Now more than ever, there is nothing more powerful than a good reputation, especially online. According to a 2019 survey, consumers read a whopping 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business, and they spend an average of 13 minutes and 45 seconds before making a purchasing decision.
These statistics show how important it is to build and maintain a positive online presence. That said, building a reputation is increasingly difficult in a world with social media platforms, review sites and live video options that allow consumers to share their opinions with millions of people with just a few clicks. While a positive viral post can draw attention to your company at its best, the online community can just as quickly showcase your brand at its worst.
It’s best to think of today’s customers as investigative reporters — they do their extensive research, talk to their friends and family, and take a brand’s product for a test run — who can share what they know, or think they know, with their followers instantly. Through the vast reach of social media, anyone can be an influencer, and companies should treat all customers accordingly.
It’s important to know some of the challenges in reputation management to better prepare, especially in a world where technology is ever evolving. Here are some of the reputation management challenges companies must face with the evolution of the digital age, and the solutions you can use to avoid “going viral” for all the wrong reasons:
Challenge 1: Private Facebook Groups
These groups, which require permission for you to enter, seem to be on the rise in popularity because of their exclusivity. Because of privacy settings that prohibit social listening tools from picking up on what’s going on, it’s almost impossible for businesses to stay ahead of the conversations happening within these groups.
The Solution: There’s no strong and direct solution to breaking down those privacy settings to hear gossip about your brand, but it’s still important to hear what people are saying elsewhere. You never know what you’re going to read. Social listening and reputation management tools allow you to monitor and get ahead of any negative talk about your brand that may pop up online. Look for tools that will show you the different elements that make up your company’s online reputation, as well as highlight operational insights that will help guide you to make positive changes to get ahead of dissatisfied customers.
Challenge 2: Niche Review Sites
These highly focused review sites have made reputation management more difficult. For example, there are a number of these sites specifically for the childcare industry, with more popping up all the time. For companies, the task of staying on top of the reviews on these sites is becoming increasingly time-consuming.
The Solution: Continuously request positive reviews from consumers. Whether your star rating is a two or a five, you want to always build your stockpile of positive reviews. This way, if you do receive a negative review, your score will be less impacted, and you’ll have a bank of positive consumer experiences to negate the negative one. An easy way to elicit positive reviews is to incentivize consumers, either through a future discount code or access to something unique, like company swag.
Challenge 3: More Authentic Reviews
Unlike the days when “online reputation” referred to the testimonials that a company hand-selected to publish on its website, we now live in an increasingly transparent time where genuine reviews can pop up anywhere, anytime. This means companies must have operational insights in order to get ahead of potential negativity online. Using reputation management platforms can help you gather these insights across your business listings and pinpoint the changes you can make to improve the way consumers view the business
The Solution: Take the conversation offline. When a customer posts a publicly bad review or complaint, the goal is to shift the conversation to a private platform as quickly as possible. You never want to publicly argue or address the situation in any way that would entice the consumer to keep responding with more detailed information. Doing so is key on Facebook to avoid the worst-case scenario: a comment thread that stems from a negative review. The more engagement a review has, the higher Facebook will place it in a page’s “most helpful” section, which will be the first thing a user will see when they click on that page. Instead, provide an email address or a phone number and offer a one-to-one conversation offline to talk in more detail.
Challenge 4: Videos
Keeping a strong reputation can be difficult enough with written reviews published to the online community, but videos — especially livestreams — of customer experiences gone wrong can prove especially damaging. Videos are often the most powerful form of social content and have the potential to go viral very quickly.
The Solution: Control posting opportunities. Many companies simply don’t allow for visitor posts or comments on Facebook pages, blogs and other owned platforms. Restricting areas for negative conversations to take place allows brands to better direct customers to voice their concerns via more appropriate platforms — private social media messaging or instant chats, text messages, emails, or phone calls.
Vice President of Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations at The Goddard School.