Taking Care of Your Online Presence is More Important Than Ever
We increasingly live in a review-centered world. Think of how you personally shop at online retailers like Amazon. If you’re comparing two products that are seemingly equal, you’re going to go with the one that has the most 5-star reviews. In this cluttered world, reviews mean everything to you and your clients, as the quality of your customer service is reflected by your reviews. This makes social media reputation management increasingly important.
Whether you realize it or not, your social media accounts are an extension of your business. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are more than just cute outlets for your content. The public has shifted from just going to a business’ website to actively searching them on social media. Why? Because social media gives customers the opportunity to engage with a business directly, and they can tell whether or not a business will address any problems quickly and effectively.
Vista Energy , an Integrate client, needed help improving their ratings on leading review sites. We created a social media reputation management plan for them that helped them bolster their reputation online and set them up with a strong foundation for future success. Read on to learn 7 tips we used to improve Vista’s online reputation.
#1 Understand the Backlash
Determining what your client did to deserve any negative attention will help you determine how to proceed next. As in, is this “BP oil spill” bad or just an angry customer who wants to vent? Understanding the customer experience for your client is key in addressing and resolving complaints. Work with the client to identify customer pain points and trends, so that recurring issues can be solved before they happen next time.
#2 Ask Friends and Family to Write Reviews
As you might imagine, more people are prompted to write online reviews because of a negative scenario than a positive one. It’s important that you mobilize the fans of your client to write reviews online because people need to hear about positive stories. With Vista, we send e-mails to their e-mail subscribers – since they already love the company, they’re more willing to give a virtual “thumbs up” about their customer experience
You’re not trying to whitewash the brand – because you need to address customer concerns – you just want to help your client get good attention online.
#3 Acknowledge Upset Customers
It’s usually not very fun, but it’s crucial that you talk to customers who post 1-star reviews and negative tweets. Not only can go a long way to helping the immediate situation, but it shows future customers that you are transparent and want to provide good customer service. Sure, you won’t see eye-to-eye with every irate customer, but at least your side of the story will be seen to page visitors
- DO: Make sure the customer knows you understand their frustrations. Always be understanding while getting your point across.
- DON’T argue. If you said your piece peacefully, and the customer still comes back with anger or negativity, don’t poke the bear.
This proved especially true for Vista. We do not leave any review unanswered (good or bad). In the case of negative reviews, it’s important to show that Vista is responsive and cares about addressing the needs and concerns of their customer. Our internal best practice for reputation management is to resolve customer issues offline or through private message, so the issue does not escalate on the public page for everyone else to see.
#4 Acknowledge Positive Feedback
For Vista, we go beyond simple responses for good reviews and rewarding those who leave positive feedback (4 or 5 stars). We send them a “Thank You” note in the mail with a gift certificate as a token of the client’s appreciation. This “surprise and delight” method can help with customer retention and loyalty, and it can even produce word -of-mouth buzz around your brand.
That said, it’s important to not “solicit” reviews in exchange for compensation or incentive. Most review sites (specifically Facebook and Yelp) advise against this and consider it against policy. When implementing a review strategy, think about how you can promote your review sites using other channels (email, surveys, direct mail, in-store signage, etc.), so it’s top of mind for other customers.
We recommend highlighting positive reviews and testimonials in creative ways on your social media. This gives your good reviews more visibility when you post them in your Twitter feed, on Instagram Stories, or as a Facebook post.
#5 Become a Thought Leader
You want to become a brand that people turn to for answers – both your customers and other brands wanting to find success similar to yours. Technically, this tactic only works later in your overall social media reputation management process when you’ve already achieved tangible results. But when you provide people with information that makes you look smart without it being a blatant push for your brand, people will like you more.
#6 Combat with Charity
People like companies who display positive social responsibility. As in, if you donate towards a popular charity or initiative, that may be reason enough for someone to choose your brand over others, and it increases your online profile.
Community events, sponsorships, partnerships are also good for combating negative sentiment. For Vista, we’ve also put an emphasis on their company culture to humanize the brand. This gives the brand a human face, helps with shifting sentiment and how people view the company.
#7 Do You Need to Apologize?
This is the big question, and the answer really depends on the client. If it’s something obvious and egregious the client has done – especially to several customers – the company may need to issue a blanket apology statement. What you don’t want to do is offer the same apology over and over again to multiple customers, as that will only draw more attention to a situation you want to resolve in the background. Keep it brief.
Develop a Strong Core for Your Social Media Reputation Management Plan
It’s 2018 – People demand immediate responses. Customer service is extended to social media inboxes. This means you need to improve your response rates. Facebook now shows followers how fast companies respond to a query, and unfortunately, people believe this coincides with how much a company cares about its customers. Your goal is to get your response time to 4 hours or less, as this is generally considered “excellent.”
In many cases, you can Increase loyalty by simply responding. If you engage with the people who already are on your good side, they’ll most likely continue that brand loyalty with you, because they feel as if they’ve connected with the brand.
It is easy to fall into the mindset that content should only focus on you and you alone. But with Vista Energy, we learned to expand brand content to point out overall industry trends and deliver tools that could help any energy consumer (not just our customers). We also realized that we shouldn’t be afraid to engage with other industry brands on social media. By commenting, liking, and reposting good material from others, it creates camaraderie with local groups.
Ultimately, you should create a specific social media reputation management plan for each of your clients. Yes, the high-level tactics we’ve listed here can be applied to each company on your roster, but you must develop a customized plan for each of them, as their individual needs vary. What matters is that you embrace social media and online review sites as a place where you can deliver winning customer service and long-term customer loyalty for your clients.