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How to make online reputation management part of your SMART marketing plan

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Two businesswomen are presenting new project to partners in the office.

Marketing plans are essentially about solving problems. If you’re not including online reputation management as part of your business’s marketing plan, then you’re leaving yourself a large blind spot that will hamper your other marketing efforts.

Because your business’s online reputation determines 52% of its market value, you need to proactively construct and maintain an online image that counteracts untrue and misleading information that appears in the search results for your company name.

Luckily, online reputation management best practices align well with traditional SMART marketing objectives. Below, we’ll show you how to be SMART about your reputation management.

A quick refresher on SMART marketing

In case you need a refresher, SMART marketing objectives meet the following criteria:

  • Specific: Can you easily define what you are going to do? A vague goal of just “getting more business” isn’t helpful. A more specific goal is “increasing sales of winter boots.”
  • Measurable: Is your objective quantifiable? You can’t tell if you’ve reached your goal if you can’t measure it. A good example of a measurable objective is “increasing sales of winter boots by 50 pairs per month.”
  • Achievable: Is what you are attempting to do realistic? If it’s not humanly possible, there’s no point in going to the trouble of setting an objective. Make sure you have the time, the skills, and the tools to do the job.
  • Relevant: Does your objective solve a specific problem? What will the impact of your objective be? Does it align with the larger goals of your organization?
  • Time-bound: Can you tie this action to a specific time period? Make sure your objective has checkpoints and endpoints built into it. An example of a time-bound objective is “selling 300 pairs of winter boots in six months.”
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Now that you’ve had a chance to revisit what SMART objectives involve, you can begin to apply these criteria to some common online reputation strategies. Keep reading to see how you can transform each broader goal into a SMART objective that is a perfect fit with your company’s mission and values.

Online reputation management objective #1—Get more reviews

People tend to value customers’ authentic experiences—in the form of reviews and testimonials—over any form of corporate messaging. The power of online reviews is well documented:

  • 91% of 18-34-year-olds believe reviews are as important as a personal criticism or recommendation.
  • 90% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions.
  • Businesses need to have at least 40 reviews before consumers can trust that their overall star rating is accurate.

Since the vast majority of online reviews are positive, “get more reviews” is a reasonable online reputation management objective. However, to turn it into a SMART objective, you need to consider how many reviews you currently have and how many you want to have. You can then determine how much time and how many resources you can dedicate to this effort. This will give you the data you need to craft a SMART objective that works for your company. For example:

Get 25 new online reviews per month, for a total of 150 new reviews in 6 months.

S = 25 new online reviews.

M = 150 reviews.

A = You’ve assigned personnel to this task.

R = More reviews will boost your brand’s online reputation and lead to higher revenue.

T = Six-month deadline.

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To achieve this objective, you can do several things:

  • Ask for reviews: 70% of people will write a review if you ask them to. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, the best way to ask for reviews is in person—just after you have completed a transaction. You can also send out emails that ask for reviews. One company, Concourse Sports, increased its reviews by 2,800 in two months by emailing review requests to its entire customer database. To automate this process for your company, you can use tools like our ReputationDefender Local product, which sends “please review us” requests to your customers via text messages, emails, or an iOS/Android kiosk.
  • Make it easy for customers to leave reviews: Don’t make your customers struggle to figure out which review site to use and how to use it. Claim your business profile on the review sites your customers are most likely to frequent. Then, add a link to these sites on your storefront, webpage, and your social media profiles. You can also provide detailed instructions on all your business’s printed communications explaining how to post a review.
  • Post good and bad reviews on your website and social media: Seeing lots of reviews encourages people to write their own reviews—due to the “bandwagon effect,” which explains why people are drawn to do something simply because everyone else is doing it. If you run an online business, for example, putting reviews on a product page, like the following Amazon results page for car seats, boosts review volume by an astounding 324%. Further, posting the bad reviews convinces consumers that your reviews are real and trustworthy.

Online reputation management objective #2—Engage your social media audience

The purpose of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is to connect with other people, not to spread corporate marketing messages. As such, companies that use these platforms solely as a vehicle for sales pitches risk losing credibility.

Have questions about online reputation management? Talk to an expert

To engage social media audiences in a way that earns their trust, you need to have two-way, human-to-human conversations targeted to audiences’ interests and expectations. The personal relationships you build through these conversations will not only give you a deeper understanding of your customers, but they will also help you establish yourself as an authority in your field.

