Navigating the Online World to Become a Successful Business

Word of Mouth is Everywhere in An Online World

In the current business world, reputation can make or break your brand. What consumers talk about your business – about your products and services – either strengthens your position, or you lose ground to your competitors. Therefore a strong online presence is essential to any brand.

Studies show that one in three UK businesses now think negative content is causing them considerable damage.

One in twenty of those surveyed in 2018 stated that this type of feedback can already be estimated in costs of more than £500,000. Bad press with subsequent negative reviews and social media posts were the most damaging cases.

So how do you build a robust online reputation that will strengthen your business to grow and move ahead of competitors?

Give 110%

Traditional customer service never fades away and this enhances customer experience. Retail giants like Amazon and John Lewis have built worldwide brands by relying on excellent consumer service. As they have correctly identified, if you treat your customers well they will return for more – and potentially strengthen your company’s reputation by leaving positive reviews.

Transparency is Appreciated

Issues always arise, but it’s important to not ignore them and deal with them accordingly. If the customer feels in any way neglected, there are now plenty of social media channels to voice their concerns, which will potentially reach a wide audience.

Responses to customers have to be dealt with as quickly as possible and appropriately. In cases when your business is in the wrong, it’s better to acknowledge it, apologise and straighten out the issue.

When KFC ran out of chicken early in 2018, it came forth with an apology very quickly and explained what had happened. The company was aware the usual type of corporate press release wouldn’t go well with its clients. KFC went the extra mile, putting out full-page ads in major daily newspapers showing what company leaders, franchise owners and customers were feeling in a disengaging tone. Its cheeky response to the chicken issue leveraged the situation to avoid negative PR and turn it around, which led to a quick recovery of their reputation.

Deliver on Your Promises

Earning the trust of your customers is very hard, but very easy to shatter. Try to deliver on your promises and offer services and products as you advertise.

If you’re an online retailer like ASOS and you are sure you can uphold to that same day or 24-hour delivery promise, it is great. If you struggle to meet the deadline often times, then you need to re-think your positioning.

Failure to accomplish everything you state constantly will quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction, which more often than not will be shared with the whole online world.

Customer faith and trust are essential. According to a recent research, 64% of people trust online search engines when analyzing a business, therefore make sure that what you promise to your customers is achievable.

A recent consumer survey found that:

  • 97 per cent of consumers search online for local businesses, 12 per cent do it daily.
  • 90 per cent of people read online reviews before visiting a business.
  • 85 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Make the online world your friend, not your enemy.

Manage Your Rating With Effective Online Reputation Management Strategies

Over the years, Online Reputation Management (ORM) has been steadily gaining momentum in online marketing. In the past, communication between companies and consumers had been very minimal, and companies had been selling or promoting their products to a passive audience.  Nowadays, social media has grown to become a poignant presence and influencing platform for consumers to use, which enables them to freely state their opinions and concerns and allows other people to see and respond to their comments or reviews.

As more and more consumers rely on online reviews and comments when making their purchasing decisions, it has become crucial for businesses to know and understand what it is being said about their brand online and how a company can manage it in order to build and maintain a positive brand reputation online.

Therefore, it is quite clear that if a business doesn’t invest in developing and improving their online presence and reputation proactively, they will more than likely pay considerable costs later in terms of lost revenues, repairing abrupt damage, and developing out the presence they neglected.

First and foremost, is evaluating and determining your brand’s current online status. What is being said about you online? What do customers and competitors think about the brand? Monitoring is essential in any digital marketing operation as your brand presence is measured across various social platforms, forums, blogs and websites.

Secondly, start devising a plan to improve and develop your online presence,that means proactively engaging with your online community. Create a presence on any and all relevant social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, for specific areas of expertise, other social media sites would be beneficial, such as LinkedIn (for high-tech and/or professional types of businesses), Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube (for visually-oriented products).

Communication is key in any relationship you develop, therefore regularly interacting with your customers is a must. It’s important to build up your social media accounts. Merely having a social media account/page for your business is insufficient — you need to develop your audience on them as well, which will eventually build up to a close communication channel and increase your influence and engagement scores.

