Chapter 8 Online Reputation Management – From Starting Small to Winning Big

CHAPTER 8

Online Reputation Management

As you establish and execute your digital marketing strategy, your brand would start gaining more visibility over the Internet.

People will be engaging with your brand and talking about your brand. They may be expressing opinions about your brand through blog posts comments, social media posts, or writing your product or service reviews on various forums.

The Internet has given a voice to your customers to express their opinions. Not all of their views would be positive. These user-generated content can make or break your brand’s reputation online.

What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the process of monitoring and addressing mentions of your brand over the Internet in a bid to build a positive online image. ORM also includes maintaining good personal relations with influencers and users to get positive user-generated content for your brand.

The end goal of ORM is to create a positive public perception of an individual, organization, or brand entity over the Internet. ORM helps to mitigate the effects of any negative image.

Let’s understand this with an example. You run an e-commerce portal online that offers organic products. One of your shipments reached the customer 10 days later than the scheduled delivery date. To add to the frustrations of the customer, the product delivered was not of good quality.

The customer got agitated and used all the possible Internet channels to vent out his anger. He wrote negative reviews about your delivery and product quality on Google Reviews. He tweeted negative things about your brand and posted a negative review on your Facebook channel.

Now, whenever someone searches your brand and products online, the first thing that comes up in Google search results, Facebook search, and other social media platforms search results are the negative reviews that the customers posted. As the people read all the bad reviews about your brand, they will rethink their decision to purchase from your brand. A customer venting out on different social channels may sound like an aggravated situation, but even well established brands have to face customer fury at some point in time.

Even the employers before hiring someone search on Google and social media networks to find anything negative about a candidate. The employers try to find out what you are posting about yourself on social networks or what others are saying about you if they intend to hire you.

The possible impacts of a bad reputation online are:

  • Lost credibility and trust in your brand
  • Drop in sales
  • Increase in the numbers of customers churning
  • Drop in the share prices
  • Discord in investor relationship and partnership breakdown
  • Increase in employee attrition
  • Your brand equity is harmed

These are just some negative impacts of a bad reputation.

What Could Lead to a Negative Brand Perception?

The negative brand perception is built over time, similar to the time it takes time to create a positive impression.

No Social Media Presence

At times businesses tend to ignore the importance of social media. By not having a social media presence, you are giving out a message to your customers that you are not bothered. Your competitors who are active on social media channels will win over the customers who you are not giving a medium to approach your brand.

Ignoring Reviews

The user-generated content is a powerful influencer in making a purchase decision. If you ignore any negative comments or reviews about your brand, then they have the power of driving away your potential customers.

Bad Web Content

If your website has content with grammatical mistakes and overloaded with jargon, it will leave a wrong impression on the visitors. Low-quality content leads to an increase in the bounce rate, and people will lack trust in what you say about yourself.

Negative Press Release or Blogs

A negative press release from a renowned publication can do more harm than negative reviews. Let’s say you are a travel planner, and someone who opted for your services wrote a blog about their worst travel experience. They expressed the negative experience they had with your services. You would like to avoid such a situation online.

Your Team’s Rough Online Behavior

Sometimes your team can do more harm to your brand than good. Their negative behavior can harm your brand image online.

Online Reputation Management:
A Step-by-Step Guide

Here is the list of activities you need to do for ORM.

Monitor Your Brand Reputation

The first step is to set up monitoring of your brand mentions online. You need to set up Google alerts that keep track of any newly published content that includes your brand name.

You can set up an alert for a certain keyword such as your brand name and decide the frequency of receiving notification through e-mail. You can also include the content sources that you want to monitor, such as news websites, blogs, or videos. You can set a preferred language and geographic location, as well.

Google Alerts is a free service that searches for a keyword mention in all the content that has been recently indexed by search engines.

Let us take an example. You run a restaurant with the name “Fiesta.” You run a website and offer a mobile app for food delivery. You set up a Google Alert for your brand name, “Fiesta.” One of your customers “Joe” who ordered recently from your restaurant was not happy with a delay in delivery on his birthday. He writes a negative review on Yelp about your restaurant with the title “Fiesta has good food, but its delivery is pathetic.”

Now, as you have set up an alert, you receive notification about the review. Using Google Alerts is an example of how you can monitor your brand mentions.

Address the Negative Reviews

Now you know there is a negative review online about your brand. The next step would be to address the negative review. Your goal would be to turn the negative situation into a positive one.

Let’s continue with the same example. You visit Yelp and get the details of Joe, who wrote negatively about your brand. You send an apology message to him and offer him a 20 percent discount. You also request the customer to remove their review.

This way, you will not only handle your online reputation but win a loyal customer by making them feel that you value their opinion.

