By: Jürgen Strauss
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is essentially as simple as it sounds. It is a process by which companies and individuals can monitor, influence and improve feedback that people leave about them on the internet.
The internet has changed the way commerce works in an innumerable number of ways, but most importantly, it has changed the dynamic of information between customer and service provider.
Previously, the flow of information was one way; the service provider would advertise and provide information about their business, but the consumer had no customary means of providing feedback. There was the old adage about an unhappy customer telling up to seven people, but that was about as large scale as the feedback could get.
Best Practices for Online Reputation Management
There are a number of ways that you can go about managing your online reputation, but there are a three golden rules that should be adhered to at all times:
- Never ignore negative feedback. You can’t be perfect all the time, and you need to have a clear process in place for when people leave a negative review about your business or establishment. Engaging with the complaint in a clear, polite and positive fashion creates a much more favourable impression with potential customers than simply doing nothing. Never react in an aggressive or impolite manner, even if you feel the complaint or poor rating is unwarranted.
- Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews. The simple fact is that customers are much more likely (possibly up to seven times) to leave a review or share their opinion if they have had a negative experience. So you need to be proactive in getting people to leave positive recommendations; if your customers say something nice to you then ask them to put it online. Ask your customers to leave positive feedback if they are happy with your product or services.
- Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to try and game the system. Several platforms have tried posting false reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, and there is now a growing list of businesses that have been blacklisted by online merchants for such activities. In addition, there are a variety of shady companies around offering to ‘swamp’ or otherwise defray negative remarks about companies on the internet, by underhand techniques. Don’t be tempted, you will be found out.
Can you do Online Reputation Management Yourself?
In theory there is nothing to stop you trying to manage your online reputation yourself; you can register as a proprietor on most sites, and address the customer interactions yourself. Similarly, you can manage your presence on Facebook and Twitter. However, you should probably consider the following questions before you decide to do that:
- Have you really got the time? Running a business is hard enough work as it is, and a realistic strategy for ORM could involve two to three hours a day. When you consider the amount of websites and social media channels involved, can you keep up with it all?
- Do you know all of the channels that you need to manage? The scale of the online industry means that there are literally thousands of sites online, and many new incarnations being created every week. Do you have the knowledge to find them, and to track changes in the online industry?
- Do you really know what to say and do for the best effect? There is an art to how to deal with people online, and a range of techniques that can be deployed, like semantic analysis. Do you know what they are, or have the inclination to learn about them? How expensive and time consuming would it be to train your staff to do it?
You probably wouldn’t attempt to do your own accounting, or rewire your hotel by yourself; you would call upon the services of a professional. Online reputation management is just like any other technical service, it is far better carried out by a seasoned professional.
Given the importance of reputation management to your business, can you really afford to do this on an amateur basis? You should not look at it as an expense to be borne, but view it as an investment in the long term vitality of your business that will have a positive impact on both the number of orders or reservations you receive, and the rates that you can charge.
Like all major investments in your business, you need to get the best professionals in. Partnering with an established, successful and ethical ORM company will pay huge dividends over time. The effects will not be instantaneous, but the long term return on your investment will far outstrip any physical upgrades that you can make to your establishment.
Engaging a professional reputation management firm will allow you to achieve a management strategy, but at considerably less expense and time investment than training your staff to do it.
The final thing to consider is this – The online reputation management industry is growing very rapidly, and the amount of business owners investing in the service is rocketing.
Can you afford to be left behind?