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A large part of a brand’s existence and success in the online world is determined, not by what you are saying, but rather what your potential, current and past customers are saying about you and your business. With an overwhelming amount of content being generated and shared online via blogs, websites and social media, being aware of how your brand is represented online is becoming critically important, especially as we see these channels become an even more trusted and valuable tool in a consumer’s decision making process. How often have a few bad TripAdvisor or Yelp reviews made a new customer completely reconsider visiting that new coffee shop that opened down the road from their work? How many times has a bad movie review in a Facebook status made you change the channel? How often do you find yourself reading a slamming article after a few Google searches that puts you off a once trusted brand?

Business owners often don’t take into account online reputation issues. Many don’t even realise that they need to consider and manage their reputation online at all, with few having a reputation management plan in place. All too often we see brands take a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to managing their online reputation.

Managing your brand messaging online can be tricky. How far down that slippery rabbit hole of online commentary should you go? Striking the balance between being approachable, personal and professional is key. Your business is your baby and like any parent it’s easy to react negatively and take criticism personally. The last thing you want is to get stuck in an ugly debate with a hot headed customer that only adds to a negative online experience rather than helping to diffuse the situation because you reacted emotionally rather than strategically.

We work with our clients to set up a proactive strategy that helps maintain an all round well-balanced and healthy brand. We identify the various online touch points of the brand and work out how to successfully manage these channels to ensure that a personal yet professional touch is implemented to each situation. We take a strategic view of negative feedback and try and turn it into positive learning experiences.

Here are some of the tricks we’ve learnt over the years.

  1. Seek out bad feedback – It is so easy to put on those blinkers and turn a blind eye to negative commentary. The result? Frustrated and angry customers, who get fueled by friends online. By keeping actively involved on your social platforms, making use of available tracking software, analytics (and some good old fashioned hunting work) it’s possible to track down and deal with customer issues before they blow out of proportion. It’s also a great way to fix legitimate mistakes and problems that will, in the long run, make your business more successful. Learning from our customers is the best way to ensure we stay at the top of our game.
  2. Keep it professional and calm – It’s important, no matter how you personally feel about a message, status or blog post that you respond timeously and professionally. Most people tend to respond positively if you acknowledge their problem and show that you are making solid steps to rectify and improve their experience.
  3. Be transparent – There are some comments and posts that deservedly should be deleted (sexist, racist etc), however a valid complaint, with a public response should never be hidden as it shows that you care enough about your business to work to address your mistakes. Deleting comments is a very quick way to make someone feel like their opinion doesn’t matter and that you, as a business, don’t care about your customers.
  4. Listen and learn – You might genuinely not realise or pick-up a problem that is obvious from a user-end perspective. Turn negative feedback into a learning experience and use it as an opportunity to grow and improve. Often this collaboration and interaction with a customer can turn their experience into a positive one.
  5. Take it offline – This applies to both before and after the issue has occurred. Wherever possible, fix issues before they build up to a public post. For example, if a customer sends back their meal, deal with the issue directly and at the time. By doing so you can easily avoid a rage-filled 1 star review from getting out into the public domain. Once something has been posted- follow up and try move the conversation to private messages or emails. By taking your chain of responses offline you can deal with issues out of the public eye and quickly diffuse other customers from fueling negative engagement.
  6. Be proactive – Actively encourage your customers, in person and online to go and share their opinion on various rating sites. Not only will it help your rating, but it will also give you a great source of feedback to help improve every aspect of your business.

This approach has paid off with great results for our clients. One of our most successful online reputation management campaigns was for Bel Punto, one of the most highly professionally rated restaurants in South Africa. Despite this, due to 10 years with no focus and dedicated strategy on social and online media, their competitors had surpassed them on platforms such as Tripadvisor, Zomato and Facebook. After 4 months assisting the brand with the management of their platforms, we were able to reach our stated goal to take Bel Punto back to the Number 1 restaurant in Durban (Zomato) and Number 1 Restaurant in Umdloti (Tripadvisor) with a 120 spot increase in ranking on this platform.

If you are looking to actively manage your brand online, contact us to hear about our various social media and reputation management programs.

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