The Rise of Social Validation 

Roughly 97% of consumers read reviews before making a purchasing decision. 

To consumers, the review represents trust, but more than that, it presents them with an opportunity to customize their purchasing decisions based on the experiences of others, and feel comfortable enough to make more first time purchases. 

To businesses, reviews represent both the empowerment of the consumer and the opportunity to build trust - even if a consumer has never interacted with the brand before.

What Is Online Reputation Management? 

Review management and reputation management are often used interchangeably, but there is more to online reputation management than just reviews.

Reviews are one part of a much larger brand management puzzle that begins with presenting the authentic face of your business wherever consumers are searching. 

They are searching online and they are looking for the best online information to create the best offline experience possible. Consumers…

  • search online
  • discover online
  • engage online

...and your business needs to provide an authentic experience at each of those touchpoints. Keep reading to discover four ways to do just that.

One thing we should talk about right now is the fact that reviews aren’t always fair. A customer may choose to leave a one star review without having ever been to one of your store locations (because they can) and there are countless cases of competitors and agencies out there creating fake reviews to hurt large and small businesses alike - bringing down your rankings to help them and their clients. 

At times, businesses feel powerless against these illegitimate ‘attacks’ because they can’t do a heck of a lot about it. Sure, you can contact Google directly, but this doesn’t always have a happy ending.

The good news is that, while reviews are important, and even though there are some tough customers out there who just want to watch the world burn, a negative review doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

Put aside the fact that a 5-star review average is tremendously difficult to maintain for any business (even if you do sell the world’s greatest brownies), a study by Northwestern has shown that purchase likelihood peaks when the star rating of a business is between 4.2 and 4.5. 

Consumers don’t want perfection.

Why are consumers less likely to purchase from businesses with a 100% satisfaction rating from its customers? Because a perfect 5-star review average suggests that something may be rotten in Denmark.  

Consumers don’t want or trust perfection so why should you be worried about attaining it? Consumers want to trust that the experience they are hoping to get matches the reality of the product or service they purchase. 

Make peace with the fact that your business is going to get bad reviews and that you can’t control what customers are going to say after they leave a store. 

Don’t focus on what you can’t control. You need to focus on what you can control.

And that brings us to what we are here to talk about today: How to achieve effective online reputation management by increasing brand loyalty, positive perception, positive reviews, and getting more of them.

Reviews are the end result of a good or bad customer journey, but there is much, much more to the journey than that.

Creating a Solid Online Reputation Management Strategy

1. Bad Information Cannot Result in a Good Customer Experience

You don’t want to just create a good reputation online, you want to create an effective online-to-offline, consumer-to-customer experience. 

This happens at the moment a consumer conducts a ‘near me’ search.  Data from Google suggests that roughly 9 out of 10 consumers aren’t certain of the brands they want before conducting searches for products and services in their area.

And what’s more, consumers aren’t just looking for your brand on Google. They are finding their information from Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor and dozens of other directories online. 

Your business not only needs to have accurate information on these directories to rank higher in local search, but your business needs accurate information so that a consumer can trust the promise you made online. 

Make no mistake, your business information is a promise to consumers, helping them to decide whether to become a customer, and this will help your business to create the right brand experience out of their initial ‘near me’ search. 

2. Get Reviews From Your Customer Evangelists

You can’t control your bad reviews, but you can drown them out with good reviews. 

By becoming proactive both online and offline, brands can encourage customers who love them to post reviews and boost their review star rating. 

It all starts at the moment of purchase. Encouraging consumers in-store to leave reviews online will allow you to control who reviews your business and whether that review is likely to be positive or negative. According to Search Engine Land, 70% of customers are willing to leave an online review if you ask them… so ask them.

3. Engage With Your Customers Online

You can also engage the customers on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that are telling your business how much they love you. By engaging with them directly and asking them to review you on Yelp, GMB (Google My Business), Trip Advisor, etc… you are more likely to increase review volume, review ratings, and by engaging directly you are also likely to increase brand loyalty, which brings us to…

4. Reply to Your Reviews 

A study by Mack Collier found that, of customers who received a response to their negative review, 33 percent changed their review to be more positive, while another 34 percent deleted their negative review entirely.

Want to create brand loyalty? Engage with your customers when they engage with you. It matters. 

One study found that customers are less likely to post negative reviews and are more likely to post more thoughtful negative reviews if they know that a business is likely to respond. 

This is because, inherently, customers know that every experience won’t be perfect and they understand that problems happen, but if you can provide a good solution to a bad experience,  one in three consumers are willing to turn that frown upside down. 

These are just a few basic tips on how to maintain and defend your brand online. A brand’s online information is a promise and when your business has many locations, you are making many promises. 

By spreading accurate information to all of the directories your customers are looking at online, you will gain greater visibility and build a defensible moat around your business. This will allow you to create greater brand loyalty by having greater brand consistency.