Use this topic to discover real-world tips for improving your online reputation management strategy.
In this section:
Dealing with Negative Reviews
Do you know what people are saying about you online? Whether you use online platforms or not, the odds are that someone has posted a comment about your business somewhere. The nature of online platforms means that everyone is given a voice – from posting comments on your website or social media pages, to writing reviews on Yelp, Google Plus or WOMO, there’s always a way for your customers to write about you online.
All of this is great if you’re receiving positive reviews – the electrical industry still relies on word of mouth as a promotional activity. However, things can quickly get out of hand if you’re not there to monitor the situation when negative reviews appear.
Many businesses rush to delete negative comments when they appear on pages they own, such as Facebook, their blog or their website. However, by deleting the comment you have removed your ability to respond to it. Negative reviews are a great opportunity to show potential customers that you’re willing and able to provide great customer service. A short reply asking the poster to contact you directly to fix the issue does wonders for your fans – they’ll see the reply and know that you’re handling the situation and willing to address the issue. Even a simple message such as “We are aware of the problem. We are working on it and will get back to you as soon as possible” shows that you care about what your customer is saying. To your followers, this shows that you’re responsible for your actions, and that you’re transparent with business activities.
Tools to Track your Online Reputation
Before you can launch into tracking your reputation, start with a simple search to see where you currently stand. Perform a simple search on Google, social networks and any review websites, and type in your business name. Remember that if you’re logged into a service, you should log out – this will give you more accurate results and sometimes searches can be based on previous activity. You can also use the ‘incognito’ setting in Google Chrome. Select control + Shift + N on your keyboard, and you’ll open a new window that ignores your current logins and deletes your settings once you exit. You might also want to search for your highest profile employees, your own name and any other usernames you use. Create a spreadsheet and record everything that you find.
After you’ve done some background research, you might like to subscribe to an email service such as Google Alerts or Talk Walker Alerts, which can monitor when and where your name appear online. These are free services available to anyone with an email account. You can set up an alert to send you emails when your chosen keyword – generally your business name – appears online in reviews, news outlets, or other major sites. This is a great way to monitor any press you’re receiving online. Similar systems exist for social media, such as Mention and Social Mention. These work in the same way as alert services, but also search social media coverage. They do however incur a fee.
Tips for the Electrical Industry
Set up Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service available to anyone with a Gmail account. You can set up a Google Alert to send you emails when your chosen keyword (generally your business name, but also for any profile staff, such as your CEO) appears online. This is a great way to monitor any press you’re receiving online.
Be proactive about feedback
As mentioned, word of mouth is still a huge part of the electrical industry, so why not take proactive measures to control it? When a customer gives you good feedback – whether verbally or written – ask their permission to post it on your website. Better yet, create a process of asking your customers to provide an official review on Google Plus, Facebook or your network of choice. These personal reviews can be great for search engine optimisation, and also help promote your business.
Establish yourself as an authority
There are several steps you can take to establish yourself as a trusted industry professional. Consider adding a blog to your website, or using the contributor feature of LinkedIn to create a professional articles about the industry that you can share with your contacts or social media followers. Put together a short how-to video for something your customers regularly need assistance with (see our Video Topic for more in this). Get in the news – a good press release can be of huge benefit to your local papers, so submit a story about a big project you’ve won, or something topical like a renewable project you’re driving.
Provide exceptional offline customer service.
A lot of online complaints are the result of an inability to contact a company in any way. Frustrated customers are then forced to air their complaint online. Answering emails and phone calls promptly (within 24 hours) can limit the need for people to vent online. Better yet, this level of customer service can help spread word of mouth about your company.
Protecting your name
One of the first steps in managing your online reputation is staking a claim on your name. You can do this by purchasing your business name domain e.g. www.yourbusinessname.com and www.yourbusinessname.com.au. You can also set up accounts on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Building a brand will be much easier if you have the same handle across networks, so if you do have to change your listing name for some reason (e.g. Twitter’s limited number of characters, or if your name has been claimed by someone else) make sure you remain consistent across channels.
Even if you don’t intend on using these channels, it is a good idea to claim them. It is tricky to get your name back if someone else has claimed it – both Facebook and Twitter have processes in place for this, but they’re lengthy and require documentation. It is even harder still to claim a domain name that has already been purchased. Unless the person who has claimed your name lets their subscription expire, there is very little you can do to take it off them. Some domain name providers will sell names to the highest bidder, so you could try to out bid someone who has your name, but it will end up being very costly.
Protecting your brand
The purpose of reputation management is to control your businesses identity in the public eye. A large part of that is controlling the story of your brand. A brand is not a logo – a logo is simply the graphic symbol that represents a person or company. A brand is a promise, a perception, a relationship with the broader public. It includes content, messaging and storytelling, as well as customer service and the customer experience.
Because of this, your brand exists purely in the mind of your customer, and it can be different for every customer. It’s very hard to change the mind of someone who has developed an opinion of your brand, so being proactive and managing your brands story is one of the best ways to craft that message.
Developing a Brand Standards document can help. A Brand Standards document, sometimes called a Brand Bible, includes everything from the design of your logo and how it can be used, to your brand colour palette, logo dimensions and any corporate stationery. It is intended to help employees properly use and communicate the message of your brand. It also sets clear guidelines for what employees are allowed to say about your brand, and how this is to be communicated.
Your Brand Bible doesn’t need to be a lengthy document – a simple one or two page document will suffice. When building your Brand Bible, address the following points:
- How can your logo be used? Address size, spacing between logo and text, colours and dimensions
- What images are associated with your brand? Developing a set of hero images for your services gives you a go-to for any ads, and maintains consistency across messages
- What fonts are associated with your brand? Select a set of fonts that complement each other, and highlight when and how each can be used, including spacing, highlights such as italics or bold and what colours can apply
- What tone is associated with your brand? This one can be tricky. You want to make sure the things you say are in line with your company voice and brand images, in everything from blog posts and social media, through to press releases. Outline the type of language that is acceptable to use. For example, you might choose to be conversational or professional. You can simplify this by including a group of words you like for your brand, and a group of words you don’t like.