If your company has customers, then it has a reputation. Maybe it’s known for its dedication to quality, innovation, or customer experience. Or, unbeknownst to you, it could be the exact opposite. Maybe it’s taken a turn for the worse, and that negative reputation is impacting business.

No matter the sentiment, people are talking. They’re tweeting about your products and services, sharing experiences with family and friends, and writing public reviews on sites that prospective customers are reading.

As the web expands, managing an online reputation gets tougher and together. Companies have to meet higher expectations for transparency and customer engagement than ever before.

Today, we’ll share some tips for effective online reputation management, including examples from companies that are doing it right.

Your Online Reputation Precedes You

It’s easy to think that a few negative comments won’t tarnish your company’s online reputation, especially if the majority are positive. The thing is, prospective customers do their research before buying. They care about doing business with reputable companies.

In fact, according to Reputation Institute, 85% of consumers say they would buy from companies with top reputations. Ultimately, brand perception impacts your bottom line. When people are deciding to buy or bail, they’ll seek advice from others who’ve faced the same choice.

That used to mean asking friends and colleagues. Now it also means browsing online.

What’s on page one?

Google your company. What do you see?

With all the advanced analytics tools on the market, it’s easy to get caught up in metrics and forget about the basics. And though a quick Google search might seem like an elementary way to gauge online reputation, it’s exactly what your audience is doing.

For example, here are some of the page one results for Campaign Monitor, our parent company.

online reputation - campaign monitor

We’re immediately hit with reviews, as well as Campaign Monitor’s Facebook page. A potential customer could be sold by positive reviews or stalled by negative ones—all in a matter of seconds.

And unfortunately, the latter is far more likely thanks to the brain’s proclivity for the bad. This “Negativity Bias” makes poor reviews potentially disastrous to an otherwise squeaky-clean online reputation.

How to manage online reputation

So if you can’t control what people are saying, how can you control your online reputation?

1. Watch the experts

Every company is different. What works for one organization might not work for yours. However, it’s helpful to see how other brands are approaching the problem.

Zappos adds a human touch

Canned responses are a must for most support teams. If you’re facing a growing queue of support tickets, you can’t always take the time to personalize each response. That works just fine when the responses are relevant and helpful—and when they’re private.

But with the rise of social customer service, customer interactions have become highly visible. Even if your tweet is helpful, seeing it 20 times in a row feels a bit… tacky. Customers who follow your pages and potential customers who are evaluating you might be turned off.

Contrast that with Zappos, the online shoe retailer that’s world-renowned for its excellent customer service. The Zappos customer experience is so special, there’s a book about it.

What’s the big deal? Well first, the customer service reps feel like friends. Check out how the company interacts with customers on Twitter.

online reputation - zappos social support

This isn’t even a customer service interaction. It’s just a social interaction. That in itself is the hallmark of the brand and why consumers choose Zappos over hundreds of other online retailers.

JetBlue gets proactive

Traveling is stressful, so airlines that go the extra mile to deliver a seamless customer experience can gain plenty more customers. JetBlue is a prime example.

When customers tweet, they pay attention, even if there’s no direct call-to-action. Look how JetBlue handled this interaction on Twitter.

online reputation - JetBlue

Even though it was unclear whether there was even a problem, JetBlue responded to the tweet in just 3 minutes. They showed that they cared about the customer, and it’s out there for all to see.

Elements practices empathy

Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. It’s tempting to get defensive or simply ignore it. But the best course of action is to respond, ask for more information, and see how you can make it right.

Even if you disagree with the reviewer, it’s important to honor their feelings. Don’t try to tell them they’re wrong. Instead, try to understand where they’re coming from.

Elements, an apartment community in San Jose, CA, handles negative reviews empathetically.

online reputation - Elements Yelp

If someone is considering moving into the complex, they’ll see that Elements is proactive about managing their reputation and takes residents’ concerns seriously.

What’s more, unhappy customers can lead to the most positive change. Sometimes they reveal communication gaps that need filling.

2. Get the right tools

To effectively manage your online reputation, you need the right tools. Here are some favorites that help both growing and established companies stay on top of it.

  • Google Alerts — Google crawls websites for the latest information. You can set up Google Alerts to notify you when keywords (like company name) appear on the web so you can monitor public mentions more efficiently.
  • Trackur — What do people think of your brand? Trackur monitors social media activity and analyzes brand sentiment. It’s affordable and very easy to use.
  • BrandsEye — BrandsEye provides media intelligence like no other: accurate, sentiment-driven media analytics across social, print, online, and broadcast media channels.
  • Social Mention — Social Mention offers real-time search. At any given moment, you can use it to search social media sites for brand mentions to stay in the know.

3. Use online surveys to get feedback

You should know what your customers think of you before you see negative feedback online. The best way to get a pulse on customer sentiment? Through customer surveys. Customer surveys give you direct insight on any and every aspect of the customer experience.

Instead of putting out fires, you can keep a finger on the pulse of your customer base with an action-oriented customer feedback program. The insights you gain from customers can frame your approach to reputation management.

Here are a few you can try:

Wrap-up

As more business moves online, it’s increasingly important to stay on top of brand image. Opinions are endless and available in a few clicks.

A strong online reputation encourages customer loyalty, convinces new prospects to buy, and ultimately affects your bottom line.

Plus, managing it doesn’t have to be a burden. It starts with a simple Google search.

How does your company manage its online reputation? Share your tips in the comments.

online reputation - Salesforce surveys

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