Building a positive online reputation should be every business owner's top priority – right from the beginning.
With over 90% of consumers consulting reviews and online commentary before engaging with a new business, your online presence will make or break your ability to attract customers.
Every month, approximately 543,000 new businesses open up. 70% of new businesses survive at least two years, half at least five years, and a third at least ten years. Just a quarter of all new businesses survive for 15 years or more. They fail for many reasons, one of them is a less-than-stellar reputation.
Table of Contents
- Why You Should Build Your Reputation as You Build Your Brand
- What is Brand Reputation About?
- Why Start a Reputation Campaign Before Problems Arise?
- Understanding the Importance of Online Reputation
- Start Review Management Very Early
- How to Own Your Online Presence
- A Brand Disaster Story
- Brands Should Decide Their Own Reputation
- Reputation Management for Startups FAQs
Why You Should Build Your Reputation as You Build Your Brand
During the crucial stages when your business is just getting off the ground, where you choose to spend your time, money, and efforts can make the difference between being one of the 25% that are open after 15 years—or one of the 30% that close before two years.
Brand reputation management is one of the areas often ignored until it's too late.
The good news is that as a young company, you have an advantage in shaping initial perceptions. Remember that it's far cheaper to do business reputation management before a problem than after.
By taking proactive steps to monitor, manage, and promote your online reputation from day one, you can nurture it into a strategic asset that helps you stand out from competitors.
Ignore it at your own peril - consumers have high expectations for information availability and transparency. Crafting a stellar narrative online is challenging, but critically important work for any ambitious startup.
What is Brand Reputation About?
Brand reputation refers to the perception and opinion that consumers, stakeholders, and the general public have about a particular brand.
It encompasses the overall image, credibility, and trustworthiness of a brand in the market.
A strong and positive brand reputation is crucial for businesses as it influences consumer purchasing decisions, brand loyalty, and overall success.
Why Start a Reputation Campaign Before Problems Arise?
Your online perception dictates how likeable you are, how trustworthy you are, and if a customer should bother with you.
New businesses don’t have the benefit of generalized brand awareness. There’s no inherent authority coming from your name. And when you’ve got a lot to prove, there isn’t a whole lot of room for mistakes.
If you started your business on day one with a five-star rating across all relevant review sites and search results that only reinforced your awesomeness you'd be almost bulletproof.
But new businesses must contend with established players with hundreds of great reviews. It's an uphill battle and one that should be started early.
Here are 9 reasons to start managing your online reputation before problems arise:
Trust in Online Reviews Impacts Business: 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, highlighting the critical role of online sentiments in business success.
Influence of Negative Reviews: Research shows that 60% of consumers are deterred from using a business due to negative reviews, emphasizing the need for effective reputation management.
Importance of Review Volume: Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business, indicating the importance of not only quality but also the number of reviews.
Impact of Ratings on Revenue: A Harvard Business School Working Paper found that each additional one-star Yelp rating can increase a business's revenue by up to 9%, demonstrating the financial impact of online ratings.
Consequences of Poor Ratings for Startups: Reviews with only 1 or 2 stars fail to convert 86% of prospective customers, a significant concern for startups in need of building momentum.
Word-of-Mouth and Service Perception: Studies show that Americans are more likely to share negative experiences (15 people on average) compared to positive ones (11 people on average).
Role of Social Media in Purchasing Decisions: Social media is a critical tool for researching products, with users' perceptions of brands heavily influenced by what they see on these platforms.
Influence of Positive Social Media Interactions: 71% of consumers are likely to recommend a brand to others following a positive experience on social media, highlighting the importance of interactive and responsive social media presence.
Trust Building Through Social Media Interaction: 39% of customers place their trust in brands they have interacted with on social platforms, suggesting that active engagement on these platforms is essential for building trust.
Understanding the Importance of Online Reputation
Online reputation directly impacts a brand's credibility, trustworthiness, and overall perception.
Your online reputation is a reflection of how others perceive you or your business in the digital space. It can influence:
- Job prospects
- Business opportunities
- Trust in your business
- Customer loyalty
- And overall success
A positive online reputation can attract new customers, retain existing ones, and foster a loyal customer base. On the other hand, negative reviews, complaints, or scandals can quickly tarnish a brand's reputation and lead to significant damage.
Businesses need to actively monitor and manage their online reputation to ensure they are aware of what is being said about their brand and take appropriate actions to maintain a positive image. This includes:
- Monitoring social media mentions
- Responding to online reviews
- Engaging with customers to address any concerns or issues promptly
By understanding the importance of online reputation, businesses can:
- Proactively shape the narrative around their brand
- Address any negative feedback
- Build a strong and positive online presence
This not only helps attract new customers but also establish trust and credibility, which are crucial for long-term success.
