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Social media reputation management: How to stay in good standing with your audience

Social media reputation management: How to stay in good standing with your audience

Reputation management is more important than ever. From the value of your products to the quality of your customer service, people are likely already posting, talking and commenting about you. And businesses today can’t afford to ignore conversations related to their reputation.

Literally: The Sprout Social Index™ found 51% of consumers agree responding to customers on social media makes brands the most memorable. Despite popular belief, your online reputation isn’t something that’s totally beyond your control.

If you want more positive reviews and glowing praise from your customers, you need an actual reputation management strategy. In this guide, we’ll show you how to put together your own.

What is social media reputation management?

Social media reputation management refers to the process of monitoring social networks to shape and maintain a positive perception online. Along with monitoring social networks, it can include reviewing online reviews on channels like Yelp and Google Reviews. Building a social media reputation requires frequent observation because your audience’s perception of your brand fluctuates over time.

It involves posting content, responding to feedback, conducting performance audits and using social listening data to uncover how your audience views your brand. Overall, social media reputation management aims to build and nurture trustworthy, long-standing relationships with your audience.

Why do you need a social media reputation management strategy?

We get it: some businesses might be skeptical of why ratings, reviews and positive comments hold so much weight.

Because if you know that you’re doing good business, who cares what other people are saying?

And besides, it’s easier to put on blinders and ignore your haters than it is to face your critics head-on. However, consider the following trends that highlight the importance of managing social media reputation:

Consumers are increasingly dependent on third-party reviews

It’s not a stretch to say that businesses live and die based on customer feedback.

People overwhelmingly rely on reviews when it comes to purchasing decisions. A survey from BrightLocal shows 76% of consumers regularly read online reviews when browsing for local businesses. And 46% of consumers feel that online business reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations from friends or family.

These stats illustrate the power of reputation management. Customers view brands with more positive reviews and recommendations as genuine and credible.

There’s massive demand for customer feedback and consumers aren’t shy about delivering it. Want evidence? Look no further than the millions of users on sites like Yelp.

Sevananda Natural Foods Market's Yelp business page. The page includes customer reviews and contact information.

Or the hundreds of categories scattered around sites like G2, a peer-to-peer review site for business software.

G2 software review ratings for several software programs including Asana, Smartsheet, Monday.com, Airtable, Wrike and ClickUp.

Or the millions of reviews on Google Reviews and Trustpilot:

Trustpilot home page. The page title says, "Read reviews. Write reviews. Find companies you can trust." Below rests a search bar and categories for reviews like clothing stores, insurance and fitness services.

You can sing your own praises all day long, but consumers are on the hunt for authentic, third-party reviews for peace of mind. The more of ’em you have, the better.

Digital word-of-mouth is crucial to growing your audience

Data from The Sprout Social Index™ found 68% of consumers say they primarily follow brands on social media to stay informed about new products or services.

Data visualization from The Sprout Social Index™, showing the primary reason consumers follow brands on social is to stay informed about new products or services (68%). After product discovery,  the top reasons include: having access to exclusive deals or promotions (46%), the content post is enjoyable and entertaining (45%), to engage with the community or customers (28%) and because their values or mission align (21%).

Like it or not, people talk. A lot. Your own customers can do some serious legwork by marketing on your behalf, granted they’re satisfied with your service.

A post on X, formerly known as Twitter. The user praises Miro's team and their product. Miro brand account responds thanking the user for positive feedback.

The takeaway here? Digital word-of-mouth marketing remains powerful because more conversations around your brand on social media represent additional opportunities to win customers and followers.

Customers hold the reins when it comes to your social media reputation

This is perhaps the biggest challenge of social media reputation management. Social media is authentic and unfiltered. That’s why it’s a great place to discover products and customer feedback—people can pretty much say whatever they want, for better or worse.

As a business, this presents a distinct challenge. Just as satisfied customers are empowered to hype you up, you can’t control your worst critics. That said, you’re still responsible for what they say–responses to reviews and using feedback to improve your products and services are essential parts of your overall reputation management process.

