For any smart business, large or small, maintaining a good reputation has always been paramount. Whether it be a local restaurant with glowing reviews on Yelp or a five-star-rated vacuum on Amazon, businesses are finding that their reputation online – positive or negative – can have a direct and significant impact on their business in the real world.
Reputation as a Currency
While many would argue that reputation has always been a form of currency, consumers now have an unprecedented amount of access to information through online reviews and social media. This democratization of information makes it imperative that brands are building, monitoring, and maintaining strong reputations both on and offline.
Essentially, the reputation economy is one where brands can be built (or seriously damaged) based on:
- How the brand presents itself
- How the brand delivers on promises
- How the brand is experienced and perceived
While the #1 and #2 can be controlled by the brand, #3 is up to the consumer. That said, a brand that presents itself well and delivers on its promises to customers should have no trouble with #3.
What Affects Online Reputation?
Digital reputations are built primarily through two different mediums:
- Online reviews
- Social media
In a study done by Zendesk, researchers found that when asked whether reading positive or negative reviews influenced participants’ buying decisions, the vast majority of participants (88%) claimed the reviews did impact their decision.
Google My Business, Facebook, Amazon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor are all primary examples of how consumer feedback can go on to significantly impact future buying decisions of others. Of course, one bad review in a sea of positive ones won’t make much impact. However, businesses that consistently receive negative feedback over time will likely struggle to attract new customers
There are two components that make up a brand’s reputation on social media:
- A brand’s own social media presence
- What’s being said about a brand on social media by others
While a brand can’t always anticipate or control the way consumers will react to their product or service, they can control their “owned” media. In this case, a brand that has a positive presence on social media will likely be viewed as more transparent or credible by consumers.
Another way that brand reputations are affected on social media is through social proof – what are others saying about the brand? Consumers, especially millennials, look to social media to see how brands and products are used and viewed by their friends and peers.
Building, Monitoring, and Maintaining a Positive Reputation Online
A brand reputation isn’t something that can be “set and forget.” To be preserved, it will need continuous maintenance and optimization.
Of course, a couple of the simplest ways a brand can maintain a positive reputation is to always act with integrity and offer transparency when appropriate. However, in the digital age, having a social media strategy in place is crucial.
When strategizing their social media presence, brands must first identify who their audience is. Brands simply can’t be everything to everyone, so it’s important to have a solid idea of who it is the brand is speaking to with its content. Some questions to ask when strategizing:
- What content will resonate with the brand’s audience?
- What kinds of content deliver value to the brand’s audience?
- If the brand’s content was gone, would anyone miss it?
Answering these questions can help brands to deliver content that is genuine, which in turn, can help build trust with their audience.
Little problems can quickly become big problems when left unaddressed. This is why it’s important to constantly keep an ear to the ground to field negative feedback. This includes daily monitoring of reviews across various sites, like the BBB or Yelp, as well as mentions and messages on social media. When negative feedback is received, the best course of action is to address it as quickly and politely as possible.
One of the best ways bolster your brand’s reputation online is by leveraging your successes in the form of user-generated content. By letting others speak for the brand, you’re helping to establish social proof, which can make the brand appear more credible or trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. When monitoring the brand’s online presence, always save positive feedback for potential future content.
Reputation savvy brands can attest that as reputation goes up, oftentimes so does the price of their product, as well as the likelihood of consumers buying in. With that in mind, digital reputation isn’t something brands can afford to neglect anymore. While building or rebuilding virtual trust may take time and effort, the juice is certainly worth the squeeze.