What is Reputation Management (and Why You Should Manage Your Online Reputation)

It’s not all that long since businesses relied on local word of mouth and advertising in traditional media to attract new customers. They could get by with some degree of sloppy service and poor customer relations if it didn’t hit the national media. And even then, today’s news soon became tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappings.  

You had to provide seriously poor service before you eventually gained a reputation that made people want to avoid you. Most people just complained to the nearest free ear and eventually forgot about it after a few days. The more determined ones would call up customer care and if that didn’t work, write to corporate to share their grievances. Even then, news about their bad experiences simply stayed within the company’s four walls and didn’t have a way of being spread around.

The internet and social media have changed everything, however. People talk about nearly every business online. They leave reviews, particularly when they’re upset, and others take great credence in these online reviews. They also give blunt opinions on social media and depending on the reach of their account, this may influence the buying decisions of many people.

This is why online reputation management is now such a vital part of running a business and building a reputable brand. In this post, we take a closer look into reputation management in the online world and why you should manage your online reputation.

Online Reputation Management

Everybody Can See all Your “Dirty Washing” Online … Virtually Forever

If you suffer a public relations disaster, reported by online media, then those posts remain live for many years. The effect of this is multiplied if a journalist on a major website or new site reports your public relations disaster. Unless you act decisively, these media reports are likely to take the top positions in Google for anybody who searches for your name.

Even your employees can affect the online reputation of your business. They might write on social media about a bad day they have had at work. Their friends may share this with others, and before long thousands of people know that one of your workers had a bad day, perhaps because of an “unfair” supervisor.

Anybody who searches your company name can find a vast quantity of information relating to you. These include potential customers, possible employees, investors, and even the IRS and other government departments.

It can be a significant task to monitor the online reputation of a firm (or even a person). However, it is critical that you engage in online reputation management regularly, preferably starting before anyone uploads something nasty about you online.

For effective online reputation management to occur, you need to delegate somebody the task of managing your online reputation.

You also shouldn’t leave things too long. I was once tasked with trying to improve the reputation of a nationwide deliverer and assembler of fitness and leisure products. People bought products online (usually leaving positive reviews for the manufacturers and retailers). However, they had left page after page of negative reviews and comments about the assembly firm.

While management changed (and presumably fixed the main areas of concern), it was almost impossible to carry out online reputation management with that firm’s current brand name. They had not bothered to monitor their online reputation for years and had years’ worth of negative comments and reviews to fight.

What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the process of actively managing how people perceive your brand online. The main goal is to improve public sentiment towards your brand and to encourage people to say positive things in their online activities. ORM may involve responding to comments, following up on complaints, putting out trustworthy content, and addressing controversies. 

It’s important to remember that online reputation management can be tricky. You have no say about how people perceive you online. They can write what they like. Even if they write things that you consider defamatory, it can be almost impossible to delete such references. It may seem far simpler to bury them, instead.

But just as other people can potentially reach millions with their damning review of your product or service, you can likewise reach a large audience in your efforts to mitigate any fallout. This would be a more reasonable choice in the long run as people can always dig up the things you’ve buried later, which will further hurt your chances of redeeming yourself.

Important Online Reputation Statistics

There has been an overwhelming number of studies affirming the importance of online reputation for businesses. Some of these studies show how consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on online sources to make decisions and form opinions about businesses. Let’s take a look at some of the key statistics related to online reputation.

  • According to a BrightLocal study, 98% of consumers read online reviews to learn about local businesses, with 76% reading them regularly. So what your customers are saying about you online has a significant impact on the opinions of prospective customers.
  • The same study also found that 87% of consumers evaluate local businesses using Google, which stands out as the most trusted review platform across all industries.
  • Since consumers can see how you’re responding to reviews, their opinions about your business are also influenced by these responses. According to the BrightLocal study, 88% of consumers are likely to use a business that responds to all their reviews. Meanwhile, 59% of consumers are unlikely to use a business if they don’t respond to reviews at all. These numbers suggest that responsiveness and review management are vital for influencing consumers’ perceptions about your business online.
  • Businesses having at least a 4-star rating were more likely to make an impression on consumers. This factor influences the decision to use a business for at least 38% of consumers.
  • Seeing a review that describes a positive experience can positively influence brand perception for 69% of consumers.
  • According to the study, consumers place a high level of trust in online reviews with 46% trusting them as much as recommendations from their friends and family. 
  • Although price is the top factor influencing most people’s purchase decisions, positive reviews are the second biggest factor. Yotpo found that positive customer reviews influence 20.1% of consumers to make their first purchase with a brand.
  • In fact, 49% of people will read 5-10 reviews for a brand they don’t know before deciding to make a purchase. So people will form their opinions about your brand based on what others are saying about their own experiences.
Number of reviews read when consumers don't know the brand

