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Written by Brent Barnhart
Published on January 18, 2024
Reading time 9 minutes
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 commenting about you. And businesses today can’t afford to ignore conversations related to their reputation.
Literally: The Sprout Social Index™ found 51% of consumers agree responding to customers on social media makes brands the most memorable. Despite popular belief, your online reputation isn’t something that’s totally beyond your control.
If you want more positive reviews and glowing praise from your customers, you need an actual reputation management strategy. In this guide, we’ll show you how to put together your own.
Social media reputation management refers to the process of monitoring social networks to shape and maintain a positive perception online. Along with monitoring social networks, it can include reviewing online reviews on channels like Yelp and Google Reviews. Building a social media reputation requires frequent observation because your audience’s perception of your brand fluctuates over time.
It involves posting content, responding to feedback, conducting performance audits and using social listening data to uncover how your audience views your brand. Overall, social media reputation management aims to build and nurture trustworthy, long-standing relationships with your audience.
We get it: some businesses might be skeptical of why ratings, reviews and positive comments hold so much weight.
Because if you know that you’re doing good business, who cares what other people are saying?
And besides, it’s easier to put on blinders and ignore your haters than it is to face your critics head-on. However, consider the following trends that highlight the importance of managing social media reputation:
It’s not a stretch to say that businesses live and die based on customer feedback.
People overwhelmingly rely on reviews when it comes to purchasing decisions. A survey from BrightLocal shows 76% of consumers regularly read online reviews when browsing for local businesses. And 46% of consumers feel that online business reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations from friends or family.
These stats illustrate the power of reputation management. Customers view brands with more positive reviews and recommendations as genuine and credible.
There’s massive demand for customer feedback and consumers aren’t shy about delivering it. Want evidence? Look no further than the millions of users on sites like Yelp.
Or the hundreds of categories scattered around sites like G2, a peer-to-peer review site for business software.
Or the millions of reviews on Google Reviews and Trustpilot:
You can sing your own praises all day long, but consumers are on the hunt for authentic, third-party reviews for peace of mind. The more of ’em you have, the better.
Data from The Sprout Social Index™ found 68% of consumers say they primarily follow brands on social media to stay informed about new products or services.
Like it or not, people talk. A lot. Your own customers can do some serious legwork by marketing on your behalf, granted they’re satisfied with your service.
The takeaway here? Digital word-of-mouth marketing remains powerful because more conversations around your brand on social media represent additional opportunities to win customers and followers.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge of social media reputation management. Social media is authentic and unfiltered. That’s why it’s a great place to discover products and customer feedback—people can pretty much say whatever they want, for better or worse.
As a business, this presents a distinct challenge. Just as satisfied customers are empowered to hype you up, you can’t control your worst critics. That said, you’re still responsible for what they say–responses to reviews and using feedback to improve your products and services are essential parts of your overall reputation management process.
Now that we’ve acknowledged how much brand reputation management matters, let’s talk about the proactive steps you can take to improve your own. The following five step strategy is fair game for businesses both big and small.
First things first: you need to figure out how people feel about your brand right now.
Are your customers happy and satisfied? Are you struggling with naysayers? Perhaps you’re somewhere in-between?
Digging into a combination of qualitative and quantitative data can help clue you in on where your reputation stands. This includes:
The key here is to look at the ratio of positive versus negative comments. If your customer sentiment seems to err on the positive side, that’s good! If not, you have some work to do.
The health of your social media reputation can be difficult to quantify manually. That’s where a platform like Sprout Social that offers social media reputation management tools can help.
For example, our sentiment analysis features can take mentions and turn them into a meaningful, quantifiable metric that you can track.
You can use your sentiment analysis summary as a starting point which you can monitor or strive to improve. Our platform also highlights trends in your customer sentiment (think: positive versus negative and neutral comments) over time without you having to sort them out manually.
Beyond comments are those ever-so-important reviews. Creating an online review management strategy to address feedback on third-party sites will enable your brand to maintain a full view of your customers’ opinions.
Another key feature of Sprout is the ability to wrangle all of your reviews from social media and beyond in a single platform. This gives you a more comprehensive view of your social media reputation and what your customers have to say about you without having to bounce between platforms.
Social media reputation management is an ongoing process.
Once you determine where your reputation stands, you need to set up your business to be able to respond to customers swiftly in the future.
This means setting up real-time notifications and listening for the following:
Having a pulse on these elements makes it easier to craft the appropriate best practices to follow when someone has a question, concern or reason to shout you out.
