Basics of Online Reputation Management

Historically, reputation has been a word-of-mouth affair.

In the last century or so, print, TV, and radio have played a part. But the internet has changed the equation entirely.

Now, the world is viewed through computer screens, and with it, social media, search results, and artificial intelligence have further complicated who participates in a brand's reputation.

Whether it be for a product, business, or individual, reputation is now defined by how it is perceived through digital interactions.

Key Points: 

  • Actively build a positive reputation by engaging on social media, optimizing online profiles, encouraging reviews, and sharing company news. Establishing a broad, constructive presence lays the foundation.
  • Monitor brand mentions daily with Google alerts and social listening. Routinely check review sites and forums. Catching issues early allows for faster response.
  • Address problems head-on with empathy and solutions. Correct misinformation professionally. Take ownership in a crisis. Reputation recovery is possible with diligence.

Follow this beginner’s guide to learn how to monitor your brand’s presence, promote positive feedback, and respond to problems before they spiral out of control.

Table of Contents

Why Reputation Management is Important for Businesses and Individuals

Online reputation has a significant influence on both businesses and individuals. For businesses, a strong online reputation can boost customer trust, increase sales, and attract high-quality candidates, while a poor one can lead to loss of trust, financial decline, and recruitment challenges, as seen in United Airlines' case.

reputation repair test

For individuals, such as Justin Bieber, a positive online reputation can enhance job prospects and networking opportunities, whereas a negative one can harm job prospects and personal well-being. Both businesses and individuals need to manage their online reputation carefully due to its enduring and impactful nature.

 

How Reputation Affects Businesses

Managed effectively, online reputation can be a potent tool for businesses.

It can increase brand visibility, and customer loyalty, and eventually drive sales growth.

But it's fragile – a single negative review or an unfavorable social media post can damage reputation, leading to a loss of trust, diminished opportunities, and even financial losses.

 

The key factors that contribute to a positive reputation are:

The role of executives, particularly the CEO, in shaping a company's reputation is difficult to overstate. Executives, with their behavior, public perception, and crisis management skills all playing pivotal roles, blur the line between personal and business.

Elements like poor product or service quality, sub-par customer service, unethical practices, and inadequate crisis management can lead to a negative reputation.

Finally, there is a difference between proactive and reactive reputation management. The former involves consistent effort in building and maintaining a positive reputation, while the latter focuses on responding to potential reputation-damaging situations.

Impact on Businesses

Maintaining a professional image and reputation is vital for businesses.

It directly influences customer buying decisions, with research showing that 60% of consumers say that negative reviews made them not want to use a business.

Moreover, 97% of consumers search online for local businesses and 12% of consumers do so on a daily basis. Negative reviews and unfavorable online presence can deter potential customers, resulting in lost sales opportunities.

On the other hand, effectively managing online reputation can help businesses turn negative reviews around and provide valuable insights for improvement.

Further reading: Learn more about how reputation affects business here.

How Online Reviews and Ratings Affect Business

Online reviews and ratings are like modern-day word-of-mouth recommendations – on steroids.

Positive reviews can really help a brand's reputation, instilling trust and credibility based on "social proof". However, negative reviews can also damage a business's image and , ultimately, revenues.

They provide a public record of customer dissatisfaction, which potential customers may use to evaluate the trustworthiness of a company. 

Private feedback, through customer surveys, is not shared publicly and provides better reputation protection while still giving the company feedback.

Surveys offer a direct line of communication with customers, allowing brands to capture insights into their experiences and perceptions.

Conversely, negative feedback provides an opportunity for improvement. 

How Reputation Affects People

For individuals, online reputation is a critical factor influencing their personal and professional lives.

It can shape job prospects, personal relationships, and social standing.

A positive online reputation can lead to better job opportunities, stronger personal connections, and improved social standing.

However, a tarnished online reputation can cause harm, affecting career opportunities and personal relationships.

Further reading: Learn more about how reputation affects people.

Understanding Your Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint is the record of your online activity.

It includes everything from your social media posts and comments to your online transactions and the websites you visit.