Source: yotpo.com

  • A survey by Deloitte found that 88% of executives consider reputation risk to be more important than other strategic risks faced by their company.
  • The survey also found that 41% of companies reported losing revenue and brand value after experiencing a negative reputation event.
  • Issues related to ethics and integrity such as bribery, fraud, and corruption are the biggest drivers of reputation risk according to 55% of executives.
  • For 45% of executives, issues related to security are the biggest drivers of reputation risk.
  • Issues related to products or services such as safety issues, health and environmental impact, and controversial products are also a major concern for 43% of executives.

6 Reasons to Manage Your Online Reputation

The above numbers alone should be able to give you an idea of just how important your online reputation is. To further establish the business case for managing your online reputation, let’s break down the key benefits.

1. Acquire New Customers More Easily

The online reputation management stats highlighted above show how consumers place significant importance on what is being said about a business online. When deciding between multiple options, consumers often go for one that has the best online reputation. So anything you can do to improve yours will help you attract new customers. 

This makes it crucial to effectively manage your online reputation. Seeing positive reviews and how well you respond to negative ones can convince many potential customers to choose your brand even if they’ve never heard of you before. 

2. Improve Your Customer Support Experience

Online reputation management involves regular social listening so you can keep track of what people are saying about your brand. This eventually contributes to the quality of customer support you can provide as social listening enables you to find situations where people need support. 

You may feel that your official support channels are enough, but most people talk about their purchases in other informal ways. They may ask questions on social media pages or industry help forums. They make informal complaints about your service in these places too. Often, you could easily solve their complaint if you just knew about it. 

Here’s an example of Mailchimp responding to a Tweet where someone’s asking if the platform is down. The user didn’t directly tag Mailchimp in the post, which suggests that he was simply asking people in general. Instead, the company responded with an update about the platform’s connection issues that they’re currently working on.

If you are proactive and react to mentions before somebody officially asks you for assistance, it makes you look good, both in the eyes of the person you help, and anybody else reading those posts. Your customers leave feeling satisfied and you manage to avert a reputational risk that could dissuade new customers from choosing your brand.

3. Retain Existing Customers

Reputation management isn’t just about responding to negative comments. It’s also about building community engagement by interacting with positive conversations about your brand. Having an engaged community is the key to retaining existing customers and turning them into loyal ones who keep coming back.

If you participate in their online conversations and provide relevant help and assistance, this can only build their trust in you and help them become brand advocates. This works for happy customers as much as dissatisfied ones. If they pay you a compliment on some website, and you see their praises and engage with them, they will be happy and pleased with your unexpected communication. 

Chewy does a great job of this by responding to both positive and negative mentions of their brand as well as support inquiries. They take the time to acknowledge customers who’ve had a great experience with the brand as well as those expressing their love for the brand in general. Their responses tend to be conversational and fun, which makes the brand sound human and helps them build a more personal connection with the audience.

The feeling of being acknowledged can be very powerful for convincing customers to come back. It can leave a lasting impact on them, which means your brand will always be top of mind when it’s time to make another purchase. On the other hand, simply ignoring those compliments may not necessarily leave them feeling disappointed but it increases the odds of them forgetting about your brand over time.

4. Build Relationships with Publishers and Influencers

Some of the people who talk about your brand may have huge audiences. They may be influencers or even publishers. Undoubtedly these people can significantly affect others’ opinions, so it is particularly important to you that they gain positive images of your brand. 

Online reputation management allows you to participate in the conversations they’re leading and see if you can build rapport with them. For example, you could possibly turn a negative review into a positive one by reaching out to them and acknowledging their feedback to make improvements to your product.

Alternatively, an influencer who regularly posts about how often they use your product would love to receive a surprise message offering free products. If you can build positive relationships with influencers, journalists, reviewers, and other such people, you will receive increased PR opportunities to make your brand look favorable to a wide audience.

5. Anticipate Potential Social Media Crises

Social media usage has increased over the years with better access to smartphones and internet connectivity. The latest social media stats show that there are now 4.8 billion social media users worldwide. That’s almost 60% of the global population. If you were a large enough brand, performing poorly around the globe, you could have more than 4 billion people complaining about you on their social accounts.

Remember the controversial Dove ad that showed a Black woman removing her shirt to reveal a white woman? In spite of the good intentions behind the concept, the ad sparked a social media outrage globally. Dove could have prevented the serious backlash if they’d been able to anticipate when the conversation started to gain traction and come up with a response before it snowballed into a brand crisis.

