Social Savvy: Are you managing your online reputation? - Apr 2019

By Christine B. Whittermore

Have you checked your reputation recently? It’s not difficult. All you have to do is enter your company name into a Google search window and see what reviews show up. If you find nothing, don’t necessarily pat yourself on the back. No reviews are not good. That suggests you don’t have a reputation. If you’ve been in business and haven’t established any reputation, that’s unfortunate. Having no reputation is better than bad reviews, but it still creates the impression that you aren’t worth doing business with.

Ideally, your online reputation consists of an ongoing stream of reviews that honestly capture the experience of doing business with you-the majority of which are positive, with possibly a negative one here or there because this is the real world and nothing is perfect 100% of the time.

Reputation lies at the heart of any successful business. It drives word-of-mouth referrals online and in real life. As people increasingly depend on mobile devices for research, directions and advice, those online referrals become vitally important to driving business to or away from you.

REVIEWS MATTER
Today, customers have access to online tools where they can share positive and negative experiences with the world. The reviewee can’t control what they say, how they say it, where they say it and who reads it. Consumers review because they themselves rely on reviews to decide who to do business with and they value the perspective that others have shared. They see it as their duty. If they don’t see any perspective on you, they become suspicious. If reviews are dated, they may be seen as irrelevant. If the reviews glow yet include no substance, consumers may become wary that they’re fraudulent. After all, consumers have a strong BS-meter and can smell phony reviews from miles away.

Reviews can appear anywhere online! If you sell specific products, you may find them wherever your product sells: Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc... You may find yourself (or your products) reviewed on forums like JohnBridge.com, in private or public Facebook groups and on sites such as Houzz, Facebook, Yelp and Google My Business. This last one is a big deal, as it’s the one associated with your physical location and readily shows up in Google searches.

Don’t forget influencers. Those are people who influence the decision-making of your customers when they show off projects created with your products or enabled by your organization. These include publication writers and editors, group moderators, industry bigwigs and others who help form opinions-even bloggers.

By the way, reviews can also come from employees. You’ll find those on sites like Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com.

Glassdoor allows you to respond to reviews; Indeed does not.

ONLINE FEEDBACK IS GOOD EVEN IF IT’S BAD
First off, do not look at online reviews as a situation in which everyone is out to get you. Most feedback is good and provides others with helpful perspectives. If the reviews are all bad, you probably have some explaining to do, and this article doesn’t apply.

Second, think of online feedback as a gift from the gods. Why? Because you will know what people are saying about you. You’ll gain perspective in almost real time on what’s working and what’s not and be able to do something about it before it impacts your bottom line. You have greater control over your reputation, and your responses bring your reputation to life. At the same time, you have a greater responsibility. You must pay attention rather than ignore what’s being said.

When it comes to acknowledging reviews, be prompt. It’s a way of showing respect and appreciation. Say thank you, be positive, friendly and appreciative even if the review is negative. Be humble and address any problems. As with blog article comments, a valuable best practice is acknowledging comments not just publicly on the platform but also privately via email. That assumes you have the person’s email address.

If and when you receive a negative review, don’t rant, rage, argue or get defensive. In fact, you’re better off purging any strong emotions. In your acknowledgement, take responsibility and show empathy. Encourage your unhappy customer to reach out to you personally so you can help defuse the situation. Once the situation is resolved, you can ask the person to revise or update the review.

Remember that the review site is a public forum; you will want to bring closure to the issue for the benefit of others who read the review. Be personal and professional.

REVIEWS = REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
With so many online possibilities, where should you focus? Make a habit of regularly Googling yourself and inspect what appears. Set a reminder to do so. Check sites that show up in that initial Google search more frequently.

Depending on your business, you may discover other online review sites you need to actively manage. Here are three possibilities.

1. Google My Business. If you have a brick-and-mortar presence, pay close attention to Google My Business. Claim that profile, ensure the information is correct and manage the feedback process. Reviews and photos will drive traffic to your website and your physical location, as well as phone calls. In fact, Google considers reviews a strong positive signal and uses them to deliver local search results, on the web but especially on mobile. Not only do they affect Google searches but also what appears in Android map searches.

2. Yelp. Claim that profile, add your logo, photos of your stores, confirm that store hours and other details are correct. Yelp reviews affect Apple maps on iPhones, Bing searches, MapQuest results and Yahoo Local, as well as voice searches on Alexa and Siri. Be wary of how you interact with your reviewers on Yelp, as it has its own community rules and culture. Best to respond privately and pay attention to guidelines that Yelp offers.

3. Facebook. If your business has a Facebook page, visitors to that page can leave reviews. Given how visible the platform is, you’ll want to monitor and manage it closely.

BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION
Going forward, have a process in place for managing your online reputation. Identify someone in your company whose responsibility it is to monitor and acknowledge reviews. Set up reminders to regularly check. Note that Google My Business reviews notify your Gmail account; there’s also an app. Facebook offers an app for administrating your company page too. Your process should include requesting reviews regularly, acknowledging reviews and knowing how to deal with negative reviews.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus