Covid-19 has transformed business forever. McKinsey states that the crisis has brought about a huge amount of digital adoption. The resulting increase in online shopping has remained constant and has become the new normal. To stand out and scale, brands should build their strategies around this new digital environment.
Image: 65% of customer interactions with brands are digital in the US.
How Does the Post-Pandemic Customer Journey Start?
These days, your company’s website often isn’t the first place where customers interact with your brand. Your business’s real front door is the first page of search results. This is where customers get unfiltered snapshots and uncensored opinions about your brand from others.
Google has become the new online business card. Before anybody starts doing business with you, they will have googled your name. The first information that appears on Google when your name is searched for is what potential partners think you are. That’s why curating a positive online reputation is no longer optional. It’s key.
Image: The pandemic has driven consumers to reevaluate the purpose of the brick and mortar store.
When evaluating businesses, consumers aren’t influenced only by the reviews that others leave but also by how companies manage them. That means that the first online impression can make or break your brand in the customer’s eyes. An inaccurate address or negative statement can prevent demanding customers from choosing your company.
At the same time, when you respond to consumers on social media, they’re 21% more likely to purchase from you. A business’s responses to negative reviews makes 45% of consumers more likely to support it. All these things impact the intangible but precious asset any company can possess – a good reputation.
How Online Reputation Management Works
In previous decades, dissatisfied customers would have to publish their thoughts in a letter to a local newspaper. Today, every single customer has a digital megaphone at their disposal with the potential to influence crowds.
The world is more connected than ever, but well-respected brands struggle with bad actors who can sully their reputations by posting misinformation online.
Although sometimes ratings and reviews aren’t genuine, they can still negatively affect most organizations and businesses. In the new digital era, companies are learning to deal with sensitive and impatient customers who can get frustrated by a waiter’s tone or a delivery delay. Their irritation sometimes transforms into a negative review, having the power to discourage potential customers.
Since highlighting your positive content does not alone guarantee that your potential customers or partners will see the most representative information, you need effective SEO to rank and feature your brand’s strengths.
Global reputations can be boosted or blasted with just a few keystrokes. Getting a competitive edge and scaling your company these days requires focusing more precisely on your online reputation.
An online reputation is made up of public opinion based on the company’s online presence and is dependent on both its behavior and the subjective thoughts of customers. Online reputation management is a set of activities shaped to fix damaged reputations by minimizing customers’ negative feedback, monitoring search results for unknown dangers, and protecting against future incidents.
Why Should Online Reputation Become a Priority for Multi-Location Brands?
Corporate websites no longer dominate the conversation, and a company’s marketing team and sales reps aren’t the only ones doing the talking. The balance of power has shifted.
Image: Deloitte Global Survey on Reputation Risk.
According to a Deloitte survey, customers are the most important stakeholders when it comes to managing reputation risk. Other important stakeholders include regulators, senior executives, employees, and investors. But in a world of ubiquitous social media, managing customer expectations and perceptions is key.
Today, power rests with consumers, who are co-creating brands online via star ratings and reviews on search engines, social media, and review sites. These favor the voice of customers over the call of brand marketers. This means companies can no longer control complaints and negative sentiments.
Your online reputation affects your offline business. 50% of consumers who conduct a local search visit a store within a day. People research your brand and read reviews before walking into your physical venue to experience the real thing. So if they notice inconsistencies or a prevalence of negative reviews online, they’ll most likely select another brand.
It improves online visibility. If the content found in search results is high quality and positive, it will generate more click-throughs. One way to achieve this is by “owning” or controlling the search results. These may include your website, social media profiles, review platforms, and PR content. By managing this flow of information, you’ll make the first step toward a solid first impression.
It builds higher trust. It’s great to mix and match regular engagement with your audience, user-generated content, and testimonials. This can be done in many ways, since social media is easy to use and cost-effective. Post often—not just to promote your brand, but to engage with your audience. Respond to their questions and thank them for their support. Most importantly, create a dialogue to build a level of trust between you and your target audience.
