It is essential to help your clients manage their online reputation. We've analyzed data from over 300,000 local businesses to see what is happening in each industry, and figure out what you can do to help your clients.
What is Online Reputation Management?
Businesses have always had to manage their online reputation, the only things that have changed are the medium, the speed at which information is transmitted and the number of people that are reached by that information. A business's reputation used to be what they said about themselves in their advertising and the limited reach their customers had via word of mouth. Now, customers define businesses by providing real time feedback on review sites, social media, forums and other channels.
Managing a successful online reputation takes a lot of time. You can use products, services or people to cut down on your time expenditure, but whatever you do, maintaining the online presence of a business is one of the most worthwhile services you can provide for your clients.
Consumers Control the Conversation
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Foursquare have dramatically changed the way businesses communicate. A business's reputation is both what they say about themselves, and what your customers say about them.
Social media is a two-way conversation — businesses can no longer broadcast the message they want people to see. There is a democratic nature to social, with brands, consumers and everyone having an equal voice in a shared space. Customers can rave about a business, or let everyone know they had a terrible experience. Earned media — like mentions, reviews and shares — has empowered consumers to advocate for brands they care about. Today, consumers can converse with brands and vice versa.
Though some people think of monitoring their reputation as a scary chore or a daunting task, instant feedback is something most business owners are constantly searching for. Responding effectively to negative reviews and amplifying positive feedback is essential for success. Not responding to customers on review sites and social media is worse than having a phone line you never answer, because there are thousands of people witnessing your neglect.
While review sites and social media are essential parts of managing a successful online reputation, monitoring a business's digital profile is about much more than responding to reviews and social media. It’s about being proactive and creating an online image with the help of customers.
What Makes a Good Online Reputation?
Being present and having a good reputation go hand in hand. Not being listed on a reference site customers use is just as bad as having bad reviews on that site. When many of a business's online profiles have user generated content like reviews, their reputation drives tangible results. You need to maximize visibility and reputation simultaneously to help your local business clients.
Building a consistent online presence and a positive reputation is important for both consumers and search engines.
Some of the most important aspects of the online footprint include
- Number of listings
- Consistency of listing information (name, address, phone)
- Overall sentiment in reviews
- Frequency or current velocity of new reviews
- Overall volume of reviews
- Social activity and engagement (especially with reviewers)
People trust traditional advertising far less than social recommendations and review sites. Customers view this user generated content as more genuine and authentic, expecting them to mirror the actual customer experience. This means that maintaining a business's online reputation is getting increasingly more important.
Nearly 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information online (Search Engine Land). Google has reported that 9 out of 10 of those searches lead to action, and more than 50% lead to sales. Much of the time, a customer decides to purchase before even entering the store. If your customers have a good web presence, customers will come to them rather than the competitor. Once they’re in the store, 79% use their smartphones inside to look at reviews, compare prices and compare other metrics, and 74% of them end up making a purchase (Search Engine Land).
Those numbers make the opportunity clear: maintain a good online reputation for your local business clients, get people in their door and let them make the sale.
Reputation Drives Conversion
What people see online, matters. Around 74% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations — this is a huge shift in thinking that has become more prominent year over year (Search Engine Land). This, of course, translates to dollars, as customers put their money where their trust is. A Harvard Business School study found that a restaurant that sees a one star increase on Yelp will see revenues increase anywhere from five to nine per cent.
Most businesses find that cultivating their digital profile on their own is too time consuming. There are Reputation Monitoring tools that make keeping up with customers way easier, saving time and money.
Whatever you do, make sure that you’re not ignoring your customers on the platforms they use. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
Customer experience is marketing. It is essential you help your local business clients maintain their online reputation and build their presence.