How to Build Your Company’s Online Reputation – Interview Notes

These are the thoughts I emailed a reported in December of last year who wanted “marketing/advertising experts who can discuss key strategies for building a small to midsized company’s online reputation using sites like Yelp, Naymz and RepVine. Talking points will include why this is something that companies should be thinking about, how much time/money they have to invest, challenges, rewards, etc.”

The most important thing about review sites is that people have far less trust for institutions, organizations, and “authorities” than they do for individuals; people trust other people far more, especially with regard to local businesses.

But these review sites are only one aspect of an organization’s online reputation.

People have always talked about companies, products & services. The only difference with the Internet in general and social sites like review and social networking sites is these conversations are word-of-mouth writ large. And they’re talking not just at review sites but also on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and the local listings of the search engines. They’re talking on their blogs.

So managing your reputation means knowing what comes up in the search engines when you search for your company or product’s name; it means knowing what’s being said about you on Facebook, YouTube and all the rest.

With the review sites, I’d advise companies to encourage their customers to write reviews about them at these sites. Representatives for companies should be monitoring these sites and, when criticism arises, step back, take a breath, and look at the comments objectively. Is it legitimate criticism?

If they have a legitimate point, address it honestly and transparently. Tell them who you are, what you believe happened to cause the criticism, and what you are or will be doing to address it. Apologize.

Nine times out of ten, you’ll get more credit for addressing the issue than the initial criticism warranted. Most people are exceedingly reasonable and if you make the effort to address an issue, they’ll give you a lot of credit. Mostly, they just want you to know that they’ve been heard and their complaint is being dealt with. People understand that no service is perfect 100% of the time, that products are sometimes faulty, that companies can make mistakes, and they’ll give you a lot of slack if they know you’re aware of the issue and addressing it.

Further, the fact that you’ve responded to a complaint will be there for everyone to see and you’ll likely get brownie points from people who didn’t have a complaint themselves, but are reading the reviews.

At the very least, the criticism will be placed in context; you’re side of the story will be there alongside the complaint.

Use a light touch with criticism. If it’s a particularly active forum, wait for others to respond. What often happens is other people pipe in with their own opinions and the conversation becomes self-regulating. If the initial criticism is unwarranted or out of the ordinary, other reviewers will often say so. If people back up the criticism with their own, you probably have a problem with your product or service itself that needs to be addressed.

Think of criticism as opportunity. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your attention to your customers. This is an opportunity to show your responsiveness. This is an opportunity to showcase your responsibility. This is an opportunity to turn a critic into a champion.

Often times, people who have had an unpleasant experience that gets resolved quickly and to their satisfaction will rave about your customer service when all is said and done.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.