Your business’s online reputation may be digital, but that won’t stop it from making a serious impact IRL. A strong reputation management strategy can attract new customers and deepen existing relationships. A lax approach, on the other hand, can alienate both audiences.
Make sure the web is working for you, not against you. Use this article to learn how to establish a comprehensive online reputation management strategy.
What is online reputation management?
Online reputation management involves actively monitoring and influencing how your business is perceived online. The main goal of this process is to control the online conversation surrounding your brand using various strategies to ensure that when people search for you online, they come across information that paints a favorable picture.
Why does online reputation management matter?
Your online reputation management impacts more than just your marketing team. Do it well, and teams across your org chart will feel the benefits in the following key areas.
When people search for information on your business, everything they find works together to paint a picture of what it might be like to be a customer. Strong brand reputation management practices ensure that the picture is a good one.
This work is important everywhere but especially online, where good and bad customer experiences live on in perpetuity through social media posts and reviews. With online reputation management, you can bolster praise and account for feedback, giving you more control over your business’s brand image
Managing your online reputation requires you to be proactive. That proactivity plays a major role in crisis prevention and risk mitigation—two must-haves for growing businesses.
Continuous reputation monitoring allows businesses to detect potential issues or negative trends in sentiment early on. This early detection supports intervention before a situation escalates into a crisis that might cause lasting damage to your brand and company.
A good reputation has a snowball effect. The better your reputation gets, the more customers you attract. In the past, this work was relegated to slow-moving offline endeavors. Today, the internet can get this process going faster than you can say “avalanche”.
A steady drumbeat of positive attention online creates a strong environment for business expansion. After all, you’ll likely need more space and resources to meet the needs of all your new and existing customers.
Your business’s online reputation matters to more than just your customers—investors also use the internet to vet potential investments.
In recent years, social media platforms like Reddit, TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter) have become especially popular destinations for retail and institutional investors to discuss and analyze market trends. Without an online reputation management strategy in place, your brand could potentially miss out on business critical conversations.
At the end of the day, your business’s online reputation is made up of feedback—praise, ideas and concerns ranging from “inconsequential” to “absolutely vital”.
A key element of online reputation management is ensuring that critical feedback gets to the people who can do something about it. When your processes bring your customer to the center of the conversation, you strengthen your business’s ability to deliver on what they want and need.
What factors contribute to online reputation management?
The internet can be a bit of a double-edged sword. There are so many ways to build your business’s reputation online. There are also a lot of ways for that reputation to be damaged.
An online reputation management strategy powered by routine sentiment analysis can help you make sense of the many factors that contribute to your business’s reputation across the web. Those include:
Social media has brought a new level of transparency into consumer conversations. Whether they’re evangelizing for a brand they love or ripping into a poor business practice, people turn to social to speak their minds.
This constant stream of commentary can work for or against your company. According to a study from GWI, over a third (43%) of consumers across all ages turn to social networks when looking for more information about brands, products or services. Social is the new search engine, making it a bedrock of your online reputation management strategy.
Luckily, managing your brand’s reputation on social doesn’t have to mean hours upon hours of scrolling. Brands can use social media listening to synthesize these conversations into actionable insights. For example, Cummins, a global leader in power solutions, uses Sprout’s social listening tools to monitor their brand health and reputation across major social networks in real time.
Learn more about Cummin’s strategy
Your business’s star rating follows your brand across the web. Reviews are easier to find than ever, especially when you consider the rise of mobile search. If someone’s looking for information about your business on the go, chances are they’re also going to find your average review rating at the top of those search results.
The more positive reviews you get, the more reassurance potential customers get out of all those positive experiences. In fact, it may be what pushes them to finally procure their goods or services.
A person browsing through reviews is more likely to have a higher purchase intent than an individual passively browsing the rest of the web, which is why online review management goes hand-in-hand with online reputation management.
News publications impact more than just traditional public relations initiatives. In this day and age, any reputable news outlet has a digital publication that can be found by individuals well beyond their typical publishing audience. Think about it: How often have you found yourself reading an article online, only to find out it’s from a local paper miles away from where you currently reside?
Today, positive news coverage can be amplified across the web through social media and other digital channels, allowing brands to get more bang for their buck with their media relations efforts.
In a way, influencers are like their own digital publications. After all, they create content for a specific audience they’ve grown over time. An endorsement from an influencer within your target market can have the same impact as positive media coverage, if not more.
Your influencer marketing strategy can do more than just improve your brand’s reputation online. It can play a major role in shaping that reputation, allowing your business to expand into new audiences and markets.
For example, Dave & Buster’s and TikTok influencer @CorporateNatalie seems like an unlikely pair at first thought. However, the two were able to make 9-to-5 comedy work for an arcade restaurant for this paid promotion.