Be receptive to positive as well as negative feedback. Perhaps the only thing worse than under-engaging in online media is handling social media badly. No one can damage you as much as you can damage yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to respond to negative comments. Based on your response, they either make you or break you. Criticism can often provide your business with vital information regarding to where your business is going wrong. Moreover, it is also a great opportunity to speak to those who have posted negative feedback and ask them why and eventually offer solutions or help.

Positive comments build up your reputations just as much as the negative ones. Encouraging and highlighting positive feedback will definitely boost your brand. On both occasions, personally responding to comments and reviews shows each customer that you care and are actively listening to their concerns and opinions.

However, ORM is not only about managing negative and positive feedback, but also managing content in search engines. You may need to create content and you likely ought to develop content to rank them as high as possible on search engines as well. Develop website and blogs, where you regularly post high quality content and promote your brand in a positive manner. Using relevant keyword phrases will help learn the exact queries people type into search engines to find what consumers are looking for online. Therefore, using the right keywords in content will increase its ranking and therefore more people will access it, bringing in more traffic to the website.

Online reputation development requires two investments: time and money. Following this, ORM, when done right, may help put you and your business in a stronger position and may significantly impact your sales and business revenue.

Proactive online reputation management is going to cost you if you want to be perceived as a positive brand on the market, but it will also save you some money in the long run if the nearly-inevitable occurs. Think of it as a form of insurance. It won’t absolutely keep you from getting damaged, but it could mitigate the damage and keep it from being worse than it might otherwise be.

6 Tips for Better Business Blogging

Writing a business blog is an excellent way to build a positive online reputation. At ReputationDefender, we recommend blogging as a keystone strategy for all our business clients. Blog posts offer valuable information on issues related to your brand and let customers know why they should invest in your services. In addition to this, they help to build traffic to the company’s other pages, directing potential customers back to the official website and acting as fresh material to share across social media profiles.

How to Write an Effective Business Blog

So, how does one actually go about creating a business blog? What is the difference between this type of publication and a personal journal? What are the pitfalls to be avoided and how do you generate genuine readership?

Here are 6 tips that will help to answer these and other questions:

  • Brainstorm a List of Topics – Deciding what to write about can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Readers will be more interested if they feel you are invested personally, but at the same time it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism and stay focused on topics that are relevant to the industry. Write a list of questions about the company: What does it do? How did it start? What challenges do staff face on a typical day? What are your goals for the future? The answers to these questions will start to uncover a wealth of business-related blog topics.
  • Plan the Blog – Once you generate a list of possibilities, plan the first few months of posts in a way that will makes sense to readers. Include at least one company origin story that offers a window into your (or the founder’s) inspiration. A behind the scenes look at how staff serve customers on a daily basis is also helpful. From there, move on to more technical posts that focus on industry trends or specific products. If there are any special company events coming up, plan to cover them with a blog post. Stick to a regular update schedule, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, so readers know when to look for new content.
  • Choose the Style – A business blog should let customers get to know you on a personal level, while at the same time remaining formal enough to generate a sense of professional authority in your field. The exact style depends on your personality, the company’s overall vibe and the type of reader you want to attract. It’s fine to employ one or several ghost writers who are able to match the style and tone you want, but make sure you personally double checks posts to avoid publishing mistakes that could cause reputation damage.
  • Create a Formula that Works – Not every blog post needs to look the same, but it helps to stick with a general formula so readers know what to expect. This will also make it easier and quicker to write the posts. Draw readers in with an engaging story. Lay-out the problem as well as how your company can fix it. Add a Call to Action sending customers to the page you want, whether it’s the company’s website or a special offer page. Add interesting details so customers don’t feel like the post is just an advertising gimmick. Numbered lists or bullet-points help to format content in a way that is easy to follow and has been proven to boost traffic.
  • Vary Post Length – Anywhere from 300-2,000 words can be an effective length for business blogging. Different readers will be attracted to different types of content, so it’s a good idea to vary length, but most typical posts should be between 500 and 750 words. Interesting content is more important than length.
  • Use Click Generating Titles – A viral headline is what will get a blog post to rank where customers will see it. Using a numbered list is one of the best ways to attract readers. Directly addressing the reader and offering a concrete promise (such as ‘how to improve your blogging ability’) has also been shown to be effective. Beyond this, using emotion-generating superlatives, like ‘amazing’, ‘inspiring’ or ‘unique’, helps to attract the reader’s attention. Don’t resort to click-baiting, since this won’t attract long-term readers and may even end up hurting the company’s reputation. Make sure the content follows through on the headline’s promise.