Start Review Management Very Early
The faster you get positive reviews at the beginning, the harder it will be for negative reviews to drive down your average star rating.
Review management can be done very simply at first. A simple up or downvote email to every customer you do business with (and have their email) will give recent customers a chance to rant or praise your business.
If the review is a rant, you catch them before they have a chance to write damaging Yelp reviews. If it is praise, you can direct them to the review site that is in most need of improvement.
This should be done with your very first customer and every one after that.
How to Own Your Online Presence
Start with your own website.
You’re going to need your site to rank high in the search results if you want people to find it.
Ranking poorly for your brand name can be a death knell online.
Create a website for your business and consider having a personal website with your name as the domain. This will ensure that your websites rank high in search results when someone searches for your name, giving you control over the information that people find about you.
- Start with a good website and then add to its content on a regular basis. This simple inbound content plan can help.
- Collaborate with other relevant sites to share links to and from your page.
- Properly utilize SEO keywords and tags so that you’re coming up with appropriate search terms.
Once you've optimized your website for SEO and ensured it is the best possible representation of your brand, start working on the following steps to set your reputation up for success:
Expand Your Digital Footprint
Take your online presence a step further by owning related domains.
Consider creating additional websites or subdomains for different aspects of your business, such as a blog, customer support, store, or main products.
This expansion of your digital footprint helps protect your brand and prevents negative information from dominating search results.
Use the Power of Blogging
Blogging is a powerful tool for building a positive online reputation. Start a personal or company blog and regularly publish high-quality, engaging content that reflects various aspects of your expertise or business.
Each blog post should be unique and offer value to your audience. By sharing your knowledge, experiences, and insights, you position yourself as an industry thought leader and establish credibility.
Be Active on Social Media
Social media allows startups to level the playing field with bigger competitors by engaging directly with communities.
Claim your business profiles on mainstay platforms like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Share a steady stream of content like:
- Behind-the-scenes photos
- Industry articles
- Employee spotlights
- Lightweight videos
This shows prospects you are active, humanizes your brand, and shapes perceptions.
Promote your startup culture and values through social channels.
For example, sustainability initiatives or charity work help attract Gen Z talent. Hashtag campaigns like #SmallBusinessSaturday can expand your reach during key events. And regularly engage followers by responding to comments and questions - this builds authentic connections. The more you nurture your social audience, the more vocal brand advocates you create.
Regularly update your profiles, engage with your audience, and share valuable content to increase your brand visibility and attract a larger following.
Use content and social media not just to build awareness but to interact with consumers and others in your industry.
Build positive associations - incent satisfied customers to “like” your pages or share good reviews about you.
Leverage Online Business Cards
Given that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, having properly claimed and optimized local directories is imperative.
Register your startup on main sites like Yelp, Facebook Business, Google My Business, and TripAdvisor. Completely fill out your profiles with:
- Contact information
- Business details
Ask happy customers to leave reviews on these platforms to build credibility. Ensure all listings are kept up-to-date if you add locations, update hours, or change contact information. Such discovery sites are where consumers evaluate options and form early impressions, so polish your presence.
Don't forget about your personal information as well. Executive reputation is just as important as a corporate reputation for a startup company.
Online business card platforms like About.me allow you to create personalized pages that showcase your bio and link to your website, blog, and social media profiles.
Fill in all contact info on your profile pages and create complete profiles on major platforms like LinkedIn. Here's an example of Satya Nadella's LinkedIn profile:
These pages serve as a concise and professional representation of your online presence, making it easier for others to find and connect with you.
Set up as many profile pages as possible to paint an accurate portrait of yourself. Here is a comprehensive list of profile pages you should create.
Encourage Positive Reviews and Testimonials
Positive reviews and testimonials play a significant role in building trust and enhancing your online reputation.
Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, or industry-specific review sites.
Highlight positive feedback on your website and social media profiles to showcase your credibility and the quality of your products or services.
Collaborate and Build Relationships
Building positive relationships within your industry is crucial for reputation building.
Here are some ways to build relationships online:
- Network with other professionals, influencers, and journalists in your field
- Collaborate on projects
- Contribute guest posts to reputable websites
- Engage in meaningful conversations on social media and message boards
By associating yourself with respected individuals and brands, you enhance your own online reputation.
Monitor and Respond to Feedback
Regularly monitor what people are saying about you or your business online.
Use brand monitoring tools to track mentions and reviews. Google Alerts is a great first step to track mentions of your brand name, products, key executives, and other relevant keywords across the web and social networks.
This allows you to catch negative publicity or misinformation quickly and respond before it spirals. Monitoring online reviews and community forums focused on your industry is also advised, as these influence consumer opinions.
Make social listening a daily habit across your core platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social networks are prime channels for conversation, so keep a close eye on relevant hashtags, comments, and feedback.
