According to a recent Seeking Alpha article, 95% of CEOs surveyed believe corporate reputation plays an important or very important role in achievement of business objectives, yet knowing this, only 19% of these same executives had a formal system in place for influencing or measuring their reputation.
So, we can all agree that our brand is very important to the success of our business, but how many of us are taking proactive, concrete steps to ensure that we have a seat at the online reputation table where our voice can be heard? According to Seeking Alpha, only 1 in 5 of us. The other 80% are allowing often anonymous internet participants to craft their brand narrative without their input!
Does your company respond to online reviews (good, bad, or indifferent)? When your company takes the time to provide thoughtful and balanced responses to online criticism, doing so will often reflect positively on your brand, as will taking the time to say ‘Thank you’ for a positive review. Internet searchers seeking your products or services will choose to do business with companies that not only have good reviews, but will favor those who interact with those leaving feedback, especially in regard to negative reviews.
Having a seat at the online reputation table means that you are in the mosh pit with your customers, employees, ex-employees, and competitors engaged in conversation with the purpose of making sure your future prospects receive a fair and balance brand narrative - not a one-sided diatribe.
Since unhappy customers are 11-13x more likely to leave reviews, not having a seat at the table tips the tables against your business, by default. In addition to engaging with your reviewers in the public sphere, you also need to make it simple and easy for your happy clients to share their feedback. This is what I have coined as collection and direction.
What are these terms? Collection is simple enough to understand. This is the act of asking your clients to leave you a review, say on Facebook, so others may share in their positive experience with your company. If you are already asking, but not getting the results you desire, then you are not making it easy enough for them to leave reviews (see what I did there?). Direction is deciding where you would like these little nuggets of brand gold to go. Do you need more reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Zillow, TripAdvisor, SolarReviews, DealerRater, etc? Again, the easier you make this for your clients, the better the result.
For example, you can ask, “Hey, would you mind leaving me a review on DealerRater.com?” or you can do that AND follow it up with a text message or email with the link to DealerRater’s review page for your dealership. Adding this simple follow-up step will improve your results and online reputation dramatically.
Direction is not itself a static exercise, in fact, where reviews are being directed needs constant review and revision. I just completed an analysis for a large manufacturer who was concerned about how its dealer network was handling online reviews. The study demonstrated inherent directional biases, with some dealerships throwing everything they had at Yelp, while others were all in on Facebook, and most basically ignored Google (wasting a huge opportunity to impress with the largest and most prominent real estate on the first page of Google’s search results).
It’s also important to know that Google’s algorithm is trying its best to provide the searcher with ‘the most relevant’ results. Directing reviews to a single site will make this site more prominent in search (which is good), but the more you spread the love around, the more positive review sites will begin to populate page one of Google and most especially in the ever-important area ‘above the fold’ e.g. top 4-5 results.
Google’s own data shows that 67% of the clicks happen within the first four search results and 93% of searchers never look past the first page. By spreading reviews around to multiple sites and interacting with and responding to those reviews, Google’s algorithm ‘learns’ that these sites are ‘more relevant’ and begins to prioritize them.
This is what I call owning your page one search results. High value SEO content, backlinking, paid traffic, and other tactics work as well, but none are as cheap and easy as collecting lots of reviews and sprinkling them (with intention) to review sites that are important to your potential prospects.
Thus, it’s important to dial in the direction piece before wiring up the collection and reporting software.
In closing, gone are the days when businesses and their marketing departments could sit back and create brand narrative in a vacuum and expect the public to simply accept it. Today, smart business leaders are engaged in the conversation and have a seat at the table in co-crafting their brand narrative.
Which are you? The 20% that have/do or the 80% that have/do not? As your competitors pile into the 20%, where will that leave your business?