Reputation management is more important than ever.

From the value of your products to the quality of your customer service, people are likely already posting, talking, and tweeting about you.

And companies today cannot afford to ignore conversations about their reputation.

Literally: 57% of consumers look at a brand’s social presence to learn more about new products and services.

Despite popular belief, your online reputation is not completely out of your control.

If you want more positive reviews and kudos from your customers, you need an actual reputation management strategy. In this guide, we’re going to show you how to put together your own.

Why there is so much at stake in reputation management

We get it: some companies may be skeptical about why reviews, ratings, and positive comments weigh so much.

Because if you know you do good business, who cares what other people say?

Plus, it’s easier to put on blinders and ignore your haters than it is to face your critics directly.

However, consider the following trends that highlight the importance of reputation management:

Consumers are increasingly reliant on third-party reviews

It’s not hard to say that businesses live and die because of customer feedback.

People mostly rely on reviews when making purchasing decisions. In fact, the average consumer needs to get 10 positive reviews before trusting a company.

There is obviously massive demand for customer feedback and consumers are not shy about delivering it. Do you want evidence? Look no further than the 140 million+ users on Yelp …

… The hundreds of rating categories scattered across sites like G2 …

g2 software reviews

… And the millions of reviews on Trustpilot.

Trustpilot reviews

You can sing your own praises all day, but consumers are looking for authentic third-party reviews to keep them safe. The more of them you have, the better.

Digital word of mouth is critical to growing your audience

Data from the latest Sprout Social Index shows that a third of consumers discover new accounts that can be followed through word of mouth.

Like it or not, people talk. A lot of. Your own customers can do some serious job marketing on your behalf provided they are satisfied with your service.

Miro. Not just for mind maps.

– Štěpán Záliš @ (@stepanzalis) November 5, 2020

The takeaway here? Further online conversations about your brand offer additional opportunities to acquire customers and followers.

Customers are in control when it comes to your online reputation

This is perhaps the biggest challenge in managing reputation on social media.

Social media is authentic and unfiltered. That’s why it’s a great place to discover products and customer feedback, minus any kind of marketing spin. People can say pretty much anything they want, for better or for worse.

Research shows that consumers are roughly equally inclined to share negative and positive experiences equally.

Graphic: How consumers give feedback on good or bad experiences

As a company, this is a particular challenge. Just as happy customers are capable of exaggerating you, so too are you unable to control your worst critics. Even so, you are still responsible for what they say – responding to reviews and using feedback to improve your products and services are essential parts of your overall reputation management process.

A 5-step reputation management strategy that any business can follow

Now that we understand the importance of your reputation, let’s talk about the proactive steps you can take to improve your own as you tackle some of the challenges above.

The following five point strategy is fair game for businesses large and small.

1. Determine where your online reputation currently stands

First things first, you need to find out how people are feeling about your brand right now.

Are your customers happy and satisfied? Do you fight naysayers? Maybe you are somewhere in between

Looking at a combination of qualitative and quantitative data can help you determine where your reputation stands. This contains:

  • Social media posts, comments and @mentions from customers and competitors
  • Online reviews and star ratings from third-party review sites
  • Mentions from industry blogs or trade magazines
  • Feedback from actual customers (think: emails, customer surveys, contact forms on your website)

The key here is to look at the ratio of positive to negative comments. If your customer sentiment seems positive, that’s good! If not, you still have work to do.

It can be difficult “by hand” to quantify the health of your reputation. This is where reputation management tools like Sprout Social can help.

For example, our sentiment analysis tool can convert mentions like the ones above into a meaningful, quantifiable metric that you can track.

Analysis of social mood

You can use your sentiment analysis score as a sort of starting point that you can then monitor or improve on. Our platform also shows trends in your customer sentiment (think positive or negative comments) over time without you having to sort them out manually.

Beyond comments, these are very important reviews on third party websites. Another important feature of Sprout is the ability to get all of your reviews from social media and beyond in a single tool. That way, you get a more complete picture of your online reputation and what your customers are saying about you without having to switch between platforms.

Sprout Reviews for Reputation Management

2. Track your company’s mentions (the good, bad, and ugly)

Reputation management is an active, ongoing process.

Now that you’ve figured out where your reputation is now, you need to set up your business to be quick to respond to customers in the future.

This means setting up real-time notifications and observing the following:

  • Tags and @mentions of your company (e.g. @SproutSocial)
  • Hashtag used (e.g. #SproutSocial or #SproutChat)
  • Brand keywords (e.g. “Sprout Social” on Twitter, not @tagged)

Understanding these mentions will make it easier to take appropriate action when someone has a question, concern, or reason to call you.

This again underscores the benefit of using a platform like Sprout. Sprout lets you bring all of your social messages and mentions into a single inbox. You can also share your social dashboards with your teammates to get more ground under your feet and reduce your reaction time.

sprout social intelligent inbox

3. Be proactive and positive when responding to your mentions

Whether it’s a concern or a compliment, mentions are the best ways to make a positive impression on customers and improve your online reputation.

It all comes down to a strategy for social customer care. Some key tips for responding to customers are:

  • Personalize each answer instead of just copying and pasting a generic one
  • Always give yourself the last word by saying “thank you”.
  • Moving questions or concerns off social media to avoid unnecessary conflict or moving back and forth

It may sound cheesy, but a positive, proactive attitude is a big part of reputation management. This applies when responding to calls …

… and answer customer questions equally.

Hi Rosie, it looks like it has now been emailed. ???? Give us a DM if you need more help.

– Octopus Energy (@octopus_energy) November 6, 2020

4. Take control of your company’s narrative (and make it positive).

As mentioned earlier, the key challenge in managing reputation on social media is making online comments virtually free.

Arguably the best approach to combating the negative is to encourage your own positive praise.

And yes, there are ways to go beyond begging (which you definitely shouldn’t be doing).

For example, you can publish success stories and existing positive reviews from your satisfied customers. This can help highlight positive experiences for your social prospects who may not have checked out third-party reviews yet.

Beyond customer comments, employee advocacy and mentions of your own team can also create a more positive mood.

Don’t be afraid to republish your customers’ positive responses or shout-outs. This includes asking for permission to republish user-generated content for use in your future marketing.

Hello whitney! We saw this and love how excited you are with the Old Navy Santa Pjs (so do we!). We love this tweet and want to share it on our social channels. Please answer “yes” if that’s okay. Thank you!

– Old Navy Official (@OldNavy) November 3, 2020

5. Take action based on comments, criticism, and analysis

Finally, consider the ability to actually listen to what your customers are saying.

Maybe they shine about your recent customer service initiatives. Perhaps they are unhappy with the recent price changes.

Under no circumstances should you accept these comments. Instead, listen to such feedback and make appropriate changes to your business.

And again, Sprout can help here. Browsing your hearing data can help uncover certain terms that come up in your customer conversations to help you understand what you are doing right and where you can improve.

Listening to conversations in Sprout can help you find ways to improve your online reputation

The same goes for your ratings, reviews, and third-party mentions. Being a company today means having thick skin, but it also means offering criticism where it is due.

Based on all of this, you can return to the first point to understand how your reputation management efforts are paying off and if you are moving the needle in a positive direction.

Is online reputation management a top priority for your company?

Listen: Your brand’s reputation matters.

Instead of treating it as something that is out of your control, take steps to secure and strengthen your reputation sooner rather than later.

This means that you need to listen and respond to conversations related to your business. Reputation management tools like Sprout Social can help you develop a more effective and efficient strategy for social media and beyond.

If you haven’t already, why not take a test drive today with Sprout Social’s full suite of social listening and reputation management features.