- Trust Marketing Platform
Reputation management is the act of monitoring, generating, and responding to customer engagement across multiple review sites to improve brand image.
It seems simple — a tautology, even: reputation management requires... managing your reputation. No one is likely to argue with that.
When you’re directing a business dependent on customer reviews, however, it’s important to consider the term in a way most relevant to your unique marketing needs. In this instance then, “reputation management” benefits from a more specific definition:
Reputation management definition: The strategic discipline of monitoring, generating, and responding to customer feedback across multiple review sites to improve and foster your brand’s image.
Put differently, reputation monitoring is (by and large) a set of ongoing review management operations that help shape the online narrative related to your business. It makes use of monitoring tools, regularly scheduled response activities, and proactive strategies to refine and improve both your reviews and the level of trust between your brand and customers - past and prospective.
As a result, businesses with a high-quality reputation management strategy and regular execution have a considerably better chance to rank higher in local search search results. Additionally, profile views and customer actions (conversions) will also likely increase due to a rich and highly active customer feedback ecosystem.
Often, you’ll hear “reputation management” and “reputation monitoring” used to solely describe the set of activities and the software associated with online review management. Our perspective: review monitoring is one key component of your overall reputation management strategy.
Monitoring online reputation may also include keeping an eye on your brand’s mentions in forums, social media, blogs and news sites. While this sounds like a large swatch of virtual real estate to be keeping a daily watch over, you’d be surprised at what can be accomplished via free Google Alerts and other reputation management tools.
More important than defining each activity as a separate aspect of your reputation management strategy, though, is defining your reason for undertaking these activities at all. In other words, you must find your “why.” And the why is not simply “shaping online perception.”
It’s trust marketing.
Trust marketing is a school of thought that says you can and should use trust to build more trust. Doing so is key to your reputation management success.
Let’s think more about how that pans out.
Marketing teams should have a variety of goals: everything from lead volume KPIs to content quality scores, from review counts to revenue percentage contribution. Reputation management, and the tools that facilitate it, are critical to achieving every one of those goal classifications. And that’s because of the way reputation management contributes to trust-building.
As a marketer, you’ve likely experienced the downsides of trust marketing, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Let’s say you saw a negative trend in lead volume.
Maybe your potential leads heard something from one of your customers before they even considered your brand as a solution? That’s how it happens now: trust is distributed across people and channels; directionally, it’s not flowing from your institutional promises out into the marketplace. Trust distribution and the resulting social proof affects every metric.
But if you manage and monitor reputation proactively, this new directional flow can be your greatest asset. You can use the voice of your happy, existing customers to help build more trust.
Growing a successful brand has always depended on the story your customers are telling their peers. Business reputation management gives you the opportunity to both help shape the story and truly capitalize on the telling - always with the goal of improving customers’ experiences.
And if you get it right, it’s everything: In their 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey, Brightlocal found that 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses (up from 60% in 2020). On average, internet denizens read ten - yes, 10! - reviews before trusting a business enough to make a purchasing decision.
What’s more, Brightlocal also found that 73% of consumers only care about the reviews written during the previous month, clearly indicating the need for reputation management to be seen as a set of activities — key syllable: “active.”
Part of your online reputation management efforts should be purely tactical. You may need to develop some rules for team members to follow during the first phases of creating and implementing a reputation management strategy. These rules will help you manage, not necessarily improve, reputation - but management and monitoring alone are improvements if you aren’t already doing this in a documented, repeatable and scalable manner.
Some quick hits from our list of tactics:
These tactics will take you to a new level of review management, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all of improving your reputation. Once you’ve got the basics of a review monitoring and generation program in place, you’ve then got to find a way to keep it active. Momentum is critical and challenging to maintain.
In order to have an effective reputation management strategy, it’s worthwhile to assign related tasks to someone who is able to dedicate the time necessary to monitoring your brand's online engagement. This can be a tall order for a local business with limited internal resources.
Be that as it may, a brand reputation manager will be your voice when it comes to interacting with your consumer base. They will be the first responders to step in when a customer has posted feedback, both positive and negative. It is a mission-critical position.
In addition to working on the ground level to assist customers, the manager can also bolster your strategy via reputation management software. If a dedicated resource is not an option, these types of tools and a level of automation may be the solution you need.
The outcome - building trust - of a reputation management program is our main focus, but how you get there counts, too. While capturing customer experiences is important, your program should also be built to create new, positive experiences through responses and solicitation.
That’s right: The process of asking for a review is another opportunity for a positive interaction. Note that reputation management also includes creating similarly positive experiences outside of the context of reviews, such as within your product or service delivery (theoretically impacting review volume, frequency, and quality).
Bottom line: The best online reputation management software allows you to further build trust with customers by offering an array of positive experiences associated with feedback provision. Additionally, your ideal choice of software should help you discover trends in both sentiment and experience to then report back to the business in order to improve the customer experience, keeping the flywheel of advocacy spinning.
But let’s take a step back: How can reputation management tools help you achieve the goals you set around trust-building online?
Imagine if you could directly integrate with your CMS, POS, or other customer database in order to push review requests to your customer list easily. The right reputation management platform will allow you to get more reviews by automating review invites. Automation lets you take advantage of opportunities you might otherwise miss, creates consistency and gives the customer an additional, positive experience all at once if your request-to-review flow is clean and easy.
Your review request messaging needs to be seamless: relevant, on-brand, timely and trustworthy. A great reputation management tool will let you automatically input personalized elements like the customer or employee name, and even customize the order of the review sites you’ll feature for that individual.
None of your efforts in management will mean much if you can’t identify trends/insights and prove your results. Effective review monitoring tools will help you identify new performance opportunities while offering analytics and reporting, so you can keep refining your tactics.
Clearly, reputation management software can help your team hit goals and offer remarkable customer service experiences. Remember, one of the most important aspects of reputation management is that it’s an active discipline. So it takes more than software to create consistency and stay on top of your brand’s public perception.
It will always require a human touch, too. Take the management of your Google Business Profile, as an example.
Because it functions as many potential customers’ first interaction with your business, your Google Business Profile content represents the definitive first impression of your digital existence. At that one party where you introduce your brand, are you dressed to the nines? Confident? Honest? More importantly, do you appear legitimate? And who invited you? Who has already been to several other affairs with you and can vouch for your character?
And keep in mind, this is Google’s party. You really need to be on that list. But more than that, you must make sure that people are going to remember and speak kindly about you in your absence. In fact, you might want to stick around.
Google Business Profile reviews are critical aspects of a full reputation management strategy. Yet, monitoring and responding to this otherwise free form of marketing is a time investment - precious time you likely don’t have in abundance. That’s where a brand reputation manager and related managed services can come in handy.
Trust marketing is a big effort. The trust economy exists without you - but you have to tap in to manage and take full advantage of it. And software alone isn’t enough; there’s no way to both shape a positive narrative and get out ahead of negativity without some human intervention.
That’s why Widewail created the trust marketing platform, a suite of software and online reputation management services that will maintain your reputation management momentum and addresses the goals we’ve discussed. If you’re ready to better manage your reputation in a distributed trust environment, you’re ready to talk to Widewail about how we can help you accomplish those goals.
* Updated on 12/6/22 - Originally published on 3/7/22
I’m Marketing Manager here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. In Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus YouTube channel from 0-100k subscribers. I love the outdoors and hate to be hot, so I’m doing just fine in the arctic Vermont we call home. Fun fact: I met my wife on the shuttle bus at Baltimore airport. Thanks for reading Widewail’s content!
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