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March 7, 2022

What is Reputation Management?

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 can argue with that. But when you’re directing a brand, it’s important to define terms in a way that makes them useful to your marketing efforts. For effective marketers, reputation management means something specific:

Reputation management is the strategic discipline of monitoring, generating, and responding to customer engagement across multiple review sites to improve your brand’s image.

Put differently, it is a general set of operations that are required to shape the online perception of your business. It makes use of monitoring tools and response activities and includes proactive strategies to refine and improve both your reviews and customer experiences. 

As a result, businesses with a high-quality reputation management strategy and execution will rank higher in local search than those that don’t, and conversion rate will increase (profile views/customer actions) due to a rich and highly active customer feedback ecosystem.

Often, you’ll hear “reputation management” used to describe only the set of activities and the software associated with review management. Our perspective: review monitoring is one key component of your overall reputation management set of operations. 

More important than defining each activity as a separate aspect of reputation management, though, is defining your reason for doing 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. 

Reputation builds trust online, trust drives conversion

Marketing teams should have any number and variety of goals: everything from lead volume KPIs to content quality scores, from review count to revenue contribution. Reputation management, and the tools that facilitate it, are critical to achieving every one of those goal types. 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 affects every metric. 

But if you manage reputation proactively, this new directional flow can be your greatest asset. You can use trust to build trust. 

As every brand leader knows, growing a successful brand has always depended on the story your customers are telling. Reputation management gives you the opportunity to both help create 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. On average, internet browsers read ten — yes, 10! — reviews before really trusting a business. 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.” 

How to Manage Your Reputation

Part of your online reputation management efforts should be purely tactical. You may need to develop some rules for your 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 is an improvement if you aren’t already doing this in a documented, repeatable, accessible manner. 

Some quick hits from our list of tactics

  1. Ask every customer for a review. Yes, every... single... one.
  2. Make it easy. Ask in the channels your customers frequent, like text/SMS. 
  3. Stick out your neck. This is no time to be self-conscious. Negative reviews are coming whether you want them or not. Positive reviews have to be requested. 
  4. Consider the context. If it’s a product review, give them a week to use it. If it’s a haircut, ask them while they’re cashing out. Find where the impression happens. 
  5. Define a process. Train employees to consistently capture contact info.
  6. Be patient with reviews. It may take as long as 30 days for customers to leave a review. Don’t abuse your list.
  7. Automate, always. Make review generation as easy as looking up how many reviews came in that day.
  8. Create convenience. Use direct links that will land customers in the right place to leave reviews, quickly.

These tactics (and the others on our list) will take you to a new level in 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 got to find a way to keep it active.

How Reputation Management Software Can Help You Meet Your Goals

The outcome — building trust — of a reputation management program is our main focus, but how you get there counts, too. While it’s critical that you capture customer experiences, your program should also be built to create new, positive experiences through your 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: Reputation management software should allow you to further build trust with customers through offering an array of positive experiences associated with feedback provision. Additionally, your ideal software should help you discover trends in both sentiment and experience and report those trends 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 software help you achieve the goals you set around trust-building online?

Automation

Imagine if you could directly integrate with your CMS, POS, or other customer database in order to easily push review requests to your customer list. The right reputation management software will allow you to get more reviews by automating review invites. Automation lets you take advantage of opportunities you might otherwise miss, and gives the customer an additional, positive experience all at once if your request-to-review flow is clean and easy. 

Personalization

Your request messaging needs to be seamless: relevant, on-brand, timely. A great reputation management tool will let you automatically input personalized elements like the customer name or service person name, and even customize the order of the review sites you’ll feature for that person. 

Monitoring

None of your efforts in management will mean much if you can’t identify trends and prove your results. Effective review monitoring tools will help you identify new performance opportunities and offer analytics and reporting, so you can keep refining your strategies and tactics. 

Clearly, software can help your team hit its metrics and offer novel experiences. Still, as we’ve mentioned, one of the most important aspects of reputation management is that it’s an active discipline. So it’s more than software that will help you create consistent management efforts and stay on top of reputation. 

Sometimes, it takes a human touch. Take the management of your Google Business Profile, as an example. 

Google Business Profile: Trust Mechanism #1

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, are you legitimate? And who invited you? Who has already been to several parties with you, and will vouch for your character? 

And this is Google’s party, remember. You really need to be on that list. But more than that, you need to make sure that people are going to remember you and speak kindly about you when you aren’t there. In fact, you might want to hang 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 — time you likely don’t have, since you’re managing a brand. That’s where managed services come in. 

Managing a Village Takes a Village

Trust marketing is a big effort. The trust economy exists without you — but you have to tap in to manage it. And software alone isn’t enough; there’s no way to both respond to and get out ahead of reputation without some human intervention. 

That’s why Widewail created the trust marketing platform, a suite of software and services that should motivate your reputation management strategy and addresses the goals we’ve discussed so far in this post. 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. 

QUIZ  What is your online reputation score? Get Your Score

Jake Hughes

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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