By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial
Consumers put a lot of trust in their fellow shoppers when it comes to making buying decisions. They are much more likely to believe what a stranger has to say about your company, product or service than the messaging you carefully crafted for your website.
That’s because reputation matters. Consumers want to know what they can expect before they invest their time, money or other resources, and they’re looking for an unbiased source for that information. They want to know if you deliver on your brand promises, if you respond to customers when there’s a problem and if you’re the kind of company they want to do business with.
Your company’s reputation is your most important asset. Your reputation is your brand. It’s what people think when they hear or see your company’s name, logo or anything associated with your company.
Do you know what people are saying about your brand online? If you’re not doing what you can to manage your reputation, others will manage it for you. You can’t control what people say about your brand online, but there are things you can do. Here are some ways to get started.
Do a search. Search for your company’s name, as well as the names of your products and services, on multiple search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search for common misspellings as well so you don’t miss anything. It’s also important to do an image search using your company’s name. See what comes up.
Create an alert. A Google Alert is a free, real-time alert that sends you an automated email when your search term is mentioned online. Set up multiple alerts for your company, products, competitors, competitors’ products, and even the top leadership in your company and of your competitors.
Compare reputations. Now that you have alerts set up, you can more easily see what people are saying about your competitors. Use that information to find opportunities. Where do they have service gaps that you can address and gain a competitive advantage? How are they capitalizing on your weaknesses?
Be responsive. If you have a company Facebook or Twitter account, monitor comments closely. Check in at least once a day to monitor and respond to individual comments in a timely manner.
When you have a social media presence, you may occasionally have to address a complaint. Because the complaint is public, you have to deal with it publicly. It can be tempting to put an unreasonable customer in their place, but don’t overreact.
Stop and take a deep breath. The most successful companies on social media respond to their customer complaints and concerns in a respectful, understanding way. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are the perfect platform to show off your customer service skills.
After all, whatever happens online stays online. Every comment, status update and response is captured and stored on a server someplace so the search engines can link to it. And they will.
Watch review sites. Should you really care what people are saying about your company on review sites? Absolutely. Consumers trust their fellow consumers more than they trust your marketing, so you need to know what’s out there. While you can’t make them remove an unflattering review, you should take a close look at the concerns your customers raise to see if there is an issue that can be addressed to improve the experience for others.
Generate content. Generating on-target content is a powerful tactic, especially when it comes to managing your online reputation. Not only does it help you position your company as a subject matter expert with useful and relevant information, it also helps you put your best foot forward when it comes to search results.
Content marketing can increase the likelihood of favorable links appearing on the first page of the search results, which will help push less favorable links deeper into the search results.
Know what you stand for. The most effective way to build your reputation online is to understand your brand. If you can articulate what makes your company special and different, you can integrate what you stand for into every aspect of your company. When you do that, every touch point your customers and potential customers encounter will support your brand.
Your brand and your reputation are tightly intertwined. Your brand is the most valuable asset you have, so make sure you take good care of it.
Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.