Your company’s online reputation matters. If you sell products or services online, use social media or other digital marketing tools such as search engine optimization (SEO) or content marketing, maintaining your reputation is critical.
According to one study, 97% of businesses said that online reputation management is important to their company. And the 2019 Adobe Brand Content Survey reported that “consumers of all ages are likely to stop purchasing if a brand made them uncomfortable.”
You’re responsible for helping your company manage the risks to its reputation. Online risk management is a multi-phase process that involves monitoring to identify potential risks, evaluating their likely impact and taking steps to avoid or mitigate those impacts.
Your company’s online reputation is a composite of customer sentiment toward your brand. The following areas are key contributors to that sentiment.
Social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram) help build your brand, increase sales and improve SEO, among other things. Assign an individual to monitor your active social media channels, assess your baseline reputation and look for signs of both satisfaction and discontent.
Search the internet for your business regularly and gather any feedback or adverse results. Any first-page results on search engines, especially Google, Bing and Yahoo, are important, particularly if they’re negative.
One way to search all of the leading search engines at once is to use Dogpile.com, a metasearch tool that returns one page of relevant results, removing duplicates. (If you find a poor review on the top page, it may be difficult to erase the negative impression it creates, but don’t panic. In a moment, we’ll help you devise a strategy to deal with this.)
Some company websites allow users to comment on individual pages, especially blogs. All website comments should be responded to promptly and professionally. Comments about your company may also appear on consumer review websites. Consider investing in an app or service that will monitor these sites for negative reviews.
Online reviews build a brand’s reputation and can bolster or harm a company’s credibility. Studies have shown that consumers often trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and nearly 90% of consumers read reviews of local businesses. Encourage your customers to leave feedback, and be responsive to both good and bad comments: show that you care about your customers and your brand by constructively addressing criticism.
Many free tools are available to help you monitor your company’s online reputation. One of the most popular free social media monitoring tools is Hootsuite. The free version of Hootsuite allows you to track up to three social media profiles; paid versions offer expanded functionality. These tools let you manage, measure and monitor each of your social media profiles, including any mentions and hashtags, in one dashboard.
Google Alerts is another free tool that lets you monitor the web for mentions of your company, your brand, your competitors or other relevant topics. Once you’ve set up an alert for your chosen search terms, Google will email you any new results that match your criteria.
Your online reputation isn’t totally under your control. Even so, you can take steps to strengthen your reputation by assessing, monitoring and managing any risks you encounter.
Focus on Customer Experience
One surefire way to maintain and even improve your reputation is to make delivering great customer service the focus of your company’s mission and culture. Earn new business by highlighting the experiences of your happy customers. For some additional tips on customer-centricity, read this guide on Hubspot.
You’ve worked hard to build your reputation online. But, as Ben Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Here are some guidelines for avoiding online mistakes that can hurt your company.
Black-hat SEO practices are those that violate search engine guidelines in an attempt to improve search rankings. Examples of black-hat SEO include keyword stuffing, paid links or link farms and fake review sites. To avoid these practices, work only with reputable digital marketing firms and don’t violate search engine guidelines. Instead, focus on white-hat SEO by creating good quality content and a superior user experience.
Bad Social Media Etiquette
Bad social media etiquette can adversely affect both your brand and your online reputation. At a minimum, be respectful and quick to respond to comments. You should also give credit to others when you share their ideas. In short, it’s generally a good idea to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you would want to be treated. For more detailed recommendations, check out this guide to social media etiquette rules for brands.
In today’s digital world, transparency demonstrates that your business is honest and trustworthy and boosts your brand image—as long as it’s handled properly. That said, there are risks associated with being more transparent as a company by allowing employees to talk publicly about your offerings, allowing negative feedback or comments from your customers and admitting mistakes. On the other hand, nontransparency—squelching any negative commentary or covering up mistakes—can destroy your customers’ trust in you. Rebuilding trust is a long road and one you needn’t travel if you maintain basic transparency.
Have a Social Media Policy
A social media policy will help your team understand acceptable behaviors, maintain your branding and protect your company from legal missteps. This policy doesn’t just apply to those employees who manage your official social media channels; all employees who use social media, even privately, should be educated on it. To get started on your policy, review this comprehensive guide to writing a social media policy (and check out the free template it provides).
Respond Constructively to Criticism
Ignoring negative feedback, reviews or comments adversely affects your company’s brand and online reputation. Treat valid criticism as a gift that offers your company an opportunity to improve. Promptly and thoughtfully demonstrate to your customers and your wider audience that you appreciate this gift by meaningfully addressing the criticism. Often, appropriately and transparently addressing criticism will improve your brand image.
In some instances, of course, criticism is neither valid nor constructive; it may even be false or defamatory. If online criticism crosses a legal line, you should document the comment and consult legal counsel for advice.
Every member of your company has some responsibility for maintaining your reputation. Your responsibility starts with educating yourself about the many aspects of online behavior that constitute your online reputation and becoming familiar with reputation management tools, policies and processes.