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The Unspoken Rules of Effective Online Reputation Management

By Corey Brown on Aug 27, 2021

Online reputation management (or ORM if you like acronyms) is a must for any small business. Put simply, it’s the process of keeping track of what’s being said about your brand online. To take it one step further, it often includes amplifying the positive mentions and doing damage control for any negative mentions.

The problem is that most ORM tips and tricks assume that your company has people whose sole focus, 40 hours a week, is managing your online presence. Many smaller businesses would be lucky to get a few hours a week to dedicate to ORM, so we’ve tailored our tips to that time constraint.

With that in mind, here are the six unspoken rules that make effective ORM possible for small businesses. For the sake of convenience, we’ve listed them in the order that you should prioritize them if you’re pressed for time. Let’s dive in!

Rule #1: Monitor Reviews Regularly

The cardinal rule of online reputation management is monitoring your online reviews on a regular basis. If you have the time, the ideal cadence would be to check in with reviews on a daily basis. If not, try not to go more than a few days without checking in—definitely no longer than a week.

Why is this so important? Online reviews are a key indicator of social proof for local businesses. Think about this in your own life: When was the last time you tried a new restaurant, workout studio or tailor shop without checking the reviews first?

If your prospective customers are checking your reviews, you should be too. Which brings us to our next rule…

Rule #2: Engage with Positive and Negative Reviews

Once you have a habit of checking your reviews regularly, it’s time to take action. The key here is to respond to both positive and negative reviews whenever possible.

For positive reviews, thank the person for their business and for taking the time to leave a review. If they left a longer account of their experience, find a small detail to mention in your response. This step helps with customer satisfaction by making your reviewer feel appreciated, and it gives the impression that you care about delivering a great experience. win-win.

For negative reviews, your approach should depend on the content of the review. Check out the two sample responses below for inspiration. The first option works well if the person didn’t share any details about what specifically went wrong—like those pesky one-star reviews with no written comments. The second option works well if you do know the specifics of where you went wrong.

  • Hi John, so sorry to hear that you were disappointed! We’d love to hear more about what went wrong. Can you email us at [email] so we can make it right?
  • Hi John, so sorry we let you down in [XYZ way]. We’ve notified our team to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Can you email us at [email] so we can get you a refund right away?

If you happen to receive a negative review that you feel is unfair, say so in your response only if you can really back up your side of the issue. A response explaining the alternate perspective can help mitigate backlash from an uncharacteristically difficult customer. Just make sure you’re truly innocent in the matter before you take this approach.

Rule #3: Take Action to Correct Common Complaints

As you monitor reviews, keep an eye out for any complaints that are coming up frequently. A single bad review about a particular issue isn’t a red flag, but multiple mentions likely indicate that you have a bigger problem on your hands.

In these cases, take the time to speak with your customers and your team to understand the problem as clearly as possible. Then, put measures in place to correct the problem long-term. Follow up with your unhappy customers to let them know what you’ve done to make things right, and make sure they feel good about the outcome.

This process is a great way to stay on top of your company’s image and to preserve the experience you’re delivering to customers over time.

Rule #4: Have a Social Listening Plan

Next, online reputation management isn’t just about reviews—it’s also about your holistic online presence. To monitor what’s being said about your company outside of reviews, have a social listening plan (or software tool) to keep track of your mentions. You may want to set up specific tracking measures for keywords like your company’s name, your industry and even your founders’ names.

The same best practices about review management apply to your social listening plan. This expansion of your monitoring strategy just gives you more insight into what’s being said about you across multiple channels.

Rule #5: Share User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is one of the best perks that comes from successful reputation management. By keeping track of what’s being shared about your brand, you’re likely to come across photos, videos and, of course, reviews that you can use to market your company to prospective customers.

Happy customers are an incredible asset for your brand. They speak the same language as your target audience, and their recommendations will feel more authentic than your own endorsement. When you come across positive UGC online, ask for permission to use it to promote your business, then share away.

Rule #6: Have a Crisis Management Plan

Lastly, if you have the luxury of time to plan online reputation management long-term, put some thought into your crisis management plan—AKA what you’ll do if something horrible happens to your online image. Think terrible press mentions, a slew of negative reviews or a similar disaster that could tank your business overnight.

While you don’t have to create a contingency plan for every possible outcome, thinking ahead can help you feel more in control if one of your worst-case scenarios ever happens. Hopefully, you will never have to use these plans, but you’ll be glad you took this time if you do.

We’re Here to Help

There you have it! Put these tips to use for your own business and watch as your online presence becomes stronger by the day. If you need help with online reputation management or review generation services, contact Umbrella Local for a consultation.

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