The real-time nature of social platforms means you can jump in to address emerging issues right away. Appoint team members to oversee community management if you cannot make it a full-time activity initially.
Respond promptly and professionally to both positive and negative feedback.
Addressing concerns and resolving issues publicly demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and can turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Tempted to Buy Reviews?
Most people who end up buying reviews online do so because they didn't start with their reputation management program early enough and got caught out in the cold.
While buying reviews is frowned upon, yet it's done all the time.
Even an ex-President had millions of fake Twitter followers. If you start early, your online presence should be strong enough to withstand some bad reviews now and then, and you won't need fake reviews. It's the unprepared online brands that get hurt.
Continuously Improve and Adapt
Building a strong online reputation is an ongoing process. Stay updated with the latest trends and best practices in your industry. Seek feedback from your audience and incorporate suggestions for improvement.
Regularly update and refresh your content to keep it relevant and engaging. Adapt to changing circumstances and be proactive in managing your online reputation.
Seek Professional Assistance
If you find it challenging to build or manage your online reputation effectively, consider seeking assistance from professionals in online reputation management. They can provide guidance, implement strategies, and monitor your online presence to ensure a positive brand image.
A Brand Disaster Story
In 2006, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo opened Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. Though they were a small, local company, their closure nine years later was the subject of an incredible amount of publicity nationwide, with many cheering on their demise. The reason? Poor social media etiquette.
Amy’s Baking Company appeared on a 2013 episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. And while their inclusion on the show certainly made clear that the business was already struggling, it wasn’t what ultimately shut them down. The episode went viral for being the first where Ramsay was unable to help the owners and ultimately threw up his hands and left.
Following the airing, viewers flocked to social media, review sites, and message boards to talk about the company. A certifiable PR nightmare for any business, new or old, the Bouzaglos chose to jump into the mess, resulting in plenty of rude responses to commenters and ending in a pretty epic Facebook meltdown. They were never able to recover.
A Negative Reputation Can Break Your Business
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Amy’s Baking Company, but what it most clearly highlights is that a negative reputation can break your business.
It can be said that Amy’s didn’t close because of poor product—they closed because of poor attitude. Instead of spending their efforts putting out their PR fire, they ignited it further, increasing the backlash and destroying credibility.
It was a disaster that most new companies would not be able to survive.
Brands Should Decide Their Own Reputation
Effective brand reputation management isn’t just about avoiding public meltdowns. Most companies won’t be faced with large-scale disasters, especially early on. Instead, the primary focus of brand management for new businesses should be building name recognition and positive associations.
Taking the reins early on is necessary if you’re going to cultivate a positive presence. Take advantage of the blank slate afforded you by being a new business and take the time to develop a brand reputation management strategy that sets you up for success.
Need help building a reputation strategy for your business? Contact us today.
Reputation Management for Startups FAQs
When should I start investing in reputation management?
It is a good idea to begin investing in reputation management immediately so you can build your reputation as you build your business. Investing in brand reputation management from the start of your business allows you to build your search profile so that you are in better control of your reviews, social media mentions, and third-party articles from the start.
What is brand reputation management?
Brand reputation management is a process that involves monitoring and improving the online reputation of your brand. It involves playing an active role in managing your brand's online reviews, social media profiles, third-party guest posts, and owned content like blog articles.
Why is brand reputation management important?
Your brand's reputation dictates how likable your brand is, how trustworthy it is, and if a customer should bother with you. Social media and online reviews dominate today's consumer landscape, so it's important to monitor them and keep negative reviews and mentions at a minimum.
Citations and Further Readings
Online Reputation Management
- Aaker, D. A. (1997). "Dimensions of brand personality." Journal of Marketing Research, 34(3), 347-356.
- Dellarocas, C., Zhang, X., & Awad, N. F. (2007). "Exploring the Value of Online Product Reviews in Forecasting Sales: The Case of Motion Pictures." Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21(4), 23-45.
- DiStaso, M. W., & McCorkindale, T. (2013). "How Public Relations Executives Perceive and Measure the Impact of Social Media in Their Organizations." Public Relations Review, 39(3), 228-234.
- Fombrun, C. (1996). "Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image." Harvard Business School Press.
- Freeman, R. E., & Reed, D. L. (1983). "Stockholders and stakeholders: A new perspective on corporate governance." California Management Review, 25(3), 88-106.
- Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media." Business Horizons, 53(1), 59-68.
- Smith, A. N., Fischer, E., & Yongjian, C. (2012). "How Does Brand-related User-generated Content Differ across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter?" Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(2), 102-113.
Teubner, T., Adam, M. T. P., & Hawlitschek, F. (2020). "Unlocking Online Reputation." Bus Inf Syst Eng, 62(6), 501-513.