Having a clear understanding of your digital footprint is essential for managing your online reputation.

Be mindful of what you share online, as once something is posted, it's challenging to erase entirely.

Further reading: Learn more about digital footprints here.

Measuring Online Sentiment

Sentiment is how people feel about something.

Sentiment analysis measures the general attitudes and feelings people have about a brand, individual, or topic online.

 

Online sentiment analysis, also called opinion mining, uses artificial intelligence to determine whether the online discussion about a subject is positive, negative, or neutral.

It's particularly useful in monitoring social media and online review sites. There are several methods to gauge online sentiment, including the use of simple tools like Google Alerts, social mention tools, social listening tools, and more.

Measuring online sentiment helps brands:

  • Track their reputation
  • Respond to negative reviews or comments effectively
  • Provide better customer service

Further reading: Learn more about how sentiment is measured.

Misinformation and AI Propaganda

In the age of information overload, fake news, misinformation, and AI-driven propaganda can significantly impact an individual's or business's online reputation. It's crucial to maintain a vigilant approach and regularly monitor your online presence. Make efforts to debunk false information promptly and transparently to preserve your reputation.

Further reading: Learn more about how fake news affects brands.

Three Elements for Your First Reputation Management Strategy

Managing your reputation online doesn't have to be overwhelming, especially when you break it down into a few core elements.

3 Elements to manage your reputation

As you develop your initial reputation management strategy, focus on these three key areas for a solid foundation:

  • Build Up Your Positive Reputation
  • Keep a Close Eye on Mentions
  • Address Issues Tactfully

Build Up Your Positive Reputation

  • Focus on building a strong, positive presence on social media, review sites, forums, etc. Post valuable content, engage with others, highlight positive qualities about your brand.
  • Claim and optimize online profiles on various directories and platforms. Make sure information is consistent, profiles are completely filled out.
  • Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Respond professionally to all reviews.

It is also a good idea to gently encourage happy customers to leave ratings and reviews. According to research from BrightLocal, 97% of consumers search online for local businesses. Positive experiences influence potential customers.

Keep a Close Eye on Mentions

  • Set up alerts and monitoring tools to track mentions of your name/brand online. Routinely check sites like Ripoff Report and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Listen on social media for feedback, complaints, or rumors. Address issues quickly and transparently.

Like a houseplant, your reputation needs consistent watering and pruning to thrive.

Responding swiftly is key—a Harvard Business School study found that every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business’s revenue as high as 9%. Silence can breed discontent.

Address Issues Tactfully

  • If negative reviews or complaints appear, address them professionally and with empathy. Offer solutions, don't argue.
  • For false accusations or misleading information, politely present facts to counter the claims. Report truly libelous or slanderous content.
  • In a crisis, act quickly to contain damage. Express concern and remorse. Focus on correcting misinformation.

Should criticisms arise, address them promptly and with empathy. Never argue or accuse; instead, apologize for disappointment and offer solutions. Clarify any misinformation professionally through evidence. If the situation warrants more serious action, like defamation, consult a legal team.

In a crisis, prioritize correcting and contextualizing misinformation. Express sincere concern and remorse, then re-establish trust through action.

Reputation Management Case Studies

One can learn quite a bit from case studies. Here is a collection of before and after scenarios to give you a more solid understanding of the kinds of issues that can be solved using reputation management.

Further reading: Select case studies can be found here.

Final Thoughts

Managing your online reputation requires ongoing effort—but safeguarding your brand’s name ultimately pays dividends.

Consistently showcase your strengths, monitor for problems, and tackle issues with care. With a little diligence, you can cultivate a glowing reputation that attracts new customers.

The rewards are worth it.

Contact us today to begin developing your reputation management strategy. 

Citations and Further Reading

  1. BrightLocal’s 2023 Local Consumer Review Survey
  2. Harvard Business Review's Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com
  3. Moz's Online Reputation Management Playbook

About the author

Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management agency. He has over 15 years of experience with SEO, Wikipedia editing, review management, and online reputation strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics, and is an expert witness for reputation-related legal matters.

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