Even the most interesting, well-written, relatable content won’t attract readers by itself, so it’s important to promote the blog once it’s written. Run a marketing campaign across all channels including the website, social media profiles, email signature and physical location if there is one. Promote the blog at all events so it really becomes part of the company’s personae. Once you generate a regular readership, posts will rank higher and they will be seen by more people. Popular posts can generate traffic over an extended period of time, so it’s well worth the initial effort to get the ball rolling.

Online Reputation – Don’t Forget to Manage Your Review Responses

Reputation management has a lot of similarities to online marketing, but it doesn’t stop there. Building a professional website, writing blog articles, and running an advertisement campaign are all important aspects of ORM. Yet beyond this, companies need a structured plan for building lasting relationships through online customer interaction.

Reviews Are Important

At ReputationDefender, we assist clients with generating and ranking positive content, but unfortunately, a few negative reviews can quickly undo all your hard work. Today’s customers are looking for more than brand generated content. They also want to see what kind of experience past customers have had. Studies have shown that 90 percent of customers read online reviews before trying a business for the first time, while 88 percent will trust these reviews the same as an in-person or word-of-mouth recommendation. This can translate directly into profits; businesses that receive predominately positive reviews see a 31 percent increase over those that don’t, while just one negative review can cost a company about 30 customers.

It’s Hard to Control What People Say

It’s hard to control who writes reviews on the internet, which can leave business leaders feeling somewhat helpless. Customers who’ve had a very memorable experience, either positive or negative, are more likely to take to the internet to express their feelings, and since many people tend to notice negative experiences more often than positive ones, online reviews don’t often represent a good cross-section of a business’s customers.

You can change this, as we mentioned in an earlier post, by generating more reviews. If every customer writes an honest critique, you’ll likely get a lot of positive comments (assuming the business is doing a good job overall) as well as a few pointers about where to improve. But even with the best review campaign, the majority of people visiting the site will still be there to read what others say, not to contribute.

Company Responses Make a Difference

This makes it very important for businesses to participate in the conversation taking place on review sites. Responses posted directly to this page will be read by everyone. Even if you don’t change the mind of the person who originally gave your business a negative rating, you can show other customers that you take feedback seriously and are sincerely trying to do a good job. Professional responses can often make you appear the more reasonable party.

Any serious ORM campaign needs to include a strategy to manage reviews, especially the company’s responses to reviews. The wrong response can generate more negative attention than the original comment, yet the right one offers a way to undo a lot of the damage and build a better, more honest relationship with customers. Managing reviews isn’t a job to be delegated to a college intern who happens to be handy on the web. It needs to be handled by a professional, preferably someone with real experience and standing in the company.

Planning a Response Strategy

Managing reviews is just like managing other aspects of your reputation. It needs a well thought-out plan, good writing and online communication skills, and of course technical tools to avoid missing content. Your response strategy will need to answer these four questions:

  • How do you keep track of reviews? – There are a lot of review sites on the internet and even with a full-time team it’s impossible to keep track of them all. It’s easy to set up a Google Alert for the brand name and any other relevant keywords. Other software is available with more complex capabilities that will let you monitor social media sites as well.
  • Which reviews are you responding to? – Don’t just respond to negative reviews. It’s important that people who write positive feedback feel their comments are also important to you. You should aim to respond to about 99 percent of reviews, even if it’s just a simple thank you.
  • Who writes responses? – Designate a person or a team to write responses. It helps if a high ranking executive or manager responds to at least some comments so it’s obvious the entire organisation is taking part in the feedback effort. Given time constraints, it may not be possible for this person to write every response, but make sure all team members have clear instructions about the style and content expected so the responses have a similar tone.
  • How will you respond to customers who are dissatisfied? – It’s never a question of if you will get a negative review, but when. It’s important to take these comments as constructive criticism and not react defensively. Some customers may bring up real areas where the company could improve, while others may be hard to please in any circumstances. Either way, write a short polite response within a few days. Take ownership of the problem. Explain what happened, and also what action has been taken to prevent to the issue from occurring again. Compensation can be appropriate in some cases if the customer experienced a loss of time and/or money.

