Online Reputation Management – How Good Is Yours?
The success or downfall of a company depends in part on the goodwill that it builds with the public and its reputation as being trustworthy, transparent and dependable. An adverse event that impacts on this goodwill and the company’s reputation can result in a reduction of income or a fall in share price, and an uphill battle to restore the good name of the business. Widespread internet access ensures that feedback from customers is swift and not necessarily accurate. While positive feedback enhances the reputation of the company and often encourages others to avail of their products and services, negative feedback can outweigh all the positives that have gone before it. Negative feedback can be accurate or inaccurate, depending on the motivation and aim of the person writing it; disgruntled employees, dissatisfied customers and business rivals all have the potential to create a negative picture of the company.
Affiliate networking is hugely influential today, as are social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and companies regularly market themselves on these kinds of websites. A survey conducted in 2009 found that around seventy per cent of users are influenced by the comments and feedback left online. These opinions and recommendations have an effect on the reputations of businesses, and need to be monitored and dealt with on a regular basis to ensure the continuing success of the companies involved. This is where Online Reputation Management Companies come into play.
Ebay was one of the first online companies to implement customer and seller feedback and ratings; these ratings act as a guide to other users making a decision to buy or sell products. This consumer-generated concept has become endemic ever since, ensuring the rise in demand for online reputation management. The techniques of online reputation management include affiliate marketing and search engine marketing. The reputation of a company needs to be maintained through ensuring that one dis-satisfied customer does not become a large group of discontented customers. Search Engine Optimisation experts can help to boost rankings and online visibility on search engines such as Yahoo!, Google and Bing. Research shows that customers generally only read the first two pages of search results, so one of the aims of online reputation management is to push the company up the ranks through positive feedback and high online visibility.
There are three main stages in online reputation management. The first one consists of SEO managers monitoring what is being said online about the company, both positive and negative. Various alerts and RSS feeds can be set up to help with this monitoring, and the managers need to have a plan of action in place to influence online discussions.
The second step is analysing the information that has the potential to affect the name and goodwill of the company. The corporate website, its product website, blogs and partner sites need to be reviewed regularly for potential threats.
The final step is interacting with and influencing online feedback to ensure customer satisfaction and a positive view of the company’s willingness to engage. Online blogs and forums wield enormous influence today, and it’s imperative that any negative feedback is responded to and dealt with. Honest and truthful interaction with customers online is vital, and the ability to respond to and deal with criticism is a positive way to restore goodwill. Confidential information should never be leaked online, and the company needs to be always ready to deal with any crisis in brand image and reputation.
Online reputation management works to maintain and increase the positive image of a company and allows more communication and transparency between the company and its customers. It aids improvement of services and products and is a vital part of any successful marketing plan. Remember that it can take years to build the good name and reputation of a business and only seconds to destroy it.