8 minute read
What factors influence reputation?
Updated on October 16, 2020 by Brianne Schaer
Corporate reputation is formed by various factors that shift public opinion over time. These factors include search engine results, news coverage, social media posts, reviews, and other public comments.
Before Google, it was relatively easy to improve your reputation. Companies would rely on individuals within their sphere of influence to promote the value of their company via word of mouth, industry groups, and other (mostly) face-to-face interactions.
Now, Google is the number one factor that can really make or break your company’s reputation. Social media is certainly a factor in online reputation, and serves to spread news among individuals quickly, but social media tends to have a shorter shelf life than search results do.
What people see when they search for your company’s name, or even just the product or services you sell, will determine whether or not they choose to do business with you.
In other words - Google now stands between character (truth) and reputation (subjective perception).
Your reputation is important. It is a key differentiator between you and your competition. And it is deeply influenced by your search engine results. If you can control your search engine results, you can begin to control your company’s reputation.
Of course, gaining full control over your search engine results is difficult and in many cases impossible, but there are plenty of key factors to focus on that can improve your search results over time and thus influence your reputation.
Factors that influence reputation
The things that a business does (or does not do) are certainly one of the largest factors influencing online reputation, but what happens after that is up to various online platforms. At the top of that list is Google.
- Search engine results: The first page of search engine results is critical in forming first impressions of your brand. Anything negative on this page can cause people to lose trust in your brand. Search engines include Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube, and others.
- Reviews and star ratings: What are people saying about you on major review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Amazon, and the Better Business Bureau?
- Social media: The purchase decisions of 78% of consumers are influenced by social media posts. Keep a watchful eye on any comments and posts about your brand on social media. Social media has a shorter shelf-life than search, but it still drives perception in a big way.
- Wikipedia: Wikipedia is a search engine results powerhouse. It shows up on the first page of Google search results more than 50% of the time and ranks for almost all search queries. It’s widely trusted as factual information but is (very) often a source of vandalism.
- Knowledge panel: The Google Knowledge Panel is part of search results, but it's so important we thought we'd include it separately too. Google automatically generates the information box that appears on the first page of search results - at the very top. This snapshot of information is often the first thing that people read when researching your brand, so it’s important that it contains positive information.
Google’s role in online reputation
65% of consumers trust online search engines the most when conducting research on a business.
As Google’s search result pages become more sophisticated, there is less of a reason to go anywhere else for research. Google is a convenient source of information that stands between a company and the person researching it. It is the largest arbiter of how an organization is perceived in the long run.
Search features like knowledge graphs, featured snippets, autosuggest, carousels, and “people also ask” sections provide a wealth of information without ever having to click on a link. All of this information creates a powerful first impression of your brand and is recreating the buyer’s journey. But Google doesn't provide "truth", just relevance. There are only about 10 slots on the first page of seach results, if the truth is in slot 11 it may not even matter.
If Google influences your reputation, then you must consider the process that people take when they interact with your company online. This boils down to three main questions:
- What are they interested in?
- What are they searching for?
- What shows up when they search for it?
Consider a person who wants to buy an air purifier. The first thing they’re probably going to do is Google “best air purifiers.” The search results page will look something like this:
They’ll see a mix of advertisements, air purifier reviews, and frequently asked questions. After glancing over this first page, they’ll likely choose a couple of brand names that look good, open a few tabs and start reading reviews.
They’ll form opinions on several of the leading brands based on what they read in those reviews, search results, and autosuggest, and will ultimately choose the brand that they think is the best fit for their needs. The brand they choose is most often the one with the best search profile.
The above example is so commonplace, that consumers don’t even think twice about using Google to determine which coffee shop to stop by in the morning, where to get their hair cut, or which air purifier to buy.
Consumers are not the only stakeholders
Consumers aren’t the only ones basing decisions off of Google search results. Online reputation is a multi-faceted ever-changing organism that appears differently to different people. An investor may Google a company’s stock price. A prospective employee may search for a company’s salary range, or employee reviews.
Regardless of the intent of a search, if the results don’t paint your company in a favorable light, your reputation might be in danger.
How reviews and star ratings influence reputation
People seek the opinions of others that had relationships with your company long before they reach out to the company itself. People love to hear the opinions of others, and they trust these opinions so much that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
There are also significant financial motivations to monitoring your online reviews:
- Every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business’s revenue as high as 9%
- Reviews that only gave 1 or 2 stars failed to convert 86% of prospective customers
As important as reviews and ratings are, a surprising number of companies are mismanaging their online reviews. For many companies, not managing online reviews can lead to disaster. People won’t trust your brand and subsequently won’t think of your company the next time they need to purchase something that you sell.
How social media influences reputation
News and information travels quickly on social media. The things people are saying about your brand on social media can make or break your reputation.
Remember United Express Flight 3411, when a passenger was dragged off an overbooked flight? This happened so long ago, yet most people will still remember it because of the massive promotion of the incident on the news and social media. One of the passengers’ videos was shared 87,000 times and viewed 6.8 million times in less than a day.
Today, the incident is indelibly carved into the Wikipedia page of United Express. What started on social media ended up as part of the permanent record of the company.
The speed at which news travels on social media is reason enough to work towards avoiding situations like this in the first place. But keeping a watchful eye on your own accounts as well as trending comments and posts can help mitigate reputational crises.
On the other hand, social media can also drive views to your own branded content. If your brand is frequently creating and promoting high-quality content, then you can increase your reach on social media.
Here’s a quick look at some of the things you can do to develop a winning social media strategy:
- Develop and manage branded social media profiles
- Understand your target audience by building personas
- Develop a tone and voice for your posts
- Build relationships with key influencers
- Post and share valuable content on a regular basis
- Schedule posts for peak engagement hours
- Monitor the conversations taking place on social media platforms
- Amplify positive reviews and testimonials
- Quickly respond to negative reviews and propaganda
How Wikipedia influences reputation
Since Wikipedia is such a dominant force in the search engines, it is a huge factor of your reputation. Whatever is on your Wikipedia page has a good shot at showing up in your search results, so it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on your page. The crowdsourced information on Wikipedia is seen as a trusted source, so if any negative information appears on your page then it is a major reputation risk.
Managing reputational risk
All of the above factors contribute to your reputation, but there are additional nuances and risk factors that can change the way people perceive your company over time.
The most important being that your reputation matches your character. Your character is the foundation of your reputation. It is how you act when you think that no one is watching (spoiler alert: someone is always watching).
No matter how much work you put into managing things like your search results, social media, Wikipedia, and reviews, if the actions your company takes don’t match what you say you’re doing, there will be problems.
In today’s economy, 70% to 80% of market value comes from hard-to-assess intangible assets like brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill. In other words, your reputation is a key driver in your brand’s market value.
If you build a strong reputation based on good company character and manage the key factors discussed in this blog (search results, social media, Wikipedia, and reviews), then your brand will be better positioned to maintain a positive reputation over time.