If you stick to your response strategy, you’ll be able to build on positive reviews and avoid sustaining too much reputational damage from negative ones.

Knowing you have the ability to dilute the effect of hurtful comments just by how you respond makes online feedback feel far less threatening.

Reputation Management for 2017

Every year, reputation management becomes an even more important part of building a successful business. In 2017, it’s almost impossible to attract clients without an online presence, and entrepreneurs who fail to take control of their company’s reputation early will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Reputation Matters

People are expressing themselves more than ever on the internet and they’re also increasingly turning to other people’s comments to decide if a product or service is worth buying. 64 percent of marketing executives worldwide say “word of mouth” advertising is more important than other forms of marketing. On a personal level, we’re often taught not to worry too much about what others think of us, but what people say about your business will have real consequences when it comes to revenue. Company leaders can’t afford to not pay attention or to not care. They must take an active role in promoting the company through all internet platforms.

5 Reputation Management Questions to Ask in 2017

At ReputationDefender, we assist businesses with building or maintaining their online reputation. Reputation management is a growing field that changes regularly as search engine algorithms are updated and SEO techniques evolve. Yet there are some basic elements that every entrepreneur should consider if they want their company to keep expanding in 2017.

Here are five basic reputation management questions, as well as some of the ways companies can answer them:

  • What are people saying about my business? – There’s a lot of negativity on the internet. People are comfortable saying things online that they wouldn’t say in person, and sometimes this manifests as unreasonable rants about businesses or services they feel have let them down. As a business owner, it’s easier and more comfortable to just avoid reading these comments, especially since they tend to detract from our confidence in the company. Unfortunately, the last customer’s rant may be the first thing the next person researching your business sees. If you can’t delete the comment, you can at least respond politely and appropriately, so that it will be obvious you’re not the party being unreasonable. Sometimes customers also complain about real issues, so it’s crucial to take comments as constructive criticism and use them to improve.
    1. Google Alerts – A Google Alert for your name, the brand’s name and any related keywords will let you know any time someone leaves a comment on the website or another review site. This will allow you to respond appropriately.
    2. Social Media – Unfortunately, Google doesn’t index social media pages so if someone rants about your company on Instagram or Facebook it won’t be picked up by a Google alert. There are lots of social media listening tools, like Geopiq for Instagram, Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro, Hootsuite and Reputology, just to name are few. Some are free, while others come with a minimal cost. Of course you still won’t be able to respond to a private social media post, but the more tools you have at your disposal, the better the chances of catching a bad comment or review before it does too much damage.
  • What are people saying about competitors? – Don’t feel guilty about eaves-dropping on your competitors. The internet is a public place, so the information is available to everyone, just as your reputation is available to competitors. If online reviews give your top competitor four stars and they only give you three, which business will the next client choose? Probably not yours, unless there are some other mitigating factors. It’s as important to follow competitor’s reviews and comments as your own, so you can see what appeals to customers and work on imitating it. Give customers a reason to pick you over your competitor, whether it’s a different service, a better price, or just higher quality.
  • Is your website attracting clients? – The official company website is the key to attracting clients. It needs to be professional, informational and easy to navigate. It also needs to be optimized to appear at the top of the search result page for your brand. Most website platforms will offer tools to analyze traffic and let you know whether you’re attracting clients who spend time reading material. If the results are unsatisfactory, consider getting a professional SEO audit to figure out what isn’t working and improve on it.
  • What is not managing your reputation costing you? – Many entrepreneurs think that reputation management costs too much or takes too much time. However, once damaging material appears online, it could reduce profits almost immediately, especially if there isn’t already positive material ranking right alongside the negative reviews. The time and money it takes to build a positive reputation is much less than the cost of trying to fix a damaged reputation after the fact.
  • Do I need a professional reputation management service? – This question has to be answered individually for each company. Large companies may hire their own reputation management team as a division of online marketing. Small or midsize companies should consider working with a professional service unless one of the founders already has experience with reputation management or SEO. Many entrepreneurs may feel they can go it alone to start with, but reputation management can be very time consuming and as the company grows there will quickly be too much to do. Working with professionals from the start will help to give the company the best chance of success.

For more information or answers to further reputation management questions, contact our experts at ReputationDefender.