Recently, online video game storefront Steam published a blog post announcing changes to their review system. The impetus for these changes seemed to be a phenomenon known as “review bombing,” where large numbers of reviewers leave negative feedback in quick succession to tank a business’ or product’s online reputation.
Sounds pretty nasty, right? Well, this got us thinking about how unpredictable reputation management can be in the digital age.
Whether a posse of online bullies is trying to ruin your business or you’re just trying to get some more reviews under your belt, having the best reputation management strategies will help ensure that you come out looking awesome.
Here are some of the most important tips for keeping your head above water when it comes to online reviews:
Get Your Name Out There
What’s the first thing that you do when you want to check out a new business or product? 9 times out of 10, you’re going to check online reviews. If your business doesn’t have any (or many) reviews, most potential customers will look elsewhere. There’s nothing worse for a business than having no online presence.
Getting your name out there is important. You should give your customers several opportunities to provide feedback on your products or services:
- Create a technical support forum or contact forms on your website. This is a great way to get feedback on what’s working well for your business (or what’s not).
A direct contact form also means that customers with negative feedback might go to you (rather than Yelp) first, which means you get a chance to set things right (and maybe even get a positive review on Yelp later!). Direct contact forms won’t help your SEO ranking or let potential customers see what others think, but it shows that you care about what consumers think of you!
- Ask your loyal or happy customers to give you public feedback. Asking your customers to review you on Yelp, Facebook, or Google can be a hassle, but it's an absolutely necessary endeavor!
Create a protocol for your sales team or an automated follow-up email for customers asking them to let you know if they have any questions or concerns and to be sure to leave you feedback online if they are satisfied.
Embrace Your Flaws
Any good business plan includes a thorough analysis of the company's strengths and weaknesses. Part of this analysis includes accepting that you're not perfect. Sometimes, quality control or customer service misses the mark and leaves you with an unhappy customer.
Unhappy customers can go on to leave negative reviews for you. Your first instinct might be to fight fire with fire and attack your negative reviewer, but that will get you nowhere fast. Instead, you need to go into damage control mode:
- Consider reaching out to customers who have had a negative experience. Your goal here is two-fold:
First, you want to show that you're making an effort to make things right. Secondly, your polite efforts can be especially effective when the negative review has been left on a public forum like Yelp because other potential customers will see it. In some cases, you might even be able to get a negative review updated by the user!
- Being proactive about addressing negative reviews helps you grow. If you ignore negative feedback and just assume that it's only the "haters" who don't have a good experience with your business, you will never change!
Customer feedback, whether it's good or bad, helps you figure out what's working and what isn't. Take criticism of your business to heart and make proactive changes to make sure that the next customer will have a better experience!
- Sometimes, you just can't beat 'em. Like the example at the beginning of this post with internet trolls review bombing, sometimes negative feedback is just a reality of having a business.
If you take the steps to get positive reviews, your business can still come out ahead even with a couple of bad reviews. The logic behind this is that if a potential customer sees 20 to 30 positive reviews to one negative review, the positive reviews will win out.
Reputation management in the digital age is vital to the success of any small (or large!) business. First impressions are key and you will almost never get a second chance to show why someone should choose your business. Use our tips above to improve you SEO, your online presence, and your digital reputation. Good luck!