online brandThere’s a new restaurant down the street. Great! It’s been open a few months and you have yet to try it, so you go online and look up the menu, then probably pop over to Yelp to get some first-hand customer reviews. Sound familiar? If you don’t have a close friend who’s raving about the restaurant to you in person, you know that you’d better do your homework or you might be in for a disappointing evening. Hey, you’re tired of learning the hard way.

…and you’re not alone.

Almost 80% of American consumers say online reviews influence their purchases. A whopping 93% say they look at online reviews before shopping or dining. NINETY-THREE PERCENT.

That’s no small potatoes, people! If you’re not paying attention to what your customers are saying about your business online, you might be in need of some major brand damage control. Yelp is about to launch a new tool to upload short video reviews, and we’re only going to see more cool tools like this one in the next few years!

Clearly, if you’re not managing your brand’s online presence—the time is NOW. So what’s your company doing to monitor and manage your brand’s online presence?

Creating a Positive Online Brand Presence

If your business or your brand is totally new, you’re in luck: You might be able to fight the customer crowds and establish yourself online before someone beats you to it. If you’re already knee deep in customer reviews, you can follow these steps to boost your brand’s reach and inspire positive customer relationships with your brand…

  1. Brand Consistently: We talk about this all the time on The Branding Spot blog. A consistent brand across all of your online content and your offline marketing collateral works wonders for your business. A consistent brand makes you memorable and easily recognizable, so you don’t risk confused consumers leaving bad reviews on YOUR products, when they were actually intended for someone else. Create a brand book and coach your brand representatives so that every customer interaction has consistent results. Speaking of interactions…
  2. Customer Service is a FULL-TIME JOB: Online or off, your team HAS to be on the ball when it comes to customer problems. When a customer comes to you with an issue, address it immediately. While some people are just complainers, the majority of your customers will feel much better because you a.) cared about their problem, and b.) took the time to address the problem and fix it to the best of your ability. Social media comment replies? That’s customer service too. If you can nip the problem in the bud, you’ll often prevent bad reviews and negative comments.
  3. Monitor Your Customers’ Activities: If your customers are online posting reviews and you don’t know it, it’s time to get on that train. Setting up a Google Alert can help you monitor when your customers are searching for your business, plus it pulls up new search items to bring each to your attention. Many social media monitoring tools, like HootSuite offer a variety of tools for managing your brand’s online social presence.
  4. Listen and Change: This is a toughie. Business owners want to do things their way—hey, I get it. But when customers make suggestions or complain (yes, even if they’re rude about it), you DO need to take the time to consider how your business can better meet their needs—even if it’s hard to change. If customers complain about a missing feature, grab your accountant and run a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it’s within your means to improve your product at this time. If your customers are complaining about poor customer service (see #2—it’s important!), then it’s time for some hands-on training with your staff. If you’re hearing the same thing over and over, you best be listenin’ or you’ll be losin’ customers!
  5. Always Be Professional: We’ve heard all the horror stories and social media fails that happen when a business owner decides to get unprofessional or just plain angry on social media, or when someone unclear on the business’ values or brand voice gets on the social horn and attracts the wrong kind of attention. Truth is, there are a whole lot of trolls out there looking to cause you stress and aggravation just because they can. An internet-savvy marketing team should be able to recognize legitimate customer concerns and complaints—and differentiate between those and the garbage. You might have heard the saying, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Take it to heart and just ignore them or offer a clipped, polite response and no more.

By following these rules, you can stay ahead of the curve and ahead of your customer reviews online, maximizing your brand’s positive reach. …and don’t take this advice lightly! Again, with 93% of consumers snooping around online to learn about your business, you need to ensure your team is dedicated to the above principles. You simply don’t have a choice anymore: You just must. Consumers live on the Internet, so get your team on board and keep your brand ahead of the game!