There are endless examples of big businesses and brands shedding investors due to damage to their online reputation.
From Twitter’s catastrophic fall from grace since Elon Musk took control at the end of 2022 to Meta’s Metaverse losing the former Teflon-coated behemoth billions and leading to job losses at Facebook, we can see that even the biggest and most profitable brands in the world aren’t immune from the consequences of reputational damage.
Corporate reputation is everything in 2023
Reputation is everything in today’s online business world. If there is something negative to be discovered about a company, it will happen at some point. For example, Boohoo UK Ltd were exposed in a report from The Sunday Times in July 2020 as proponents of sweatshop labour.
Naturally, the company’s shares plunged in the aftermath and it found itself subject to Government investigation into their supplier practices. All of this turns consumers away and taints a brand in a way that is incredibly difficult to return from.
The impact of online negative sentiment
Igniyte UK’s latest Reputation Report shows the scale of the challenges facing UK businesses today and the damaging impact negative online content can have on brands’ reputations and sales. Just under half of UK businesses surveyed (46%) say that negative online content has impacted their business negatively over the past 12 months.
A quarter of businesses are still not actively monitoring their online reputation, despite the fact that online crises are provably more damaging to a company’s bottom line than internal issues such as pricing, product failure or employee conduct.
The costs associated with reputational damage
The biggest threat to a UK business, according to our research, are negative online reviews. More than a third of managers report their business as having been damaged by fake reviews, and 84% believe online reviews are critical to the future of their business.
It’s surprising, therefore, that the research also shows that just under half of business still have no pro-active plan in place to track, monitor or manage online reviews.
The exact costs of reputational damage are difficult to quantify – much of the cost is an intangible yet essential shaping of external perception of your business. However, it’s clear that there is no benefit to ignoring the potential for the damage reputational damage can do to a company. Why risk it?
7 steps to building a resilient online reputation for your business
Online reputation management (ORM) is a deliberate strategic approach to building, cultivating and maintaining your corporate reputation. Its goal is to establish an honest, sustainable online search environment that represents the totality of the CEO or organisation.
Even if your business has only been up and running for a matter of months, your brand information is already visible to potentially millions of people. This will inform their opinion of your business and brand and determine whether they choose to trust you or not.
Positive online talk about your business will strengthen its reputation, build trust with customers and form a useful reputation. On the flipside, negative chat can derail your plans. Here’s what you need to do.
Proactively monitor your business’ social media footprint
As part of a wider strategy to monitor your online reputation, ensure that social media is covered properly. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are important but in 2023, these are far from the only platforms to watch out for.
By regularly searching a wide range of platforms, including but not limited to, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn and newcomers such as Mastodon and Post, you will gain useful insight into what people really think of your brand.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a brand presence on this sites – they should be checked anyway. And while checks like these can be performed in-house by some companies willing to hire a social media manager, it can be more cost effective to work with a professional online reputation management service such as Igniyte.
Don’t leave people hanging
A key mistake many businesses make is having a presence on social media platforms and then never responding to queries or complaints. This is achieving the exact opposite of a positive reputation. People, whether past customers or not, expect a response.
Whether they’re reaching out with something positive or negative, a question or a complaint, it’s really important to respond to every comment, mention and conversation. You don’t have to promise the impossible, but lay out a pathway of communication and resolution.
The whole idea is to create a two-way channel of communication and trust with your customer base. This will make it a lot easier to stop anything negative damaging your business later on.
Answer negative comments and reviews
Negative comments and reviews can be turned to your advantage. Use these customer comments to publicly highlight and acknowledge what you’ll be changing. Follow up with updates so that people can see you listen to and act on customer feedback.
Act fast and always be transparent
If there’s a problem, address it head on. While it’s often tempting to try and lay low until the online chat moves on to something else, this will only fuel negative customer sentiment. It’s likely to actually increase negative comments as customers vent about your lack of response.
By responding to any customer issues quickly and transparently, you’re showing that you’re ready to rectify any errors.
For a positive online reputation always stand by your promises
Nothing is likely to infuriate customers more than feeling like they’ve been conned or lied to. Failing to deliver on what you promise – whether that’s on your website or social channels – will backfire.
For example, massive names like Amazon and Asos can promise same day delivery and fulfil it. Chances are a small business cannot. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver as this will only drive people to complain loudly and often online.
A high percentage (85%+) of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a recommendation from a friend. Furthermore, nine out of ten people purposefully seek out customer reviews of a business before deciding whether to spend their money.
Get the basics right
Branding, corporate website and social media channels should all be on point. How you present your business determines how people will perceive you and your services.
Work with branding and reputation experts to ensure that you are crafting the right branding for your business right from the start. Part of this is creating professional digital assets ranging from web content to regular blogs, podcasts and video content.
Give back to the community to improve online reputation
Brands and businesses are part of the community in which they operate. A great way to showcase your core values and ethics is via CSR. Look for local charities that need help and offer practical or financial solutions. This will show other people in your community that you are a business that cares and that does something tangible to help others.
Get in touch with Igniyte UK to help bring all of these elements together and create the online reputation your business deserves.