In Santa Barbara, California, an interaction between the restaurant Brophy Bros and an unhappy customer named Kenny Hyder gave an example of how powerfully positive online reputation management can be.
The interchange was simple enough. Hyder, a Santa Barbara resident, visited Brophy Bros, a well-rated seafood restaurant in the area. He wasn’t satisfied with his meal so he went online to write a review on Yelp (a review site that sees millions of users on both its website and iPhone application). The review was not terrible — a mere three-star rating in which Hyder admitted that he probably chose the wrong dish for his tastes.
However, Brophy Bros is a company that excels at online reputation management, and they wouldn’t allow an unsatisfied customer to remain so. The owner of the restaurant contacted Hyder immediately, asking what exactly was wrong with the experience and what they could do to improve. After a brief message interchange, the owner invited Hyder back to try another dish.
The second time around, Hyder sunk his teeth into the “Thresher Shark,” a dish that earned the description “fantastic” from Hyder. The story doesn’t end there, however. It just so happens that Hyder, unbeknownst to the Brophy Bros’ owner, was a search engine optimization expert who runs a blog with a broad reader base. After the positive experience, he wrote an entry that made the company out as nothing short of heroic, finally declaring, “Why aren’t more businesses catching on to this whole customer service thing?”
Hyder isn’t alone in writing reviews or blogging about the experiences he has. Studies indicate that about a third of all customers will blog about their positive and negative experiences with businesses, and still others will make mention on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. About one-fifth of all customers will also write a review on one of the major review sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Google Maps, Expedia, or Yahoo! Local. Add to this the fact that about 70 percent of all consumers now check online reviews prior to spending, and it’s clear how crucial online reputation management is.
Companies around the world have recognized the importance of having the right web reputation, and many have now hired online reputation management firms to help improve (or repair) their online presence. These services seek out negative reviews or other forms of bad PR and attempt to address them directly. Additionally, many of these reputation management groups set up monitoring services that keep the company updated on newly posted content that mentions them. When this content shows the company in a less-than-positive light, they can take a proactive approach to the customer complaint. Some of these reputation management groups also help create and optimize positive, informational content that can promote the company and improve the quality of its web presence.
There are certainly many approaches to polishing how you appear online. However, one thing is clear: The right presence on the web is now the single most important aspect of managing your company’s reputation.