A 5-step social media reputation management strategy for your business

Now that we’ve acknowledged how much brand reputation management matters, let’s talk about the proactive steps you can take to improve your own. The following five step strategy is fair game for businesses both big and small.

1. Determine where your online reputation currently stands

First things first: you need to figure out how people feel about your brand right now.

Are your customers happy and satisfied? Are you struggling with naysayers? Perhaps you’re somewhere in-between?

Digging into a combination of qualitative and quantitative data can help clue you in on where your reputation stands. This includes:

  • Social media posts, comments and @-mentions from customers and competitors
  • Online reviews and star ratings from third-party review sites
  • Mentions from industry blogs or trade publications
  • Feedback gathered from actual customers (think: emails, customer surveys, contact forms on your website)

The key here is to look at the ratio of positive versus negative comments. If your customer sentiment seems to err on the positive side, that’s good! If not, you have some work to do.

The health of your social media reputation can be difficult to quantify manually. That’s where a platform like Sprout Social that offers social media reputation management tools can help.

For example, our sentiment analysis features can take mentions and turn them into a meaningful, quantifiable metric that you can track.

Performance Sentiment Summary in Sprout. It depicts the percentage of positive and negative sentiment and changes in sentiment trends over time.

You can use your sentiment analysis summary as a starting point which you can monitor or strive to improve. Our platform also highlights trends in your customer sentiment (think: positive versus negative and neutral comments) over time without you having to sort them out manually.

Beyond comments are those ever-so-important reviews. Creating an online review management strategy to address feedback on third-party sites will enable your brand to maintain a full view of your customers’ opinions.

Another key feature of Sprout is the ability to wrangle all of your reviews from social media and beyond in a single platform. This gives you a more comprehensive view of your social media reputation and what your customers have to say about you without having to bounce between platforms.

A screenshot of the Sprout Social platform that demonstrates reviews aggregated from multiple review sites in one unified feed.

2. Track your company’s mentions (the good, bad and ugly)

Social media reputation management is an ongoing process.

Once you determine where your reputation stands, you need to set up your business to be able to respond to customers swiftly in the future.

This means setting up real-time notifications and listening for the following:

  • Comments, tags and @-mentions of your business (e.g. @SproutSocial)
  • Hashtag analytics including brand-specific hashtags (e.g. #SproutSocial or #SproutChat)
  • Branded keywords (e.g. recognizing “Sprout Social” and “Sprout” as keywords across networks)

Having a pulse on these elements makes it easier to craft the appropriate best practices to follow when someone has a question, concern or reason to shout you out.

This once again highlights the benefit of using a platform like Sprout. With Sprout, you can consolidate all of your social messages and mentions in a single inbox. You can likewise share your various dashboard(s) among your teammates to cover more ground and speed up your social media response time.

Sprout Social Smart Inbox with customer interactions.

Our Index data shows that 76% of consumers value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs. And over half (69%) expect responses from brands on social within 24 hours or less.

3. Be proactive and positive as you respond to your social mentions

Whether it’s a concern or a compliment, social mentions represent prime opportunities to make a positive impression on customers and improve your social media reputation.

Doing so comes down to having a strategy for social customer service. Some key tips for responding to customers include:

  • Personalizing each reply rather than just using a generic one
  • Always give yourself the last word by saying “thanks”
  • Moving questions or concerns off of social media to avoid unnecessary conflict or back-and-forth

It might sound cheesy, but a positive, proactive attitude goes a long way in social media reputation management. This rings true whether it’s answering a customer question or simply responding to shout-outs like in the example below:

A customer on social thanks Fitbit support for helping them. The brand account responds thanking the customer several times.

4. Take control of your company’s narrative (and make it positive)

As noted, the key challenge of social media reputation management is that online comments are pretty much a free-for-all.

Arguably the best approach to combat the negative is by encouraging your own positive praise.

And yes, there are ways to do so beyond begging (which you definitely shouldn’t do).

For example, you might consider publishing success stories and existing positive reviews from your satisfied customers. This can help highlight positive experiences to your social prospects who might not have checked out any third-party reviews yet.

