In 2013, Dimensional Research carried out a study sponsored by a software company. While the research was about customer service and how it affects sales of midsize companies, researchers uncovered nuggets that changed the way people look at online reputation management forever. Those nuggets are as follows:
- 86% of respondents said negative reviews influenced their buying decisions
- 90% said positive reviews influenced their buying decisions
In today’s online world, it will be a huge mistake to ignore reviews about you or your business on the Internet. More so, it will be a bigger mistake to leave everything to chance, wishing that satisfied customers post the best testimonials while disgruntled ones keeping their opinions to themselves. Your target buyers are out there researching for you on the Internet and are looking for an excuse not to deal with you. Don’t give it to them.
Reputation: More than Just Consumer Reviews
Indeed consumer reviews have been proven powerful in shaping how prospect buyers decide on which product or service to avail. And with 97% of all consumers searching for local businesses online (BIA/Kelsey and ConStat), it’s only a matter of time before they find you on Google. And chances are they’re going to see reviews about you too. That’s why it’s crucial that you have positive reviews outranking and “pushing down” negative ones.
While reviews are important, it’s wrong to think that online reputation is simply about publishing them. It’s an even bigger mistake to think that you can fabricate reviews to influence consumer perception. The New York State Office of the Attorney General has been cracking down on fake reviews and you don’t want your business to be on the press for the wrong reasons. When it comes to reputation management, the saying “negative publicity is still publicity” doesn’t always apply.
So what then is online reputation management?
ORM: Highlight the Positive, Push Down the Negative
Online reputation management – at least the correct practice of it – is combining the power of content and distribution channels such as social media to improve or restore a business’ or a person’s reputation on the Internet. It is the strategic publication of positive content on relevant web properties so that this content “pushes down” and outranks negative content on search results as well as overshadow negative material or conversations in social media.
Isn’t that unethical? Fabrication of fake reviews is. But legitimate ORM is not. Think of it this way: would you rather lose 86% of prospect customers just because of a negative review posted by one unsatisfied customer? Or would you rather that your target customers see a fair view of things? Wouldn’t you want positive results to appear first so that they can at least give your business a try? ORM means bringing to light the positive side of your business, preventing it from succumbing to the effects of one bad review.
And remember, you will not be misleading prospects as you’re not publishing fake reviews about your business. You’re merely publishing legitimate consumer reviews so that these are seen by your target audience too. By doing so, you are educating prospects on what satisfied customers like about your business.
Trustworthy Content: Owner & User-Generated
The “content” mentioned above can be categorized into two: owner/vendor and user-generated/ independent type. To succeed in ORM, you will need both.
- The first category pertains to blog posts, articles, and press releases, and other types of content written or produced by the business or vendor (you). At least 58% of consumers trust vendor content and branded websites, according to a Nielsen study. You have total control of this category and you should take advantage of that fact.
- You need to include independent content in the mix too as 73% of consumers are more likely to trust a business with positive reviews. Status posts, comments, reviews, testimonials, and other types of content written or produced by consumers, bloggers, and other parties outside of your business count.
Proper ORM: How Effective Agencies Do It
In a nutshell, this is how effective online marketing agencies and reputation managers conduct ORM:
Research > Content Setup > Social Setup > Publication > Engagement > Maintenance
- Research – Proper ORM starts with keyword and online presence analysis. You want to know what terms your prospects use when searching for your products or services online. You also want to know where you currently stand alongside other players in the market.
- Content Setup – It proceeds with the setting up of properties where you will publish your own content. These include your website blog and external blogs, where prospects can interact via commenting. Content must be produced based on your target keywords.
- Social Setup – If you don’t have social accounts yet, this is the time to set them up. In most cases, Facebook and Twitter will do. But if necessary, other properties like YouTube or LinkedIn may be included. They must be optimized and branded.
- Publication – Uploading of articles on vendor-owned web properties starts. If you gathered consumer reviews, your online marketing agency or reputation manager may publish them at this point. This stage also includes sharing of content via social media, as well as commenting on relevant blogs. Initial tweeting and status posting and joining groups and discussions start.
Difference Maker: Engagement & Maintenance
The first four steps in the process comprise the easy part. They can be completed in a single month. The last two steps, however, are more difficult and trickier to carry out. But needless to say, engagement and maintenance are necessary for you to keep your reputation online positive. They separate reputable businesses from those held down by negative perception on the Internet.
- Engagement – Engagement is the continuation of prior steps, especially on the social side. Tweets need to come out regularly to engage your audience. Facebook discussions are necessary to show your authority in your market. You also need to start acquiring more friends and followers, and joining more groups to extend your reach and influence.
- Maintenance – Online reputation is a never ending process. You can never stop building your reputation, online or offline. That doesn’t mean though that you need to avail of reputation services for the rest of your life. But at least, be sure to run ORM campaigns for a minimum 9-12 months to ensure you have some “buffer” for the foreseeable future.
Google Yourself or Your Business Now
Do you like what you see? Do positive reviews about your products and services come up first? Or are search results a mix of negative feedback about you and then a lot of webpages of your competitors? You can be tolerant but your prospects won’t share that opinion. Don’t do your business injustice. Make prospects see the best of you. Implement proper online reputation management today.
Until next time…
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