Reputation can work for us, or against us. It is up to us to manage our reputation. And this is all the more true in a faceless, impersonal transaction such as ecommerce. Developing and maintaining a positive reputation isn't something you can afford to leave to chance. Instead, you need to get proactive. Ignore it and suffer losses, even the loss of your business altogether.
A Personal Experience on Effective Reputation Management
I had narrowed down my choices of a holiday resort for a small family vacation. To be sure, I decided to read online reviews. On TripAdvisor.com, I read two horrible reviews about my most preferred resort. Though the other reviews were positive, these two had the power to influence my decision. Incidentally, in both those cases, the resort manager had responded to the negative feedback. His response clarified some of the negative feedback and apologized for the rest. That was enough to reassure me, and I ended up going to that resort.
Online Reputation Management (ORM) Is a Growing Into a Whole New Industry
Reputation impacts your bottom line by either driving customers to your business or away from it. It simply cannot be ignored.
ORM involves proactively monitoring online conversations about your brand. Your strategy to manage your online reputation should include:
- creating an online identity
- resolving issues with your brand's reputation
- building positive indicators about your brand.
Outsourcing ORM is an option, but it is most suitable for mid-sized ecommerce businesses. I have found that smaller ecommerce businesses are unable to afford an outsourcing agency. Bigger ecommerce businesses often have adequate scale to manage a cost efficient reputation management department if they so choose.
Beginner's Guide to Online Reputation Management
A simple yet effective beginning to online reputation management could involve setting up readers to track mentions of your brand, website, and key personnel. You could monitor mentions on Google, Yahoo! and Twitter. These three allow you to get a good idea about the chatter around your brand, its tone, and related trends.
What if no one is saying anything about you? This is an indicator that you are not active in any online community. Silence is only slightly better than bad chatter about your brand. Some would even disagree with that and go with the adage that, "there is no such thing as bad publicity."
Get Involved in Relevant Online Communities
Get active in online communities that your customers participate in. These communities could revolve around specific product segments, or about shopping in general. These might even be review sites. Show that you care, and people will respond.
Write a Personable Blog
If you can write frequently and respond to comments, blogging can be an interesting method to join the conversation. Most online shopping cart software providers allow you to integrate a blog into your ecommerce website.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social ecommerce is more than just a buzzword. Of course you should have your brand's Facebook page and Twitter handle; probably also a repeatedly promoted hashcode on Twitter. But merely setting up accounts is not enough. You need to actively participate in conversations with customers and other visitors on those platforms.
Keep in mind that online communication tends to be rather "frank." As a result, do not think it is the end of the world if someone screams expletives about their experience with you. Given the anonymous nature of online communication, such experiences are common and will not immediately massacre your reputation. Of course, if there is a sustained negative sentiment around your brand, it could turn fatal.
It is important to encourage customers to review your products. User reviews influence purchase decisions significantly. These reviews should sound authentic, because most people are smart enough to smell a fake review. An unauthentic review is actually a quick way to ruin one's reputation.
Managing your online reputation is not easy, but it does act as a kind of insurance. When you run into well-funded competitor, or when Google does not love your website anymore, it is your reputation that will fuel your brand strength.
You should implement an ORM strategy now, and allocate some time to it regularly. If you have the resources, hire a dedicated worker or professional ORM service provider.
Learn to be polite and professional. Never shout or use foul words. Never retaliate. Remain calm and objective. Do what is fair and, when you can, be generous as well. Generosity builds good will.
You must keep your ear to the ground respond quickly when necessary.