Do you ever Google your name? It used to be thought of as vain thing to do, but today it’s good common sense. People Google other people’s names all the time—before a meeting, a job interview, even a date.
The information that comes up forms your online reputation, and it shapes people’s impressions and guides their actions. While you control some of this content, some content is posted by others. If it’s not accurate and appealing, you’ll want to take action to fix it.
The same goes for businesses. As more consumers turn to online reviews and social media to consult purchase information and advice from the source they trust most—other consumers—reputation management has become a critical function for all types of businesses. A weak, negative or non-existent online presence will hurt your ability to attract customers.
Reputation management is the practice of monitoring, managing and acting on online reviews and social media content related to your business. By using this feedback to guide improvements, you will drive higher customer satisfaction, which will lead to better reviews, attracting more customers. This virtuous circle can be incredibly healthy for your business.
But where to start, and how to implement best practices in your business? Here’s a checklist of the seven essential steps to building and maintaining a strong digital reputation.
1. Perform a Reputation Audit
Start by putting yourself into the shoes of the consumer. Perform a reputation audit by Googling your business name on a desktop, smart phone and tablet. Then do the same for your top three competitors to see how they are positioned. Lastly, search the primary keywords related to your business. Make a list of the things you would like to change.
2. Optimize Your Digital Presence
Now work your way through the list. Start with the easy stuff: the content you own and control. As social media occupies more real estate in search results, a brand website is no longer enough. Strive to “own” your online presence by managing profiles on popular social channels and review sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Ensure there’s a concise, consistent description, contact info and quality imagery. But don’t neglect your website; it’s still the primary means of marketing a business online.
3. Monitor Mentions
Managing “earned” content—the information people post about your business—is more challenging. You can’t control it, but you can influence it. Start by listening. Set up alerts to notify you when your business is reviewed or mentioned. Appoint a gatekeeper to monitor and disseminate feedback to appropriate staff. For help, use free tools like Hootsuite, Talkwalker and SocialMention or a paid tool like ReviewPro, Simply Measured and Sprout Social.
4. Take Action
Social media exposes businesses to all sorts of raw feedback. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes not, but there is always something to learn. Show leadership by taking all feedback seriously, sharing it with staff, and using it as a constructive learning tool. Identify patterns, leverage strengths in marketing communications, and allocate the resources needed to fix weaknesses. Reviews are incubated in the gap between customer expectations and results; to generate positive reviews, strive to consistently under-promise and over-deliver.
By responding to feedback, you show that you’re listening and you care. If you dropped the ball, it’s an opportunity to reassure prospective customers that the same thing won’t happen to them. Be brief: thank the reviewer, apologize, and say how you’re following up. When appropriate, take the conversation offline. As a rule of thumb, engage and appease detractors, thank advocates, and ignore trolls.
6. Be Prepared
You can prevent everything from a bad review to a full-blown crisis by implementing a social media policy, training and guidelines. Ensure that employees know what’s appropriate and what’s not in social media and what the risks are of mistreating customers. Train staff to be alert to signs of trouble and empower them to manage onsite issues to prevent them from escalating to online complaints.
7. Track Performance
What exactly do you want customers to say about your business? Set a vision and provide staff with the support they need to fulfill it. Use analytics tools to understand customer sentiment and benchmark your reputation against competitors. Set reputation objectives such as target ratings and rankings on review sites, recognize staff for positive feedback, and celebrate achievements.
An author, speaker and former hotel general manager, Daniel E. Craig is the founder of Reknown, a consultancy that provides strategy and training in digital marketing, social media and reputation management. Visit www.reknown.com.
© 2015 Reknown Marketing