It increases revenue. With more consumers carrying out online research before making purchase decisions, online reputation affects sales directly. The biggest achievement companies experience from investing in monitoring their reputation online is a 25% growth in sales, Clutch reports.
Companies with good reputations attract better employees. Businesses may view their online reputation from a customer-acquisition standpoint. However, digital presence affects almost everything, including the perception of potential employees.
How to measure your reputation?
A reputation score helps you understand how your business and locations stand relative to competitors and best-in-class benchmarks. This is the true measure of how your business is found, chosen, and experienced online.
Here are the components of your reputation score:
Who is looking at your online reviews? Nearly everyone. It’s important to understand that everyone from past and prospective customers to future employees and business partners look to online reviews before engaging with your business.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated businesses’ digital interaction with consumers by three years, pushing up the rate of consumers reading online reviews of local businesses. A BrightLocal study shows that 87% of people read reviews, and 79% trust them as much as a personal recommendation. Brands are quickly realizing the impact of validated, independent reviews on the bottom line. In fact, a recent Northwestern University study suggests that having at least five quality product reviews can increase the likelihood of purchase by 270%.
- Star ratings
Star ratings can help businesses earn trust from potential customers, improve local search rankings, and boost conversions. 48% of consumers won’t even look twice at a company with fewer than 4-stars.
Consumer reviews from different sites and services power star ratings on Google, and Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed. John Mueller recently confirmed that Google does not factor star ratings or customer reviews into web search rankings. However, Google is clear that star ratings influence local search results and rankings.
Local business owners have a handful of options for their businesses to appear on Google – via Google Maps, a Google My Business page, and more – all of which can show star ratings.
- Search impressions
Customer reviews also influence local search rankings, resulting in increased clicks, visits, numbers of prospects, and sales. Every time potential customers use words such as best, top, great, and highest rated, Google first shows them businesses with review ratings of 4.0 or higher in the results.
By giving users the power to select the highest-rated businesses in a given area, reviews have become a major ranking factor in local search. The higher the review score of your business location, the more likely it is to reach nearby consumers.
- Listing accuracy
$10.3 billion worth of sales are lost every year because of wrong, missing, or incomplete local listing information.
Accurate online listing information helps potential end-buyers find you there. When your business is listed, not only does it make it easier for your potential customer to find your location and contacts, but it also increases your search result visibility.
Online Reputation Management Strategies You Can Use
1. Enhance SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a trick that will give your brand more online visibility. They say that the second page of Google search results is the best place to hide a dead body. Why? 75% to 90% of search traffic and clicks happen on the search engine’s first results page. Fewer than 1% of people read content from the second page of Google search results.
Those who look for a gym or a doctor in their area might visit Google and enter “gym near me” in the search bar. Google will respond with a list of gyms near the person who performed the search. By the way, if you take a look at data from the Google Trends chart, you’ll see that “near me” searches have taken off in recent years.
2. Stay consistent across your marketing channels
When your marketing efforts present a similar message with a matching voice, color palette, and visual style across all channels—online and offline—it enables people to recognize your brand and understand what you offer.
It’s vital for franchise companies to set brand guidelines, organize marketing assets, plan ahead, train franchisees, and have tools to measure results in one place.
3. Create valuable content
Although regular blog posting or managing social media is essential, copy quality is much more essential. While developing your content marketing strategy in terms of reputation, evaluate how your brand values correspond to your target audience. Try to deliver expert niche content so that your customers convert to brand supporters rather than remaining followers.
4. Identify and use the power of influencers
Image: Influencers are driving the conversation—and sales.
The value of influencer marketing lies in the fact that 61% of consumers trust influencers’ recommendations – more than the 38% who trust branded social media content. If you can identify, select, and collaborate with the influencers your target customers follow, you’ll raise brand awareness, generate traffic, and see positive impacts on your bottom line.
Road Map of Your Online Reputation Management
Reputation risk will likely be increasingly critical in the years to come, which means companies must continue to improve their capabilities in this area. Leading organizations already treat reputation risk as a strategic issue – a trend that we expect will accelerate.
Protecting your company’s reputation and brand is a significant challenge – but it’s also a manageable one. Although no company can ever be 100% safe, you can clear a path for continued growth by incorporating online reputation risk into your marketing strategy and investing in the right tools.
