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Online Reputation Management – Where do YOU stand online?

Your company’s online reputation has never been more important than it is today.  In an increasingly social world, more and more businesses are seeing a growing trend – consumers and customers are going straight to social media networks and channels to voice their opinions.   In fact, consumer opinions online are the second most trusted form of advertising after personal recommendations.

Social media has allowed consumers to view personal recommendations and online consumer opinions as many people turn to their online following and relationships to scope out potential buys.  After hearing from their peers, consumers often input a social search for a product, brand, or company to see the kind of chatter surrounds it.  The online conversations about a particular product or brand holds much more weight in a purchase decision than traditional print, TV, or radio advertising and is often the deciding factor in whether or not a consumer makes the purchase.

As a result, the online reputation of a product or brand is extremely important in its growth and success, regardless of whether or not a company is in its infancy or a household name.

While we trust companies with a good reputation and steer clear of companies with a bad reputation, where do we stand with companies that seem to have either a neutral reputation or seemingly no reputation at all?  And what can these companies do to build a positive reputation and avoid a negative one?

Let’s take a look at some solid examples of companies straddling all sides of reputation – from good to bad to neutral.  And to keep this article honest and relevant, I am sharing my personal experiences and opinions, much like I would do (and have done) online on my personal social networks.

Virgin America

When you think of Virgin America what comes to mind? Personally, I see a young, hip, affordable airline.  As a San Francisco native who attended college in San Diego and graduate school in New York City, I know a lot about searching for the cheapest flight.  While I loved a competing airline’s cheap airfare and two free bags, I wasn’t particularly impressed with its lack of online entertainment or absence of certain direct flights.  Virgin America, a direct competitor in the lower price range, completely won me over with its modern, tech-savvy online flying experience and exceptional customer service.

My loyalty to Virgin America was cemented through its quick online response and caring customer service team.  I expressed my frustration on Twitter with not being able to add my reward points to an upcoming flight due to their internal system issues and within the hour @VirginAmerica tweeted me asking me to elaborate.  They even followed me in order to engage in a conversation through direct messages and by the end of the day, my issue was solved and my allegiance was won.

While I loved Virgin America’s witty approach to the on-flight safety speech, awesome internal ambiance, and tech-savvy inflight entertainment, it was the unexpected and lightning quick response to my tweet that proved to me that this was a brand who cared about its customers.  Even with hundreds of thousands of people flying on its planes yearly, Virgin America showed care for individuals.  In turn, I am fiercely loyal to the brand and often recommend Virgin America to friends and colleagues as well as continuously praise them in my work and on social networks.

Carnival Cruise Lines

For a few months Carnival Cruise Lines constantly had its place in news headlines, but not for the right reasons.  The company’s reputation took a major hit after the public was exposed to mishap after mishap.  Had it been an isolated incidence of misfortune there might have been room for some damage control, but unfortunately the company just couldn’t catch a break.  So can you blame consumers for being weary to travel on cruise line that seemed to be accident-prone?

My social media feeds were ripe with discussion about the Carnival Cruise Lines.  Most shared the negative sentiment and stated that they would NEVER (and I mean NEVER) go on a Carnival cruise.  Even those who had previously positive experiences with the company in the past were now adamantly refusing to go on another.  Others, still, added fuel to the fire and commented on other negative aspects of the brand.  With personal recommendations and online consumer opinions topping the charts for who consumers trust, it seemed like the brand was doomed.

However, there is a silver lining to every negative situation.  Is it possible that negative press is better than no press? Because while people may have been talking badly about the brand, the fact remains that they were still talking about it.  And though I was constantly met with confusion when I expressed my desire to still go on a cruise, the disbelief set in when they found out I was seriously considered going with Carnival.  Because in the midst of all the negative attention, I knew the company’s executives were pulling out their hair trying to figure out a way to apologize to the public and regain its trust.  One very likely tactic would be lowering the cruise rates… significantly.  So while many others still scoffed and adamantly said no to Carnival, there are the folks like me who’d be a little more forgiving and willing to take the chance if the price cut were significant enough.

Financial Institutions

So now that we’ve looked a little into companies who typically have a positive or a negative online reputation, let’s take a look in a different direction… one that is very rarely talked about but holds a potentially interesting place in the world of online reputation management.  What about the companies that are rarely talked about or those what have a very neutral reputation across the board?  Where do they stand in the world of online reputation?

Viralheat recently took a look at the top financial institutions in the United States to try and get a read on which has the best reputation with consumers online.  The results were surprising – while it seems that many of these large institutions are vilified in the news, it turns out that they all have very similar sentiment across the board.  Not one institution is significantly better or significantly worse than the rest.

These financial service institutions can take advantage of this discovery by making the effort to improve their online reputation.  Imagine the reaction to current and potential customers if they were to see a bank with an extraordinary online reputation according to other consumers.  It may be the determining factor for those contemplating a switch in financial institutions.  Because so many people take to social media to voice their opinions, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, wants, and needs, companies who are looking to boost their online reputation should turn to social networks to find the conversations happening about them.  Upon locating these lively, real-time discussions, brands should jump in and do their best to rectify a situation, boost morale, or answer any questions.

Maintaining, improving, or establishing a solid online reputation should be at the forefront of business plans across all markets.  This opens the doors to identifying your direct audience and building lasting relationships with customers.  The better your relationship with your consumers, the more likely it is for them to become lifelong loyal customers who recommend you to their friends and networks.  Luckily there are tools out there that can help businesses monitor and manage their online reputations.  Take a look at how one agency uses Viralheat’s social media marketing suite to monitor its clients’ reputations.  All the right avenues and vehicles are there for a business to monitor, manage, build, or maintain their online reputations for continued growth and success… are you paying attention to your online reputation?


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