So far, I have mostly talked about situations where there was something negative about a brand online and what to do to minimize the impact of any negative mentions of the brand, although a proactive approach would be to create a positive image of your brand through different channels.

Encourage Positive Reviews

You should not only address the negative reviews but should also aim to get positive reviews from the customers who love your brand. A customer with a positive experience will be likely to leave a positive review. A positive review will help you build your brand’s credibility.

Let’s consider the example of restaurant. If you have customers who visit your restaurant very often, you can ask them to write a positive review online and give them an incentive such as a free dessert or a discount coupon on their birthdays as a token of gratitude.

People will only submit positive reviews if it a hassle-free process. Some stores have the sales staff with tablets to prompt customers to give reviews on the spot. You can think of different ways to get positive reviews.

Highlight Your Positive Reviews

There is no better way to create a positive impact than having positive reviews on your website. You can ask permission from your customers to use their positive reviews on your website.

Get Positive PR

Another best source of a positive review better than user-generated content is getting positive reviews from a high-authority site. You can reach out to some PR sites and ask them to review your offerings. A positive review can outweigh any negative impression that has been created for your brand.

Use Social Media Accounts

Social media channels help to build trust among customers. Through your social media accounts, your users should be able to access you.
The more available and transparent your brand is online, a better rapport you will build with your customers.

SEO for ORM

You can dedicate some of your SEO efforts toward ORM. Do some search for keywords related to your brand. These keywords can be to get reviews for your brand or your comparison with your competitors. It can be to find specific information about your brands such as your company’s net worth, your team size, or any keywords related to the key members of your team. You can write blogs on these keywords and get these blogs published on some review sites or some marketplaces.

You can also publish these blogs on your website in the company category.

You can also dedicate your off-page efforts, such as getting backlinks from some high authority websites where your brand gets a positive mention.

Do Regular Surveys

The best way to prevent any negative response reaching online is to ask your customers what they think about your brand directly. You can send out surveys every quarter or every six months, depending on the nature of your business. These surveys will give your customers a medium to vent out their frustrations or any positive associations with your brand. With firsthand feedback, you can address the real challenges with your brand proactively.

Establish a Channel to Address Grievances

You should establish a proper channel to address grievances; it may be through e-mails, social media channels, or telephone, but you should provide your customers with a direct channel where they can raise their concerns anytime. This way, your customers will be talking to you rather than negatively talking about you.

In my personal experience, I have seen companies narrowing down ORM to positive reviews. A company with a lousy rapport in handling employees are prone to getting a lot of criticism on Glassdoor (company review site). The employees were going out of the company with a bad experience used to write in great lengths about the toxic culture and the absence of a sensitive human resource department.

The team responsible for ORM learned about the negative reviews on Glassdoor and how it is creating a negative perception in the minds of potential recruits. They decided to ask their team members to add positive reviews to counter any negative reviews. The idea was if there is one negative review on the site, the team will add five to six positive reviews. As only the most recent reviews are visible, any negative review will be hidden from the recent searches.

This may sound like a quick fix to the reputation problem. This strategy didn’t work as it was doomed to fail. The ex-employees learned about these fake reviews and started adding more negative reviews mentioning about the false positive reviews. This led to a cobra effect, as the intended solution made the problem even worst.

First of all, it was not only an ORM problem, but it was something more serious. It was the problem with the work environment and the human resource practices in the company. Solving this underlying problem with just ORM will never give a permanent solution.

The crux of the story is that you have to understand that ORM doesn’t address the underlying cause of a problem. You need to address the main challenges in your business practices, if any, to build a positive image.

Many people, who have a remote idea of ORM, usually think that ORM is all about getting positive reviews. They typically adopt the strategy of getting fake positive reviews. The problem with this approach is that it is easy to make out which review is fake and which is the real one as people are aware that not all reviews are genuine.

Second, by not addressing the real issue, you are leaving an open wound that will eventually bleed your reputation to death.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media networks are not only the best places to network with your friends and family. It is a great place for businesses to build a relationship with their target audiences. With social media, you are just a tweet away from your unhappy customer. You need to invest time in building your social accounts and keep a tab on what people are saying about your brand.

Social media monitoring is also known as social listening. This helps to examine what people are saying about something or someone. It also helps in sentiment analysis, which is data analysis to understand the sentiment of people about something.

In social media monitoring, you can track keywords, hashtags, or mentions. This helps businesses to become efficient and responsive to customer needs. Social media monitoring is a subset of ORM, which helps you manage your brand reputation on social media networks.

ORM Tools: Social Media Monitoring

Here is a list of free social media monitoring tools:

TwitterDeck

This tool offers a customized Twitter interface to monitor different search terms, users, hashtags, and lists. You can also track the content from specific Twitter groups. These groups may be the ones your competitors and/or your employees own.

It is a great tool to monitor live conversions to keep a tab on your brand mentions.

