Thanks to the increasing rapidity and availability of communication online, brands and customers are coming closer together. 2011 has seen the largest rise in social media users and social media use since social media was invented, and today customers don’t simply expect to buy a product from a brand, they expect be able to follow their favorite brands online and to be able to easily access them and communicate with them.
That means that companies can no longer afford to keep their customers at arm’s length. Gone are the days when managers and executives could ignore customer complaints and comments. Today, if your company keeps its customers at arm’s length and ignores them, you can expect not only to receive bad reviews online, but a barrage of bad comments on social media sites where people share and give recommendations. And those reviews and comments are now showing up in search results that can hurt your company’s image and bottom line.
That’s why one of the best ways to build customer loyalty and bring in new customers is to be nice. This is what I mean:
Before the social media revolution (back when information was slower and only a handful of people used the internet) companies didn’t have to respond to criticism on an individual basis. But today, not responding to bad information about your company online can be fatal. Bad reviews and ugly blog rants can prevent new customers from coming to your website. So you need to do the nice thing and respond.
Reach out to those that criticize you online and ask if you can help. Be sincere in your apology for the bad service or product they received and offer to make it up to them. If your online critics feel that you care about them, you’ll have a shot at turning negative reviews positive and taking down negative content.
This goes for social media as well. Monitor social media for mentions of your company and brand names, and reach out to those that ask questions and criticize you. Not only will you help turn those critics into loyal fans, but you’ll be changing the way they talk about their experience with your company to their friends and family, improving your reputation all around.
2. Give stuff away
This is not to say you need to give your products away for free. Rather, give away useful, cool stuff on your website. For example, make your product manuals available online for free. Give away pictures of your products for free. Give away widgets and blog badges. These things cost very little to make, but giving them away will encourage your customers to see you as an engaged and generous resource. As such, they’ll talk about you highly on social networks and they’ll link to you from their websites, improving your search rankings and your level of reputation management protection.
3. Provide useful content
Most companies that are web savvy nowadays know that a company blog is one way to boost your search engine rankings. But another way to show how nice your company is, is to create compelling and interesting content all over your website. Make your blog interesting and useful—something web users will want to link to. And make your website information rich and interactive. When you create a pleasant website experience for your customers, you’re telling them subtly that you care about them and want them to come back. What is your current website telling your customers?
4. Don’t be evil
The founding principle of Google is “do no evil.” That’s a great way to think about your company’s reputation online. Don’t implement practices at your company that you wouldn’t want implemented at a company you bought from or want to use. Your customers are not your enemies; they are your friends. And when you starting treating them like friends, they will be loyal to you and your brands. They’ll continue to buy from you and link to you—which means you’ll only increase your positive reputation online.
It’s cliché to say that corporations are people, but in terms of reputation management, the more you treat your customers like people—instead of numbers—the more they will respect you online and the better reputation you’ll begin building.