A post on X from Jackson Boyd featuring a client testimonial on Trustpilot.

Beyond customer comments, employee advocacy and mentions from your own team can also create more positive sentiment. Don’t be shy about re-posting your customers’ positive responses or shout-outs, either. This includes asking for permission to republish user-generated content to use in your future marketing.

A user shares a photo of a plane coasting during sunset. The brand account for Charleston International Airport responds to the post asking if they can reshare on social.

5. Take action based on comments, criticism and analytics

Finally, consider the power of listening to what your customers have to say.

Maybe they’re glowing over your recent customer service initiatives. Perhaps they’re unhappy about recent pricing changes.

Either way, don’t just take those comments in stride. Instead, listen to such feedback and make changes to your business accordingly.

And yet again, this is where Sprout can help. Digging into your listening data, you can uncover specific terms that pop up in your customer conversations to help you understand what you’re doing right and where you can improve.

A screenshot of the Conversation Overview in Sprout Social. The image demonstrates key metrics of select keywords and hashtags on social media.

The same applies to your third-party ratings, reviews and mentions. Being a business today means having a thick skin, but it also means taking criticism where it’s due.

Based on all of the above, you can circle back to square one to understand how your reputation management efforts are paying off and whether you’re moving the needle in a positive direction.

Top social media reputation management tools

As we mentioned earlier, manually monitoring and reviewing customer feedback is time-consuming. Using a for business can make a huge difference. Here’s a quick round-up of five tools so you can find the best review management software for your brand:

Sprout Social

Choosing the best social media reputation management software will depend on your business’s unique needs, but Sprout Social integrates with many top review networks to fit various needs. These networks include Facebook Pages, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor, which are the most popular in terms of volume and reach. We also offer integrations for the app stores (Google Play and Apple App Store).

Screenshot of Sprout's review management features.

With the Reviews Overview report, view a summary of your customer feedback. It includes vital metrics like reply rate and review volume. The report is part of Sprout’s larger customer care solution. Sprout creates a seamless experience across channels by enabling users to monitor multiple conversations, all the while providing priority metrics and automated reports so you can ensure your social customer service strategy is effective and efficient.

Brand24

Brand24 is another helpful tool for social media reputation management. Users can create projects to track online conversations about your brand and industry peers. You can also explore by searching mentions by campaign, analyze sentiment and create reports.

Brand24's homepage with the title, Protect Brand Reputation. A sign-up button and a software mockup rest below.

Mention

Mention is a social media management tool that offers a variety of features you can use to manage your reputation. Mention offers the ability to track specific keywords and various filtering options so you can narrow down the @-mentions and feedback that is most relevant and meaningful for your brand.

Mention's landing page for their social media monitoring tools featuring copy about their offerings and a demo button.

Birdeye

Birdeye is another leading platform for social media reputation management. Birdeye collects reviews from review sites and 150+ different platforms, giving users a comprehensive view of their business’ online reputation. You can organize feedback by filtering (rating number, region, product, etc.) them into custom fields. Similar to the other social media reputation management software, it centralizes reviews in a singular platform.

Birdeye's homepage with the title, "More reviews. Less effort." The page features a demo button, mockups of their software and various review site logos.

Broadly

Supporting over 3,000 local businesses, Broadly is a great option for small businesses looking to maintain a positive online reputation. Users have the option to automate review requests from customers. Broadly offers the ability to monitor and respond to reviews from Google, Facebook and more within a central platform as well.

Broadly's homepage with the title, "Build a strong online presence and reputation." The page features badges from review sites, a mockup of their software and a demo button.

Is online reputation management a top priority for your business?

Listen: Your brand’s reputation matters.

Rather than treat it as something beyond your control, you should take steps to secure and boost your social media reputation sooner rather than later.

This means both listening and reacting to conversations related to your business. With social media management tools like Sprout Social, you can roll out a more effective and efficient strategy on social media and beyond.

And if you haven’t already, take a test-drive of Sprout’s full suite of social listening and reputation management features today by signing up for a personalized demo.

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