Imagine this: a customer is creating a blog post but wants to add an attractive visual. They’ve heard of infographics, but they need to know what an infographic is and how to make them. So, they search online and find Venngage’s blog explaining what it is, and information that confirms that we have infographic templates.

Another quick search for Venngage and the customer finds a listing with positive reviews and testimonials. They were looking for a design solution, and they’ve found it. Now, Venngage has earned a new customer. 

That is the power of online reputation management, and why it has become a priority for businesses around the world.

“A company’s reputation relies on creating a personal connection with consumers, by showcasing how much they care about the people within and without the business.”

Nadya Khoja

But it’s more than just attracting customers. A company’s reputation relies on creating a personal connection with consumers, by showcasing how much they care about the people within and without the business.

So how can companies manage how they appear to partners and prospective customers?

After years of building our reputation and studying top brands, here are the top seven tips for creating a winning business strategy that will help brands manage their online reputation and improve their relationships with customers this year.

Tip #1: build a strong brand presence

As a design solution for small businesses, Venngage knows a lot about brand-building. Here are the essentials for 2021.

Brand logo

The brand logo needs to appear across all the platforms where a business has a presence.

Social media visuals, presentations, and websites should also include the brand logo without being unobtrusive. We love how Citrix uses its logo on its visuals—tucked in a corner, but visible. 

There is a reason for adding a company’s logo to imagery—it takes between five and seven brand impressions for customers to recall a brand.

Marketers can create the more remarkable content, but it will all come to naught if the audience can’t connect the content to the brand. Our tip: Manage online reputation by using the company logo on all visuals elements.

Brand colors and fonts

Other branding elements that companies should incorporate are their brand colors and fonts in emails, social posts, and video content. 

This is crucial for brand recall and to create a cohesive online presence. Visuals that include the brand logo, colors, and fonts together increase brand retention. It's best to use a corporate letterhead for all official memos and documents online and in print, like this one:

Colors and fonts are powerful visual reminders about the brand. They play a huge part in online reputation management.

Customers are being bombarded by brands online. To stand out from the crowd, use branding consistently and regularly across all of your channels to boost recall.  

Brand tone

This is a part of branding that organizations often forget. Brand presence isn’t only about the visual elements of a company. Setting the right tone in brand messaging matters.

The brand tone should be consistent across channels while also being reflective of the company’s target audience.

That’s what Uber has done with its updated brand tone guidelines as seen below.

Uber moved away from the clinical approach in the before image to a more personalized one in the after image. The company started using the name of the consumer and has made their content easier to understand by eliminating jargon.

This approach ensures that no matter what platform the audience uses, they'll recognize the company. To achieve reputation management, companies need all aspects of their branding to work together to improve customer retention.

Tip #2: monitor social media

Most businesses have a presence on social media. But simply posting online doesn’t help online reputation management.

Social media needs to include two-way communication, and that can only be achieved through social listening. While companies can tell from comments or video dislikes how people are reacting to their content, it doesn't always reflect the sentiment around the brand.

That’s where social listening comes in.

How does social listening work?

Social listening is conducted through online tools and can help businesses find out what people are saying about them, their products, their staff, and even their competitors.

There are manual ways to understand the sentiment around a company. Marketing teams can analyze the brand hashtag and search for the brand name on social platforms to see related posts.

But what if audiences are talking about a brand without tagging them or using their hashtag? What are their feelings about the industry that the business operates in?

Companies can conduct sentiment analysis using social media tools and learn what audiences want from their brand. This requires monitoring mentions of the brand online—whether the company has been tagged or not—and determining whether the mentions are positive or negative.

If most of the sentiment around your brand is positive, that’s good. This means you can keep doing what you've been doing.

On the other hand, if there are negative sentiments, take action. What are the issues consumers are having? Is there a problem with the product? Could customer success help?

Fixing the problems has to be the first port of call. If there's an issue with the product, make the needed changes and let consumers know what's been improved. For customer service problems, more personnel or better team training might might be needed.

Brands should also create content that addresses and resolves the specific issues mentioned by customers to push sentiment towards the positive.

Tip #3: SEO practices

SEO is necessary for boosting brand presence online, and it’s also a great tool for maintaining a company’s online reputation.

When customers search for your brand name or branded product, your official site or landing page should appear at the top of the search results. 

If not, you have some work to do to make sure you're capitalizing on keywords. Make it easy for customers to find you.

Most marketing teams know they have to conduct keyword research for their brand—it’s one of the essential blogging tips shared by content creators according to our recent survey.

But how can a company use SEO to boost business reputation online?

Basics of online reputation management SEO

Businesses have control over the SEO for their website content. Here’s how marketing teams can manage SEO on their website and off-page:

  • List out relevant keywords for the brand and create content that's optimized for them

  • Select a range of keywords—short-tail and long-tail—that will bring content to the attention of prospective customers

  • Add keywords in the alt-text of visuals—it helps images rank on image search, which gives the brand an added SEO boost

  • Use Loganix’s SEO checklist to determine what SEO work remains on the company’s site

  • Create an account on review sites online that impact brand reputation. This way you can control reviews and responses

  • Update websites like Wikipedia and Forces—these include brand listings which makes it easier for audiences to find companies

SEO is crucial for managing brand perception online—you can use the tips above to build a favorable impression of your brand for consumers.  

