jackrabbit reputation management blog

Here’s a scenario: You bust open an IKEA box, which contains the contents of a new shelf, and you get to work building. You’re almost finished, putting the last pieces together…only to get to the end to realize there’s an entire piece of the shelf missing. If you’re like me, the first thing you might do is take to Facebook or Twitter. I have no hesitation—a sarcastic tweet tagging @IKEAUSA is more tame than some other options.

A story such as this is not uncommon. In the digital era, these scenarios can play out much further—and much harsher—and ultimately impact a brand’s reputation. How a brand manages its reputation and what happens in the online world can make or break its success in the real world. In fact, brands’ online reputations are no longer separate from their overall reputations. While this is probably no surprise to you today, we may not have been able to say the same 10 years ago, based on the evolution of how we have come to consume (content, goods, information, etc.) online.

Too often, we see a brand’s reputation break its success, instead of making it. Let’s take a look at how we can turn this around by managing a key ingredient of a brand’s success—its online rep.

Why be concerned about online reputation?

The evolution of how we consume on the internet has driven how brands interact with consumers (and vice versa). Two-way brand-to-consumer interaction is a must, and user-generated content is no longer the cherry on top of a good campaign. Online branding isn’t just a simple single-scroll website or minimal Facebook page—it’s a whole behind-the-scenes effort to maintain top-quality content, positive customer sentiment, product and service quality, and more.

A brand’s online reputation is more important today than it has ever been. It affects all touchpoints of a company—from short- and long-term sales, to press and media coverage, to the overall success of the business (i.e., whether or not a company makes it or not).

Cheryl Connor, contributor at Forbes magazine, stated, “You should never underestimate the cost of a poor reputation.”

Where to start

First, it’s crucial that your business invest in the resources needed to manage its reputation, whether or not that reputation is currently in a good place in the minds of consumers. This job may require experts (both inside and outside of the company) that can handle the gamut of scenarios that play out online.

The key: it’s not just about reacting (think crisis management). It’s about being proactive, using daily reputation management strategies around the clock, particularly online.

There will be conversations online that you can and can’t control (for instance, a whole blog devoted to disliking a company). So even if what’s showing at the top of a Google search isn’t true or kind doesn’t mean it won’t impact online reputation.

Tips and tricks: How to stay on top of brand reputation

The first thing you should know: treat everything you do online with the same respect (if not more respect) than you would if you were doing it in person. The following five tips are just a starting point, but should eventually become a part of everyday reputation management.

Tip #1: Be extremely transparent

It’s not enough to just allow consumers to openly comment without being prepared to give a transparent response. A lack of response negatively impacts reputation, because without a stance, brands appear passive, or even careless. In addition, it’s crucial that responses and information be honest and upfront, particularly when related to criticism.

In 2010, BP was criticized heavily for its vague and clumsy response in reaction to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Guardian stated, “…The damage had been done, as BP appeared to be trying to duck responsibility.”

Tip #2: Be timely

Brand managers should be ready for a multitude of scenarios online, feeling prepared to respond in a timely manner. Promptness allows brands to shape how online conversations play out—giving them more direct control over consumer sentiment toward their brand’s reputation.

Being proactive and having a solution for every type of scenario will streamline the content management process and will leave fewer consumers twiddling their thumbs, waiting for brands to speak up. In addition to potentially damaging a brand’s rep, a delayed reaction can cost companies serious cash, whether through a loss in sales, investors, etc.

Tip #3: Be social media–friendly

Tip number three is really a no-brainer. Even if you think your target “isn’t on social media,” someone else is—someone who can damage your brand’s rep by posting defamatory content. Face the music and understand that social media monitoring is more than just a daily printout of social media impressions. It’s a value-adding service that arms companies with the power to carry a strong brand voice and positively shape brand reputation, particularly on social media.

Tip #4: SEO, SEO, SEO

Page one of a Google search on your company is your business card, whether that’s good or bad news to you. The first 10 results in that search constitute people’s immediate impressions of your business. And this is an ongoing process—just because the results are great today doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be stellar tomorrow. Whether those results include owned pages (website, social media pages, YouTube channel, etc.) or media coverage, each result shapes customers’ thoughts on your brand’s current reputation. SEO management can help shape what consumers see in that top 10 list on a Google search.

According to Connor, companies with negative Google results have felt the burn. Don Sorensen, president of Big Blue Robot, noted that after careful review of their rankings and prior-year revenues, he estimated the venture was losing nearly $2 million a year in sales because of negative search engine results.

Tip #5: Apply past learnings to future actions

Even if you feel strongly about the current sentiment around your brand’s image, don’t be afraid to invest even further into a person or team that prides itself on reputation management. The investment is worth not ending up on the latter half of this list.

And to the IKEA team that responds to tweets like mine, thank you. You’re the real MVP.