Social Mention

Through Social Mention, you set a search term to aggregate all the images, microblogs, blogs, and video content from different social networks and search engines. You will get all this information in a single place. This helps to get a comprehensive view of what content is being generated about your brand.

Mentionmapp

This is another tool you can use to monitor the Twitter network. It connects you with a Twitter API that helps you find out who is talking about your brand and who retweets your posts. This helps you to analyze how a tweet can have a positive or negative impact on your brand.

Hootsuite

It not only gives you social media monitoring capabilities but also gives you analytics all in one place. The best part about Hootsuite is that it monitors all your social networks, not just one. This tool integrates with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. It’s a free service for individual accounts.

Followerwonk

This tool allows you to search the Twitter profiles and bios of the users who mention your brand. You can log in with your Twitter credentials.

Lithium

You can easily manage and respond to the users on social media using Lithium. The tool offers integration with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Boardreader

This tool is excellent for monitoring the comments section and discussion panel. You can get information on what people are commenting about your brand. The comments section is where people voice their opinions more freely as compared to social media networks.

SumAll

This tool provides you an insight into your interactions, engagements, and followers on different platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Protect Your Brand Online

Your online reputation is not only threatened by customers’ negative feedback. At times there are people who are deliberately trying to give your brand a bad reputation. These can be your competitors or someone you have rubbed in the wrong way.

URL Hijacking

This is also known as typosquatting, in which someone registers a website domain name very similar to your official website. For example, someone registers a domain name with Amazone to capture the traffic from ­Amazon.com.

As now users search for the brands through search engines, the chances of typosquatting have reduced as Google gives you suggestions with the right spelling for misspelled words. This problem still exists for relatively new companies that have not yet gained recognition among people and search engines.

If you search for your brand name and Google suggest you some other results, then you will have to wait for your SEO strategy to kick in.

To deal with typosquatting or URL hijacking, you can register all the possible mistyped variations of your brand name. You can redirect all these domains to your official website. Many tools give suggestions for domains similar to your brand name.

Social Media Squatting

This is the practice of creating fake accounts of a brand on social media networks. You might be well aware of various social accounts you come across on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on.

For a business, it is catastrophic that someone has created their fake accounts on social media. The social networks provide usernames on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they are free of charge. It is somewhat easier for anyone to claim your company’s username if you don’t claim it.

The best possible solution for this is to create profiles on as many as possible relevant social networks for your brand name. For example, if you don’t think you will use Snapchat for your business, then you may at least create a profile with your username as it may be useful in the future.

You should also create profiles with similar usernames as your brand. This will help you give you protected from any possible misuse of your brand name. You should also check that there are no fake social media accounts.

Phishing

In the phishing attacks, someone tries to get personal details from your customers, pretending that the communication is from your company. Phishing attacks are usually committed through e-mails wherein a hacker tries to steal the bank information of the customers.

These phishing attacks can cause tremendous harm to your brand reputation. E-commerce companies are more vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

The best approach to counter phishing attacks is to communicate to the customers how they can identify your official e-mail address. You can send out an e-mail to the customers with essential points on how they can recognize that the e-mail is from your company.

Points to Remember

  1. 1. The Internet has given a voice to your customers to express their opinions. Not all of their opinions would be positive.
  2. 2. The user-generated content can make or break your brand’s reputation online. Online reputation management (ORM) is the process of monitoring and addressing mentions of your brand over the Internet in a bid to build a positive online image.
  3. 3. The end goal of ORM is to create a positive public perception of an individual, organization, or entity over the Internet.
  4. 4. ORM helps to mitigate the effects of any negative perception.
  5. 5. The possible hits of a bad reputation online are:
  • Lost credibility and trust in your brand
  • Drop in the sales
  • Increase in the numbers of customers churning
  • Drop in the share prices
  • Discord in investor relationship and partnership breakdown
  • Increase in employee attrition
  • Your brand equity is harmed.
  1. 6. What could lead to a negative brand perception?
  • No social media presence
  • Ignoring reviews
  • Bad web content
  • Negative press release or blogs
  • Your team’s rough online behavior
  1. 7. Here is the list of activities you need to do for ORM:
  • Monitor your brand reputation
  • Address the negative reviews
  • Encourage positive reviews
  • Highlight your positive reviews
  • Get positive PR
  • Use social media accounts
  • SEO for ORM
  • Do regular surveys
  • Establish a channel to address the grievance.
  1. 8. Protect your brand online against:
  • URL hijacking
  • Social media squatting
  • Phishing

Assignment

  1. 1. Set up a Google Alert for your brand name and set up a weekly frequency of receiving information.
  2. 2. Search for any negative mention for your brand online through search engines and social media monitoring tools.
  3. 3. Create a strategy on how would you address your negative reviews as well as how you will get positive reviews.