December 24, 2018

Reputation management companies: The good, the bad, and how to know the difference

Years ago, “reputation” used to mean providing excellent customer service for local, brick-and-mortar businesses. In person. Face to face. So-called “reputation management companies” were for politicians or celebrities, not small businesses.

But now, “reputation management” means something completely different. For small businesses, reputation a two-sided coin.

Today, positive or negative word of mouth could be shared at anytime on any corner of the internet and you could be none the wiser. On one hand, this always-on dynamic of your digital reputation is great for gaining insights and feedback from your customers.

In the past, you had to ask for customer feedback in person, hand out paper surveys, or pay for focus groups. Now, you can learn how people are experiencing your brand just by logging into review sites or social media platforms.

But the flip side of the same coin is if a negative review gets posted and you don’t hear about it until it’s too late. The longer your online reputation gets away from you, the harder it is to take control of it.

Hundreds of thousands of local businesses in 400+ industries use Womply’s reputation management software. Get a free demo.

In this post, we’ll tackle why small, local businesses engage with reputation management companies, and what to watch for to select a good one (spoiler alert: there are plenty of hucksters out there.) Let’s start with an example of what NOT to do.

Online reputation management gone wrong

One example of reputation management gone horribly wrong is what happened to the smart home security company named Tapplock, which produced the first fingerprint entry padlock.

One day, a YouTuber posted a video “DO NOT buy this $100 smart lock…” in which he took the lock apart and exposed how easy it was to hack. For a security device, a vulnerable, faulty product is deal breaker.

Once the video was published, it was game over.

The video went viral, receiving over 3.7 million views and dozens of major publications started writing about it. Forbes wrote Tapplock: This $100 ‘Smart Lock’ Can Be Hacked Open In 2 Seconds, The Verge published This fingerprint-verified padlock is extremely easy to hack, and so on. Reddit was a-frenzy like sharks smelling fresh blood.

This is certainly a worst-case scenario (Tapplock has since repaired the issue and released an updated next-gen version) and not every bad review results in a public relations hellscape.

Nevertheless, an online reputation management company can help you stay afoot and alert so that you’re the first to know, first to respond, and first to take steps towards a speedy solution or a prompt, heartfelt thank you note.

What should an online reputation management company do for small businesses?

A reputation management company provides five main advantages for small businesses:

    1. Easily manage all of your reviews in one place, saving you a ton of time. Instead of logging into each account one-by-one, a reputation management company allows you to log into one dashboard and see all the data from the web pulled into one convenient place.
    2. Respond to reviews quickly. Once logged into your reputation management dashboard, you’re able to respond to each review right then and there. No hunting, bookmarking, or remembering logins or passwords to be able to reply.
    3. Analyze reputation data over time. A proper reputation management company will give you the ability to track your progress over time so that you can observe and recognize trends (i.e., the friendliness of the veteran general manager keeps surfacing in reviews—might be time for a bonus!)
    4. Compare review platforms. You’ll be able to pick up on insights such as Yelp reviews are 37% more positive than Google reviews — a data point you could then use to direct your staff and marketing team to bolster reviews on one platform over another for the highest average rating lift.
    5. Get live alerts. Get notifications for when a new review comes online as soon as it happens. Or, if it gets overwhelming, ratchet down the notifications to a weekly digest — it’s up to you. The point is you’ll be aware of reviews as soon as they happen so that you don’t get caught off guard and can immediately take reparative action.

3 good signs of a strong online reputation management company

There are dozens of online reputation management companies to choose from. How do you decide? Consider these three sources of credibility:

    1. Customers. Does the firm have a track record of bonafide and recognizable customers who look like your business? If you can see your business being included with the businesses they’ve worked with, consider it a good fit. A strong reputation management company has a roster of reputation management testimonials at the ready.
    2. Partners. Reputation management is a complicated machine of relationships, industry influence, and technical knowledge. You’ll want a firm’s leadership team be able to pull strings and levers to get things done expediently. Look at the company’s repertoire of partners. A good company will be well-established, entrenched, and deeply versed in who’s who and keep stock of industry shifts.
    3. Data. A reputation can be quantified with hard data. So it’s important for a strong reputation management company to be able to report on their industry research and engagement analytics, as well as show results they’ve achieved for clients through data such as increased number of reviews, positive sentiment lift, keyword analysis, and economic impact.

3 warning signs of a poor online reputation management company

The last thing you want is to pay for a reputation management company that doesn’t do its job well. Here are three things to look out for before you sign on the dotted line.

    1. Lack of social proof. Do other reputable companies vouch for them? Are there authentic testimonials backing the company’s software platform? Do your research and make sure they’ve not only worked with clients but also have clients who would work with them again.
    2. Lack of proven experience. When was the company started? If they’re just starting out and you don’t have a personal connection to the company, it will be in your best interest to give them time to prove their reputation before they take responsibility over yours.
    3. “Black hat” tactics. Does the company encourage you to pay for positive reviews? If so, it’s not a good reputation management company. The goal of any reputation management company is to help you get a higher star rating and get more reviews from your best customers. But HOW they do that matters. Don’t skip steps or fall for “black hat” tactics. 

Deciding on which reputation management company to partner with can be a difficult decision, but if you lean on this blog as a checklist, your answer should become clearer.

Take action: Hundreds of thousands of small businesses use Womply’s reputation management software. Complete the form below for a free demo.

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