In an always-connected digital landscape, consumers have more power than ever. Now, the average consumer will compare companies before they commit to a purchase, and the right experience will see them returning again and again. Startups are uniquely placed in the online world because they have to work hard to get noticed, and being visible when competing against established brands is always going to be a challenge. In a time when it is reviews and reputation that can make or break a startup, taking control of the brand narrative is essential.
If you want your startup to last the distance, then having a more thorough understanding of brand reputation and how to manage it is more important than ever.
Understanding Reputation Management.
When your startup is in its early days, you will usually have a blank slate on which to build your reputation. There are no existing, visible mishaps, inappropriate tweets, or negative online reviews simply because you have had little chance to make those mistakes. Of course, the longer that you trade for, the more likely that you will fall victim to a reputation crisis. Now that every business needs to be visible online and the fact that posting something online can be very challenging to remove, online reputation management needs to be a priority even before your startup launch. When consumers use trust and credibility to help decide where to spend their money, running a startup with a negative online reputation can hinder your potential growth very quickly.
You need to start managing your reputation as soon as you have an online presence. The goal is to ensure that you accumulate as many positive reviews as possible and as quickly as possible. That way, subsequent negative reviews will have less of an impact on your overall ratings. Review management can be a time-consuming task, and it only gets more difficult the bigger your startup gets. Email communication can be very useful in this regard because emailing every customer after a sale to get feedback on their experience helps you control their narrative. If they have had a bad experience and you can get them to vent to you instead of on social media pages, then you can have the opportunity to turn that negative experience into a positive one. Of course, if their experience was positive, then you can link them directly to the platforms where you need the most improvement to your reviews.
Preempting Bad Reviews.
Your startup will have no credibility or authority in its early days. Those are something that you are going to need to focus on, and reputation management is part of that task. Without established brand awareness, you need to ensure that everyone that Googles your business name is met by as much authority and positivity as possible. Startups have everything to prove, and the margin for error is slim indeed. When a negative online reputation can cut your startup off before it gains any momentum, you must be more proactive when it comes to protecting your reputation. The good news is that it’s never been easier for brands of all sizes and sectors to control their reputations.
Positive Associations and Name Recognition.
Most startups will not have to tackle a dramatic reputation crisis, but that doesn’t mean that they can relax and hope for the best. Large-scale PR disasters do happen, and they are something that you will want to avoid. Reputation management means ensuring that you are consistently building on positive reception, satisfied customers, and positive reviews. You can achieve this more easily by:
Understanding SERPs: Search engine results pages (SERPS) are where your brand’s reputation will be visible to most people. When most consumer shopping sprees start with a Google search you want to appear as high on the SERPs as possible. If you’re on page two of a Google search then you might as well just be invisible to most shoppers. Make sure that you know some SEO basics, paying particular attention to keyword use and content marketing. If you have negative reviews or are experiencing a crisis, then it’s time to start cleaning up your Google results. An internet removal strategy can help improve rankings in those SERPs.
Using Social Media: All startups need to have a social media presence, although you will need to identify which ones are most likely to be used by your target audience. There is little point in spending hours on your Snapchat account if all of your potential customers are using TikTok. Once you know the best platforms to use, create your business pages, and then keep them updated regularly. Once you are building a following – you can, for example, get more TikTok followers using apps – make sure you engage with your audience, and interact with other businesses. Point satisfied clients to your social pages and invite them to follow you there for new updates.
Brand Monitoring: Once you have set up your online presence, you need to monitor what people are saying about your brand. The problem with trying to monitor mentions of your startup is that it can be time-consuming, and next to impossible to effectively identify every single mention of your company. Automating your mentions is vital, and both Google and Bing have automation systems that can alert you via email when certain keywords are used online.
Startups will always struggle to think long-term because, by necessity, they are forced to act in the now. However, you must take a step back and think about how even the slow development of multiple negative reviews will affect your ability to grow, even if you do last the distance.
Thinking long-term means taking steps early on to ensure that your reputation is as clean and polished as possible. Remember to:
- Encourage positive reviews on multiple platforms
- Use a content marketing strategy that you use to engage with customers
- Share industry news so that you build your brand’s reputation up as an industry leader
- Highlight positive press mentions and share them on your social pages
- Improve customer loyalty by interacting with them when they like or comment on your posts
- Be prepared for negative reviews and have an established plan for responding to them
Failing to consider reputation management as a fundamental part of your startup planning means exposure to unnecessary risks. Make sure that you have a proactive reputation plan and that you review it regularly. If you ignore the importance of your reputation, your startup is at greater risk of failure.