1. Provide on-brand content
Set up a shared digital environment for branded marketing assets like templates, logos, images, videos. By lightening your franchisees’ load with ready-to-use templates, you save them time for local marketing initiatives. Centralized digital assets are critical to your on-brand online presence and local awareness.
2. Select social media platforms
Different social media networks attract different demographics, follow different algorithms, and reach different areas. Selecting the most relevant channel will ensure your message targets the appropriate person and elicits the desired action.
Once you understand each platform’s different strong points, be sure not to duplicate messages across all the platforms. Even when sending the same message, make it fit the medium you are using.
3. Create a content plan
While it’s impossible to control your online brand reputation, you can manage it with content marketing. With a content plan, you own the story. Your blogs, videos, social media posts, and every other aspect of content marketing are within your power to dictate.
Make sure you have a content plan with a set-up time and posting frequency. With a documented content plan, marketers feel less challenged by thinking about different aspects of content marketing and can split their budget and efforts between different channels more efficiently.
4. Establish the style and tone of your messaging
How do you want to approach your audience? Seriously? Warmly? Professionally? Depending on the type of business, you can choose which tone will help engage your audience more. Choosing the wrong style could turn away potential audiences who may feel you are too serious for the type of business you run or too jokey to be taken seriously.
It helps if you also plan out how to handle negativity, criticism, and praise. The major challenge comes when businesses need to respond to hate and negativity. Make a conscious choice either to ignore or to respond with a lot of empathy and restraint.
5. Plan review management
Whether they’re positive or negative, respond to reviews immediately, showing consumers that you appreciate their feedback. Nearly half of all customers (46%) expect companies to respond to direct messages within 4 hours. At the same time, 12% expect a response within 15 minutes or less. Negative reviews are more time-sensitive, so a reaction to them should appear quickly to prevent other potential customers from reading the review or to keep the problem from escalating before you tackle it.
Harsh feedback stings. It touches our self-esteem, and we have a hard time getting over it. Before reacting, take your time, absorb the feedback, and respond with politeness and professionalism. Never allow emotions to take a toll on you by making it personal or coming up with blame games or excuses.
Request removal of the negative or misleading review
If the negative situation is resolved, you can discuss removing the negative review with the author. This can be done only after the reviewer has been satisfied. Do not coax or manipulate the person. They may end up escalating and complicating the issue.
Don’t censor reviews
62% of users say they would stop using platforms where brands can censor their reviews. So, we don’t recommend either filtering or deleting reviews in an attempt to build trust with your customers.
Ask for feedback
The best way to get more reviews is simply by asking for them. Asking for customer feedback instead of a review can be much less intimidating for the customer. It shows you care about their experience. If they are unhappy about their customer experience, you have the chance to resolve any issues first before they post a poor review.
6. Invest in technology
Choose the right tech stack to reinforce your marketing efforts because lack of automation can result in higher management costs, unnoticed problems, and inconsistencies.
PromoRepublic can help you confidently manage marketing across locations to achieve consistent customer experience, visibility of results for corporate, and seamless adoption onsite.
Image: PromoRepublic helps franchise brands easily manage consumer marketing across their locations.
The Covid pandemic turned the world digital almost overnight. Customers and brands moved online, causing brands to invest in reputation management to compete in ratings, reviews, and search rankings. Overall, 25% of a company’s market value is directly related to its reputation.
Brands can’t control the internet or people’s actions, so the best tactic for being positively perceived is controlling their own message and minimizing the number of negative reactions. Like it or not, it’s brands’ responsibility to keep the facts straight because, as you know, the internet never sleeps.
But You Don’t Have To Go It Alone
Creating strong brands with good reputations is an essential part of business growth. Taking advantage of the available online reputation management tools can help a business know its level of visibility, reputation, and customers’ perceptions.
If you are looking for a tool to establish an online presence, improve customer experience, and increase local sales, learn more about PromoRepublic’s digital marketing platform for franchise. We’ll help you grow foot traffic, increase appointments, and up local sales.