice in different scenarios. Consider creating a style guide and training manual that can be passed to whoever is managing your reputation.
8. Being Defensive
“It is tough not to take things personally when someone gives a business a negative review or attacks its employees. But engaging in an argument online only makes a business look petty, immature and shifty. A business needs to take the high road and be the better person. They are not just responding to the negative person, but to everyone else that comes and reads that review.”
Adam O’Leary, Encite International
I’ve seen this too many times — companies getting “smart” or “defensive” with customers. Never argue or point fingers at a customer, even if they are blatantly wrong. Issue a response that is empathetic and let them know that you are willing to do whatever is reasonable to rectify the situation and offer your phone number for them to call you directly to take the conversation offline.
9. Not Developing a Process to Generate Reviews
“A main mistake that companies make is not to put processes in place that generate reviews and reputation signals from happy customers. Where we have a high volume business like a restaurant that may serve thousands of people each month it only takes 0.01 percent of those customers to leave bad reviews to paint a wholly unrepresentative picture of that business. But, if 1% of those happy customers can be persuaded to leave a review then the unhappy, vocal minority will be buried in a sea of positive sentiment.”
Marcus Miller, Digital Marketing Simplified
Happy customers will often not willingly go out of their way to write a review after a positive experience. It’s simple, you need to just ask. Whether you ask via RepuGen‘s online reputation development platform that texts or emails customers after their experience or implement a review card system, you need to set a process in place to generate reviews. Generating positive reviews takes time, and never happens overnight. All you need is to add a couple positive reviews a week, and that should do enough to counteract negative reviews and drive a consistent flow of new customers through your door.
10. Thinking it Takes Too Much Time
“They think that managing it takes loads of time. It doesn’t. A few minutes a week reviewing some Google alerts and about 15 minutes a month doing some more digging and responding, and you’re on the path to managing your online reputation.”
Jay Denhart-Lillard, Yooniko
Going back to point number 9, it may take some time in the beginning to get the team to jump onboard and understand the importance of why you’re requesting reviews from customers and get used to the new workflow, but after that wrinkle is ironed, it should be smooth sailing from there. It shouldn’t take you too much time, but where you will be investing the most time in is responding to positive and negative reviews.
11. Not Actively Listening
A huge mistake businesses commonly make regarding their online reputation is not being active where their customers are talking about them. If there is an issue like a customer complaint via social media or a bad review on some obscure directory or review site. You want to be in the position to address those issues quickly. This means owning as many of your business listings online as possible, even some obscure sites, and constantly monitor all social profiles and review sites for potential issues or complaints. Be sure to address any issues that do come up in a timely manner.
-Ben Johnson, HA Digital Marketing
You need to be EVERYWHERE your customers are. You need to make sure you see a review within a day or so after it has been posted. The longer to wait, the worse it will make your company look in the public eye. Timeliness is the key.
That’s it folks, that was a handful of common reputation management mistakes business owners make with their reputation. Make sure that you are not making these mistakes or else you’ll lose out on new potential customers for your business.
It’s time to jump on the bandwagon and take control of your reputation.
Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur, a business strategist, and a healthcare marketing expert with almost three decades of experience. He is the founder and CEO of RepuGen. He has built this innovative reputation management software from scratch, incorporating multifaceted artificial intelligence (AI) which has allowed for rapid growth, maximum outreach and a 95% user satisfaction rate.