Tip #4: use chatbots

When a customer has a query or complaint, they aren’t often willing to wait. If they fail to get a response, they will take their grievances online to share with others.

As a result, while the company was sleeping, its online reputation was going down the tubes. That's why brands need to invest in chatbots that will respond to customers immediately.

Even if a chatbot can’t resolve the issue, it can at least keep the customer engaged and make them feel heard before bringing in a customer service representative to help. Chatbots can also make recommendations and generate content to boost customer engagement, like in this article.

Real-time messaging keeps customers connected with brands even when there isn’t a customer service representative available. This is crucial for presenting a favorable impression of the brand—which in turn, helps retain more customers and increases conversion rates.  

Tip #5: positive reviews

People are more connected now than ever before so the best way to find new products or services is by looking online.

Customers will check for brand reviews before making a purchase and brands need to prepare for that. Here’s why it’s important and how you can get those positive reviews.

Why are online reviews important?

  1. Reviews are necessary for driving purchases. They act as social proof to prospective customers, convincing them to buy from you instead of your competitors.

  2. A positive review can make the difference between a customer deciding to complete checkout or leaving your brand hanging.

  3. Reviews also help improve the visibility of your company beyond your website and social media—these are channels that can expand your reach without effort.

How can brands get positive reviews?

Asking for reviews is a good starting point—customers need a little nudge in the right direction or they’ll enjoy their experience and fail to share it with anyone else.

People are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good ones, so a reminder is necessary. For example, add a note to product landing pages asking for customers to leave a review on the website, Google, Yelp, or social media pages.

It’s a good idea to thank customers for sharing their views online since engagement is important even if it isn’t on your social platforms or business blog.

What about negative reviews?

When a company does get negative reviews—and these are unavoidable—don’t ignore them. That gives the customer’s anger time to fester and could lead to them never to return to the brand.

Worse, a business' reputation management will take a hit from an unanswered bad review. Other customers see it and notice the lack of response, raising flags in their minds.

As unpleasant as it may be, engage with unhappy customers and resolve their issues as best as you can. Tip: take the conversation off the public arena into direct messages so it doesn’t spiral out of control. If the customer has more angry comments, they can share them privately.

The important thing is to show customers that, good or bad, reviews will be responded to, and customer queries will be handled to the brand’s best abilities.

Tip #6: put a face to brand success

Highlighting the people that make one’s business work is a great way to manage a brand’s online reputation, especially among younger buyers on Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.

A personal touch is needed in 2021—customers want to see the people behind the business and find out how they are treated.

Businesses should adjust their marketing strategy to showcase individuals on their online channels, like in this video from Coupa.

Conduct interviews with in-house teams, not just C-Suite members, to show your company’s inner workings and that your brand treats people equally.

Share the employee of the month or week on Instagram Live or TikTok, and don’t be afraid to have a little fun with content featuring real people—it humanizes your business. 

Tip #7: create a Google My Business account

Adding a company to Google’s business listing isn’t enough to get attention. To manage one’s online reputation, brands need to have a Google My Business account.

What’s the difference between a listing and Google My Business? The amount of control the company has over the information about them. A Google My Business account allows marketing teams editing and management capabilities over the brand’s online presence on Google. This means that the business will appear in search results, local results, and Google Maps and will list the office or store location, contact information, and the brand website.

The Google My Business account gives brands a dashboard that allows them to solicit reviews from customers, which can then be seen by prospects searching for the business online.

Businesses can respond to reviews through the dashboard and gain insights into how they are perceived by others. They can also see conversions. Here’s what it looks like:

How can businesses create a Google My Business account?

Brands can create a Google My Business account for free using their Google email. This should be separate from a personal email account.

Google gives a 'manage my business’ option when signing in—there will be certain details to fill out to populate the Google My Business profile.

Another option is to visit https://www.google.com/business/ and fill in the required fields.

Most businesses populate into the Google business listing automatically. They can also be added manually by searching for one’s business and ‘adding a missing place’.

Brands will need to claim their business and connect it to their listing—Google doesn’t do this automatically. Claiming the business online can be done through search or Maps. 

Google will send a verification code and once that is entered that, the business will be one step closer to better online reputation management.

Key takeaways: prioritize online reputation management for a successful 2021

Online reputation management is a massive undertaking, but it isn’t one that can be ignored by companies in the current environment.

To manage your brand’s reputation online, follow these seven steps:

  • Build a brand presence

  • Monitor social media

  • Adopt reputation management SEO practices

  • Use chatbots

  • Get positive reviews

  • Prioritize business individuals

  • Use ‘Google My Business’

These are the steps that we've followed at Venngage to earn consistent year-on-year growth. Adapting one's business strategy to the above will take time and practice, but it will help companies win more customers and retain them in 2021.

Nadya is the Chief Growth Officer at Venngage and has been featured in Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, The Next Web, Forbes, Marketing Profs, Social Media Examiner and more. She also has a web-series called Drunk Entrepreneurs where she interviews different entrepreneurs who are finding success.

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