“Your personality is often best showcased on social media when you are talking directly with your fans, and what better way to achieve that than to engage in the comments.”– Bryan Kramer, social business strategist, speaker, and author

There are several ways you can effectively “engage your social media audience.” Depending on the size and the bandwidth of your social media marketing team, one SMART objective might be to:

Interact with at least five unique Twitter users per day—with the goal of interacting with at least 900 users by six months.

S = Five unique Twitter users.

M = 900 users.

A = You’ve set aside 30 minutes in your daily schedule to work on this.

R = Interacting more with consumers will drive customer trust, which equals more sales.

T = Six-month deadline.

To accomplish this goal, you can use the following strategies:

  • Respond directly to each comment you receive on Twitter: By responding to all Tweets that mention your brand, you will quickly end up conversing with many new users. Doing so will also help you satisfy customer expectations, as over 70% of people who Tweet about a business expect a reply, and 53% expect a reply within one hour. (This might mean that you need to assign someone to monitor Twitter mentions 24/7.) According to research by Jay Baer, addressing complaints on social networking platforms can also generate up to 25% more customer advocacy.

“When customer service becomes public it becomes a spectator sport. If you are really good at public customer service, then your social care can become a new form of marketing.”Jay Baer, author and founder of Convince & Convert

  • Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions are ones that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Because humans are wired to want to answer questions, this tactic helps spawn new conversations and makes it more likely for people to jump in and contribute their opinions.
Source: Buffer.com
  • Use hashtags: Hashtags expand the reach of your tweets—beyond your followers—to anyone who searches for a particular phrase or word. This may be why research shows that Tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement as those without.

Online reputation management objective #3—Promote your CSR strategy

Consumers view companies that engage in CSR as being reliable and honest. As such, companies that invest in CSR create a reservoir of goodwill that research has shown to, in many cases, protect a firm from reputation damage when corporate scandals emerge.

However, doing good deeds won’t help your reputation if your customers don’t hear about them. This means that you need to have a plan to get Google to include your social responsibility activities in the search results for your name. With this in mind, a good SMART CSR objective might be:

Launch a website to promote your CSR program and have it rank on the first page of your search results within five months.

S = Launch a website.

M = Rank on the first page of your search results.

A = You have the budget available to undertake this task.

R = Promoting your CSR initiative will establish you as a values-driven firm and attract more customers.

T = Five-month time limit.

Have questions about online reputation management? Talk to an expert

An example of a company implementing a similar objective is Abercrombie & Fitch. In 2016, the American teen clothing business launched a $15 million, five-year partnership with the charity, SeriousFun Children’s Network, to support neighborhood programs and camps for seriously ill children. Abercrombie & Fitch then created a website to provide information about the initiative and get people engaged.

If your company was to launch a similar CSR initiative and website, you could use the following reputation techniques to move your CSR webpage up in the search results and make it more visible:

  • Post quality content on your website: Google ranks long-form content (around 1,800 words) higher than shorter content. It also values whether your content is well-written, unique, and useful to readers. Does it answer the question they were searching for? If your content is copied from somewhere else, contains spelling and grammatical errors, or is stuffed with keywords, then Google will penalize your site in its rankings.
Source: Backlinko.com
  • Keep your website fresh: If you haven’t posted anything to your website in months, then Google will consider the information on your site out of date and thus won’t rank it very highly. To keep your website on page one of your search results, you need to constantly update it with new material.
  • Write guest posts: Find guest posting opportunities on blogs that are related to your business or your CSR initiative and include a link to your CSR website in your author bio at the start or end of your piece. Doing so will increase the number of inbound links to your site, which will signal to Google that the content on your page is worth pushing higher up in the search engine results page.
  • Employ good SEO strategies: Google considers hundreds of factors when deciding how to rank your website. While we won’t go into all the SEO strategies that will help your site rank higher, there are some basic things you can do. These include using the keywords your customers are searching for and structuring your site to ensure it’s readable, secure, and mobile friendly. This will make viewers more likely to find your site and stay on it once they get there.

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There’s a growing consensus that online consumer sentiment is changing the traditional marketing playbook. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Many companies need to dramatically shift their marketing strategies to account for the rising power exerted on future customers by the opinions of existing customers.” Essentially, marketers no longer have the option to ignore their company’s online reputation, as the strength of a business’s reputation is tied to its success.

The three examples above demonstrate a few of the many ways your company’s online reputation can and must factor into your marketing plans. If you need help understanding which specific reputation management techniques would be most appropriate given your company’s particular reputation challenges, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are always happy to provide a free consultation.