You've probably heard the saying that when you're in the public eye, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
That old adage is meant to apply to celebrities and socialites (and today, influencers), but it also holds true for businesses. What people say about your brand today can make it or break it. You may not walk a red carpet or live in Beverly Hills, but your reputation is what keeps you in business. In this article, we'll explain how to do a reputation audit for your brand (and why you should).
What is a reputation audit?
A brand reputation audit is a detailed investigation of what is being said about your business online - and it's a great indication of how you communicate with your audience. This information can then be used to:
- Understand how your brand is positioned in the market. How do you stack up against the competition?
- Identify flaws in your current sales, marketing, and distribution strategies. Has a product been experiencing declining sales? You might find the reason in the product reviews section.
- See if you are meeting customer expectations. Are your products doing an excellent job of meeting their needs or solving their problems?
Why should you do a reputation audit?
Traditional marketing, which was a one-way communication from marketers to prospects, lost its edge with the rise of social media. Consumers are now communicating and sharing their experiences directly with one another, and they're more likely to trust their peers than your marketing messages, so you need to know what they're saying.
What do people see when they search for your business online? Ideally, they should come across your website, social media platforms, blog posts, and favorable news articles and product reviews, all of which work in unison to show your company in a positive light.
Unfortunately, there's a chance that this is not what they see at all. If your online visibility is not high and your Amazon reviews and press coverage are even worse, it's going to affect the future of the company, as the following statistics show:
- You risk losing 22% of business when a single negative review appears on page one of a potential customer's search results.
- Two negatives on the first page of search results can drive away 44% of your potential customers.
- If three negative mentions appear, 59.2% of potential customers will likely look elsewhere.
- Four or more negatives and you will likely lose 70% of potential customers.
Maybe you knew about these negative reviews but didn't realize how visible they were. Or perhaps you weren't aware of anything. If so, it's time to do more than a quick Google search for your brand. You need a reputation audit, and the sooner, the better.
Step one: know your audience
Before you start the audit, you'll need to do some prep work that includes answering the following questions:
- Who are your ideal customers?
- What actions do you expect them to take online?
- Where do you expect to find mentions of your brand online?
For example, if you sell homemade vegan cosmetics to women of all ages, you should ideally be seeing a positive mention on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest in addition to good reviews on Amazon.
By knowing where your target audience is most likely to talk about your cosmetics line, you'll be able to conduct your reputation audit more quickly and write corresponding content to manage it. From there, you can super-charge your efforts by implementing an ads campaign using Facebook Ads, Instagram, or even LinkedIn—depending on your customer demographics.
Bonus: a quick quiz by Josesantis, over at ProProfs might be a great starting point to understand your target audience better.
Step two: conduct the audit
Now that you know where to look and what to watch for, it's time to start the audit.
Check relevant review sites
Go to the review sites that sell your products, especially those that appear on page one of Google for your company name and product keywords. If you see any negative reviews, address them right away.
In general, these services don't remove negative product feedback at your request unless it can be proven that the reviews were made solely to discredit the business. However, you can mitigate the impact of a bad review with a polite response and offer to make things right. Anyone who sees it in the future will know that your company cares about its customer's experience and is willing to own up to its mistakes instead of ignoring them.
If there are a string of bad reviews, you're facing a more significant challenge and a lot more work. Depending on what the majority of the complaints are about (product quality, poor customer service, shipping delays), you may have to revisit and change some of your company policies and procedures.
Bad press is especially challenging to overcome. If your reputation audit uncovers a negative review on an influencer's website or in a digital magazine, you can contact the reviewer, thank them for their honesty, and ask if they would be willing to try an improved version of the product they covered.
This approach may work with influencers, but magazines can be more inclined to stand by their original conclusion. In this case, your best option is to look for opportunities to generate favorable press that overshadows the bad reviews. Examples include a new product launch or an interview with a top fan.
Here's a great list of reputation management software from Capterra.
Run your company through Google
Google the name of your company, brand, and leading products to find instances of bad press in the SERPs. Ideally, you should have Google Alerts set up for all of these relevant keywords, but if you don't, A) commit to setting it up later and B) start Googling for any negative mentions that could be shaping a bad public image of your brand.
If you find anything detrimental, try taking the same corrective actions outlined in the previous section. Bad reviews can be damaging, but never forget that potential customers may be watching to see how you react. A study carried out by Harvard Business Review found that when hotel managers post a thoughtful response to reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, the hotel's ratings improve.
To mitigate the effects of negative reviews, you can ask your most loyal and satisfied customers to leave a positive review for you. A sincere email, along with honest intentions, goes a long way here. Bonus: Omnisend’s guide to sending product review emails without sounding self-serving is a great help.
Step three: check your web metrics
Go through your top-level web metrics, paying close attention to the following:
- The number of website visitors: Has your visitor count gone up or down? If you notice a positive change, does it coincide with a new product release or another known event? If traffic has gone down, when did the decline start? There may have been a negative review by an influencer or magazine.
- Number of times that your content has been shared on social media. This one follows the same principle as website traffic: sudden increases or declines in sharing activity need to be investigated. You can also use tools from Facebook tools, LinkedIn automation tools, Instagram analytics, etc. to monitor social activity.
- The amount of YouTube views: If you have a company YouTube channel, has there been an increase or decrease in the number of views and/or subscribers? If you're losing subscribers and view counts are down, you may need to upload more frequently, change your content, or check for evidence that your brand reputation may have suffered recent damage.
A quick reputation audit will give you a detailed overview of how well your brand is perceived across your target audience and within your industry. Regardless of the results, be prepared to conduct an audit at least every two weeks, as negative reviews and press can appear at any time and do significant damage if you don't address them right away. At the same time, keep creating the products and content that get people talking- and go the extra mile to keep the conversations positive!