This once again highlights the benefit of using a platform like Sprout. With Sprout, you can consolidate all of your social messages and mentions in a single inbox. You can likewise share your various dashboard(s) among your teammates to cover more ground and speed up your social media response time.
Our Index data shows that 76% of consumers value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs. And over half (69%) expect responses from brands on social within 24 hours or less.
Whether it’s a concern or a compliment, social mentions represent prime opportunities to make a positive impression on customers and improve your social media reputation.
Doing so comes down to having a strategy for social customer service. Some key tips for responding to customers include:
It might sound cheesy, but a positive, proactive attitude goes a long way in social media reputation management. This rings true whether it’s answering a customer question or simply responding to shout-outs like in the example below:
As noted, the key challenge of social media reputation management is that online comments are pretty much a free-for-all.
Arguably the best approach to combat the negative is by encouraging your own positive praise.
And yes, there are ways to do so beyond begging (which you definitely shouldn’t do).
For example, you might consider publishing success stories and existing positive reviews from your satisfied customers. This can help highlight positive experiences to your social prospects who might not have checked out any third-party reviews yet.
Beyond customer comments, employee advocacy and mentions from your own team can also create more positive sentiment. Don’t be shy about re-posting your customers’ positive responses or shout-outs, either. This includes asking for permission to republish user-generated content to use in your future marketing.
Finally, consider the power of listening to what your customers have to say.
Maybe they’re glowing over your recent customer service initiatives. Perhaps they’re unhappy about recent pricing changes.
Either way, don’t just take those comments in stride. Instead, listen to such feedback and make changes to your business accordingly.
And yet again, this is where Sprout can help. Digging into your listening data, you can uncover specific terms that pop up in your customer conversations to help you understand what you’re doing right and where you can improve.
The same applies to your third-party ratings, reviews and mentions. Being a business today means having a thick skin, but it also means taking criticism where it’s due.
Based on all of the above, you can circle back to square one to understand how your reputation management efforts are paying off and whether you’re moving the needle in a positive direction.
As we mentioned earlier, manually monitoring and reviewing customer feedback is time-consuming. Using a for business can make a huge difference. Here’s a quick round-up of five tools so you can find the best review management software for your brand:
Choosing the best social media reputation management software will depend on your business’s unique needs, but Sprout Social integrates with many top review networks to fit various needs. These networks include Facebook Pages, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor, which are the most popular in terms of volume and reach. We also offer integrations for the app stores (Google Play and Apple App Store).
With the Reviews Overview report, view a summary of your customer feedback. It includes vital metrics like reply rate and review volume. The report is part of Sprout’s larger customer care solution. Sprout creates a seamless experience across channels by enabling users to monitor multiple conversations, all the while providing priority metrics and automated reports so you can ensure your social customer service strategy is effective and efficient.
Brand24 is another helpful tool for social media reputation management. Users can create projects to track online conversations about your brand and industry peers. You can also explore by searching mentions by campaign, analyze sentiment and create reports.
Mention is a social media management tool that offers a variety of features you can use to manage your reputation. Mention offers the ability to track specific keywords and various filtering options so you can narrow down the @-mentions and feedback that is most relevant and meaningful for your brand.
Birdeye is another leading platform for social media reputation management. Birdeye collects reviews from review sites and 150+ different platforms, giving users a comprehensive view of their business’ online reputation. You can organize feedback by filtering (rating number, region, product, etc.) them into custom fields. Similar to the other social media reputation management software, it centralizes reviews in a singular platform.
Supporting over 3,000 local businesses, Broadly is a great option for small businesses looking to maintain a positive online reputation. Users have the option to automate review requests from customers. Broadly offers the ability to monitor and respond to reviews from Google, Facebook and more within a central platform as well.
Listen: Your brand’s reputation matters.
Rather than treat it as something beyond your control, you should take steps to secure and boost your social media reputation sooner rather than later.
This means both listening and reacting to conversations related to your business. With social media management tools like Sprout Social, you can roll out a more effective and efficient strategy on social media and beyond.
And if you haven’t already, take a test-drive of Sprout’s full suite of social listening and reputation management features today by signing up for a personalized demo.
Brent Barnhart is a professional writer and content critic. When he’s not battling the latest buzzwords, you can often find him strumming the nearest guitar. Feel free to bug him on Twitter or check out his website (brentwrites.com)
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