Content like this can challenge existing beliefs about your brand’s reputation online. For Dave & Buster’s, it expanded their target audience to include working professionals who will likely have to schedule a team bonding session at one point or another.
Better online reputation management in 5 simple steps
Whether you’re introducing these practices for the first time, or you have a few online reputation management processes in place, these tips will help strengthen your approach to better protect your business.
Identify the channels used by your market segment
Where is your reputation being forged online? A qualitative and quantitative approach to market research can help you zero in on where your audience is discussing your brand and industry online.
Taking both into consideration will help you account for the full spectrum of where your audience hangs out online. Analytics tools and market research can reveal some sure bets, while open-ended research methods—like customer interviews and surveys—can shine a light on more up-and-coming platforms for brand discovery and research.
This information will help ensure your strategy is focused on the channels that will make an impact on your business.
Monitor your online reputation through mentions
If we were to think about online reputation management through the lens of a Crawl, Walk, Run strategy, monitoring your online mentions would fit squarely within the “Crawl” stage.
When a user tags your brand handle in a social media post or leaves a review on a business page, they expect a response quickly. According to the 2023 Sprout Social Index™ Report, 69% of consumers expect a response within the same day. If you don’t have a process for monitoring your brand mentions online, you are disappointing customers which can cause lasting damage to brand reputation.
The easiest way to safeguard your brand reputation online is to use a tool that organizes all those notifications in one, centralized platform. For example, Sprout Social consolidates inboxes across social media networks and popular review sites like Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, so you never miss a mention.
Identify the topics around your business needs
Once you’ve got reacting to mentions down, it’s time to get more proactive with your approach.
Staying on top of the conversations tangentially related to your brand will supercharge your online reputation management strategy. For example, say a competitor’s highly-publicized product recall is driving a ton of discussion online. By proactively monitoring the conversations happening within your industry, you gain a clearer understanding of consumer concerns so you can craft a response strategy that enhances your competitive advantage.
These conversations can be more difficult to track than mentions alone, but the results are worth the effort. Plus, there are social listening tools that can help you uncover trends and develop actionable insights without any complex data aggregation processes. Sprout’s social listening tool makes the process ultra-accessible with our user-friendly and intuitive Query Builder.
Figuring out what topics to follow will take a bit of trial and error, so we recommend starting broad and narrowing as you go. For example, if you operate within a specific geographic location, consider tracking key conversations happening at a local level and fine-tune your approach from there.
Take charge of the narrative
As you gather insights from your online reputation management processes, you’ll begin to identify trends in consumer sentiment. These emerging narratives can control how people perceive your brand for better and for worse. If you want to maintain control over your brand image, you need to take charge.
Do this by using everything you’ve learned to inform cross-channel communications. If consumers frequently cite the quality of your product as a reason they keep coming back, give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at how it’s made. If your shipping times continuously come up as an area of improvement, create content that builds transparency around what causes those delays.
By addressing the positive and negative, you take back control of your business’s online reputation.
How to choose the best reputation management software for your business
The internet is a big place. If you rely on an individual or even a single team to manage your reputation online, chances are you might miss something vital. If you want to do online reputation management right, you need a tool to help get the job done.
Here are some questions you can ask to ensure your reputation management software procurement process leaves you with the best option possible:
- Does the tool offer a collaborative workspace? You may be driving your online reputation management strategy, but teams across your business will need to contribute to truly get the job done. Your reputation management software should allow internal and external teams to collaborate and carry out tasks without any unnecessary overlap.
- Is the tool scalable? Online reputation management means working with external platforms that can add, remove or update features at the drop of a hat. Check to see how your vendor has responded to these changes in the past. How long does it take them to add new features? Are new workflows intuitive, or do they require training? These questions will help you get an accurate read on whether or not the tool can grow alongside your organization.
- What channels does the tool integrate with? Compare your list of priority channels with a list of integrated channels provided by your vendor. If there are too many gaps, then you may find yourself doing work alongside your software solution to ensure nothing is missed.
- What reporting capabilities does the tool offer? If you’re putting all this work into your strategy, you probably want to see the fruits of your labor. Your online reputation management tool should offer insight into how your reputation is trending over time.
- Does the software offer AI and automation? Synthesizing the countless conversations that take place online calls for some seriously smart tech. Ask your vendor about the AI and automation tools they currently provide, as well as what is on their product roadmap.
Take a smarter approach to online reputation management with Sprout Social
Your time is valuable. Don’t use it to sift through the countless comments and posts made about your brand on the web. Instead, leave that to Sprout Social. Our tools aggregate mentions and conversations about your brand, competitors and industry so you can focus on identifying trends and creating action items.
Put Sprout to the test today by signing up for a free 30-day trial.
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