Five years ago, my company hired an online marketer, specialized in online reputation management. He was the only bloke handling ORM responsibilities then. Now, he’s leading a team of fifteen people.
We are taking online reputation more seriously than ever before because we are required to do so by our clients. Businesses of all scales and sizes are pouring
Online Reputation Management benefits
Among many benefits, one is brand perception. Marketing around perceptions is a new phenomenon but the speed at which it’s gaining traction indicates brands are getting more and more into it. They are having to paint a positive image of them so they can be perceived in a good light.
What does online reputation have to do with this? John Wooden said, “Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be.” This quote applies to brands as well. Reputation of a brand depends on the way it is perceived.
Managing reputation is hard in the era of fast-paced global communication. Customers can nitpick and slam you online, but you can’t blame them. A late delivery or a negative product experience and boom! A negative review.
Online Reputation Management challenges
Getting success with ORM is becoming more difficult every day. Understanding the challenges doesn’t guarantee overcoming them. The internet’s constant outreach is largely to blame for this. Information is easy to obtain, sharing product experience is easier (the IRCs and forums are useful after all), language is no barrier thanks to translation apps.
In short, I don’t feel surprised when I see ORM specialists either play hide and seek or make claims that are contrary to the ones made by pissed customers but fly in the face of evidence (the latter is black hat, never do that, the former is not permissible either but zero tolerance for the latter).
Overcoming the challenges
The challenges are too many. So should be the strategies. Don’t fall for a single strategy, coming with the claim that it overcomes all challenges at once. For each single challenge, there should be a customized strategy to deal with it.
The first challenge is posed by
#1. Online review sites
Think nobody reads the reviews that are posted there? You think wrong. Online review sites are visited by millions all over the world, and they take the product opinions shared there more seriously than promotions and advertisements, so much so that a large number of them make purchasing decisions based on the reviews they read on those sites.
The problem with most buyers is they expect the sky to be handed to them when they unwrap a product. Even minor inconveniences hamper their product experience inasmuch as they can post a negative review. Some people are not your customers, they never bought anything from you but may still join the slugfest for the sake of having fun. Anonymity gives them all kinds of powers.
What’s actually worrisome is such reviews are read and taken seriously. The first thing ORMs need to do is separate silly reviews from serious reviews. The latter pins on the actual downsides whereas the former has a subjective undertone, which is not hard to recognize; “I didn’t like it”, “Not what I expected”, “Give me back my money (For no substantial reason whatsoever)”…these are all subjective experiences, which you need to ignore.
Treat negative reviews pointing at product shortcomings as unbiased feedback from customers. Don’t rubbish those claims, don’t try to silence them either. From a user account (not a branded account), narrate positive experiences with the product and acknowledge the shortcomings.
The second challenge comes from
#2. Social networks
True, review sites are social channels, but they are primarily consumer networks. Mainstream social networks are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Those channels have users from all demographic and interest groups, who can be consumers as well as non-consumers.
When a brand is lambasted by users on those networks, it creates more negative publicity for the brand. If a user can substantiate the claim of a murky product experience with evidence, the negative publicity might become intensified, or even worse, it might extrapolate as some unrelated users might chime in and share their experiences (real or not, you never know).
To lessen the impact of negative comments on social channels, use visuals. Social networks are the seedbed of visuals. Use that in your favor. Share product photographs clicked by professionals. Product photography blends arts and commerce and increases conversion. It can be a great tool for improving a brand’s image, in case it’s damaged.
Alongside photography, graphic design, illustration and typography can foster visual communication with audiences. Since visual communication influences consumer’s purchase decisions, it can give the negative stains on a brand’s image a brush-off. If a user drops a comment on the fanpage about an unsatisfactory product experience, an unconditional apology would be a good idea. He can be offered giveaways as reimbursement, but such communication must be private.
Other challenges are related to
#3. Selecting tools
ORM tools are plenty in number. But not all are equally good. Select the right tools to make your ORM campaign better performing. The right tools are those that offer multiple services from a unique platform. There are free tools as well as paid tools. Free tools come with limited features, which is why brands mostly select paid tools.
Among the paid tools,
- Yotpo is a must-have for e-commerce brands as it aggregates online reviews from customers.
- Rankur is another paid tool that helps you narrow down your audiences. Its reporting capabilities are state of the art and gives brands a bird’s eye view of how each subgroup of consumers is perceiving them.
Among the free tools,
- Google Alert is the best, and for obvious reasons. The tool notifies you when content is generated with a mention of your brand.
- SocialMention is also a free tool and is quite useful. It can measure the positiveness and negativeness of feedback and identifies the sources of the comments.
The trend among the brands is using paid tools. Since those tools cost a lot, make sure you are using the right tool. Wrong tools will not amount to any increase in productivity.
#4. Customer service
Top brands face this problem. They employ hundreds of people and it becomes difficult for them to monitor what each employee is doing. Despite giving training to handle customers, the CCEs often goof up. They don’t get the blame, the brand that employs them does.
To overcome this challenge, brands need to employ experience customer service professionals and assign them the task of supervising the CCEs. Their job should be listening to every call, analyze it and educate individual CCEs about where and how they flubbed.
#5. Industry reputation
One brand may have to take blame for another brand’s mistake. The World Economic Forum (WEF) harped on about the importance of trust building for a business. Due to one company’s mischief or mishandling, others hailing from the same niche face difficulty building trust, and their reputation suffers.
This signifies why it’s important for brands to maintain the industry’s reputation side by side their own reputation. Tell your ORM team to search for negative comments not only about you but also about other brands who operate in the same industry. Upon finding such comments, reply to them stating the frolicsomeness they experienced doesn’t apply to all brands, and there are exceptions (you).
In my company, we applied the tips shared here and helped our clients get an image makeover. It can happen with you too. So, overcome the challenges described here using the corresponding strategies and let us know how it went.
Images: ”Concept image of Business Acronym ORM as Online Reputation Management written over road marking yellow painted line. /Shutterstock.com“
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