How do you bolster your brand? Every business has a brand, an identity to establish and protect — a name that defines its value and purpose. For online businesses, having business websites is only the first step towards effective online reputation management, the online counterpart of branding. 5 star reviews in websites like Yelp, Citysearch, and Zagat contribute to building a brand, but properly establishing and maintaining a positive reputation is more than that.
You need reputation management for your business. Search optimization, paid ads, and the rest of your marketing fronts combined mean little if they do not bolster your brand. You need business reputation management because:
1. Your Online Reputation is Complicated
Your reputation is more than just an accumulation of reviews and comments on the local Citysearch pages or the stars Yelp users give you. It’s more than just the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers you have, and how many “likes” or “+1s” your business has under its name. Your reputation even encompasses social media buzz (via mentions and discussions) focused around your brand, and that in and of itself is a very complex field.
But beyond being complex, social media is also very powerful. The reviews you receive on Yelp help potential customers decide if they should avail of your products or services, and 90% of customers research online about a company before doing business with them. Social validation in the form of reviews and recommendations heavily influence the buying decision of people, especially if the recommendations come from people close to them, i.e. people in the first degree of their social graph, such as their closest friends and relatives. Your reputation on the Internet is more than just your website, but your reviews, your social buzz, your images, your geo-local information on external websites like Citysearch (even websites where people other than you post information about your company), your mentions in blog posts and other media, and more.
You need to focus on growing your business — this means you need a partner to handle monitoring, managing, and boosting your reputation online.
2. Online Reputation Integrates into Your Other Efforts
What’s more, your reputation and brand image is not a stationary metric or an isolated measure of your business’ reach. Your brand image effectively ties in with your other efforts and vice versa. Indeed, your marketing ventures should always endeavor to brand your business — introduce and establish your identity as a reliable and trustworthy entity.
This is what reputation management does. It leverages everything about your business that can be found online — both good and bad — to polish your image. A positive business image helps other marketing efforts, and the marketing efforts in turn help further the goal of branding. A positive image that integrates into your advertising efforts helps through:
• Making paid ads more appealing — An ad from a trusted name inevitably receives more clicks
• Creating instant association — A well-known brand is instant affirmation of product quality
• Associating the business with a brand persona — Well developed brands present their businesses through specific personas, like the father or mother figure, the athletic guru, or the best friend; people who see such brands on listings like Yelp, Zagat, or Citysearch immediately make that connection with just a glimpse of the logo
Those are just a few advantages of a positive brand image. Online reputation management makes all this possible, combining facets like 5 star reviews and social media comments into a whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.
But Really, How Much is a Good Brand Worth?
But is a brand really worth that much? Is it worth the effort focusing on social networks, websites like Citysearch and Yelp, and gathering feedback? Think of it this way: which brand do you think of first when you want cola? How about when you want to search online? If your first thoughts were Coca-Cola and Google, then you know these companies have done their branding very well.
McDonald’s — the name alone — is worth over $20 billion. Levis is worth $50 billion. These companies spent years producing great products and building their brand. Your business, however, won’t have to spend years if you can harness the power of reputation management. With proper reputation management, even negative reviews on Yelp and comments from Citysearch can be turned into a golden opportunity for more branding. Customers who gave negative feedback at first are eager to share if the company involved made things right for them. It’s the magic of active engagement and reputation management.
Local business listings and similar websites like Zagat, Citysearch, and Yelp are good places to start. Beyond that, Social networking accounts — especially those that tie into listings like Google+ Local — are also valuable. These aspects combined with your presence in search and your business website make up your reputation.
You need online reputation management because your brand image is much more complicated than handling a Yelp account. You need it because the 5 star reviews you get on Citysearch won’t matter much if you can’t integrate them into your other efforts. You need it because, even if you can handle social media sites and listings like Yelp and Citysearch on your own, you need a partner to establish, maintain, and grow a brand image successfully.
You shouldn’t handle all of this on your own — you should be busy developing your business. With an effective online reputation management partner, you can focus on growing your business and making the most out of the traffic and leads that your successful brand image will undoubtedly bring.