The last thing that any brand wants is a negative viral reaction about them. While you can’t anticipate the initial post or comment, you can anticipate when the post or comment is gaining traction. This will give you enough time to quickly come up with a game plan to mitigate it before it becomes a bigger social media crisis for your brand. 

Ideally, you should monitor the leading social networks for brand mentions and react before a complaint becomes a viral post. Many social monitoring apps include sentiment analysis, making it easier for you to spot negative comments about your brand quickly.

6. Show Your Ability to Respond to Any Situation

People take great interest in how brands react to a potential problem. The last thing you want to do is to try and suppress bad news or criticism. It merely makes you look guilty and have something to hide.

You will gain nothing from abusing people online, either, even if you feel you are in the right. Likewise, people will look at online silence as being a sign of guilt. You always need to keep communication lines open. This is just as relevant for an offline crisis. You may be experiencing problems beyond your control, but it is vital that you keep customers in the loop.

When KFC UK experienced an unexpected supply chain disruption, it resulted in outlets running out of chicken (of all things). How the company dealt with the situation became a leading example in crisis management. In addition to releasing an official statement apologizing for the inconvenience, KFC kept customers in the loop across various communication channels including email, websites, and social channels.

The company proactively responded to customers on social media and provided them with timely updates. The brand even shared a detailed explanation of how the company is dealing with the situation and assured that their staff will still continue to be paid even if some of their restaurants remain closed during the chicken shortage. This level of transparency and proactiveness helped to establish the brand’s competency in dealing with a crisis and allowed them to quickly turn things around before they escalated into something irreparable.

Types of Software for Online Reputation Management

Online reputation management involves the use of several software solutions so you can get a comprehensive look into what is being said about your brand online. These solutions help you monitor brand mentions extending beyond social media and to third-party review sites and news publications. Let’s take a look at the different types of online reputation management tools that you’ll need to leverage for your brand.

Social Media Listening Software

Social media listening tools are one of the most important types of software for online reputation management. You use social media listening tools to discover conversations about you online. They highlight those conversations where you haven’t been @tagged, which you would otherwise miss.

The better tools also include sentiment analysis, which gives you an indication of whether each mention is positive, negative, or neutral. You obviously need to keep a close eye out for negative social mentions and try to resolve any concerns. However, tracking your positive mentions also help you identify your top brand advocates and engage with them to win their loyalty.

Review Management Software

Online reviews are critical to any business’s online success. Over time, people have left reviews in a multitude of places, which can make it difficult for you to find every review. 

You can make use of review management tools to help you find reviews and respond to them in a timely manner. Some of them also help you to actively solicit positive reviews, telling everybody how enjoyable their experiences have been with your product or service.

Social Media Advocacy Software

As the stats above have established, positive mentions of your brand can be a huge deciding factor in people choosing you over the competition. This makes it crucial to cultivate advocates to speak positively about your brand on social media–whether it’s your happy customers or your employees. You can look into user-generated content tools and employee advocacy software to assist you with this aspect of your online reputation management.

SEO Monitoring Software

Most people search for brands online, but few go beyond the first page of Google results. The better your SEO skills, the more likely that you can control your presence in the top search results. This will eventually influence people’s perception of your brand online and have an impact on your brand reputation.

You can use SEO monitoring software to discover the terms you rank for, as well as the specific web pages that rank. You then use your SEO software to improve the performance of pages over which you have control, for example, your company website, LinkedIn page, and Facebook page. 

You can then use the software to ensure each page is technically correct and discover ways to gain backlinks from high-ranking sites. Developing high-quality content consistently is one of the most effective ways to achieve this. This can be a slow job, but ultimately you can use SEO to hide your worst search results, in turn promoting better references.

Build a Better Brand with Online Reputation Management

In a world where people rely heavily on online reputation to make their purchasing decisions, managing your digital presence is vital for building a brand that people choose. Make the most of the examples and tools shown above to manage your online reputation. 

Remember that online reputation management should be an ongoing process instead of just a one-off thing that you stop doing once your brand reputation starts to pick up. This can help you stay alert and take proactive action to mitigate reputational risks before they turn into something more serious.

About the Author and Expert Reviewer
Djanan Kasumovic, a dynamic force in digital marketing, leads as the Head of Growth at Influencer Marketing Hub. His distinguished career includes roles at high-profile companies like SnappCar, a leader in European car sharing, Travelbird, Kids Luxury Group and B&S. Djanan has been at the forefront of innovative digital marketing processes, mastering areas such as AI content production, AI marketing, and AI influencer marketing, establishing himself as a pioneer in these fields.
Djanan Kasumovic
Expert Reviewer