Buyer's Guideby Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: January 9, 2019
No matter how hard you work to make your business the best it can be, you're always going to find yourself at the mercy of online review sites like Yelp.
You'll hopefully receive overwhelmingly positive reviews thanks to your diligence and business acumen, but there's still going to be the occasional bad penny blaming you for events beyond your control.
Fortunately, just as software is the problem here, so too can it be your solution. Reputation management software helps your business monitor the web so that you can respond to negative reviews while also encouraging positive ones. Your online image is crucial in today's world, and this software will help you to maintain a strong, positive internet profile.
This Buyer's Guide will explain what reputation management software is, including its key features, and point you towards the type of system that will best suit your business' needs.
Here are the important points we'll cover:
What Is Reputation Management Software?
Think for a minute about your own practices as a consumer. If you're out of town on a business trip, looking for a place to eat for dinner, what do you do? Ask the hotel clerk? Check out a map? If you're like most people these days, you probably consult the internet, especially sites that will rate each and every local business based on reviews from ordinary customers like yourself.
Once you do this, which restaurant are you more likely to visit—the one with one star and comments that call it “disgusting," the one with three stars and few actual comments, or the one with five stars and exuberant descriptions of the delicious food? Assuming that all three are equal in price, you're most likely to choose the five-star restaurant.
Now, instead of imagining yourself as the customer, picture yourself as the owner or manager of each of these businesses. The difference between the one-star restaurant and the five-star restaurant is probably pretty evident; one is dirty and the food isn't very good, while the other has much higher sanitary standards and better quality food.
What's the difference between a three-star review and a five-star review? In many cases, the answer is simple—reputation management software.
The three-star restaurant may be every bit as clean and as tasty as the five-star, but the owners of the three-star restaurant pay no attention to their reviews and other online comments. The owners of the five-star restaurant, on the other hand, use software to monitor and alert them when they're mentioned online. They are able to respond to negative reviews in a timely and sympathetic manner, perhaps even getting those reviewers to reconsider their rating. They can also use the software to encourage their regular customers to post rave reviews, thereby increasing their rankings and giving them a greater online image.
This theoretical situation explains what reputation management software is and what it does—it is a system that allows businesses to keep on top of their online reviews and other mentions so that they can stay in the know about how their brand is perceived and can ensure that they get the positive profile their hard work deserves.
Common Features of Reputation Management Software
|Review monitoring||Automatically monitor dozens of review websites and receive alerts for any new mentions. With this you can respond appropriately and promptly, managing the fallout of negative reviews while encouraging positive mentions.|
|Review generation||Emails and advertising campaigns can be set up that are automatically sent to customers in order to encourage them to write and share positive reviews about their experience with your business.|
|Social media management||Similar to review monitoring function, this will allow you to automatically monitor Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media sites so that you can respond to conversations about your business/brand and be an active part of all conversations about you.|
|Reporting and analytics||Generate easy-to-understand reports and ratings about how your business/brand is being discussed online, including (but not limited to) review sites and social media.|
|Leverage reviews||Some of the most robust systems will help you turn positive reviews into SEO-friendly, formatted content for your website and social media pages in order to promote your brand.|
What Type of Buyer Are You?
No matter what kind of business you're in—the food and beverage industry, real estate, even hospital administration—you're going to find yourself the subject of online reviews. Reputation management software is useful to businesses of all sizes, kinds and varieties, since online presence is such a vital part of contemporary commerce. You're likely to find that your own business falls into one of the following categories:
- One location. If you're just a small, local, single-location business, a relatively simple system should be able to help you keep track of your reviews and your customer's mentions of you online. Software that focuses on review management and review generation should suffice for your purposes.
- Two-to-three locations. If you manage a small franchise of businesses with only a few locations, you can still probably get away with a less robust system that focuses on monitoring reviews and social media while helping to generate positive reviews from satisfied customers.
- More than three locations. If you own or manage a large business franchise, whether local, state-wide, or even national, you'll find that it gets increasingly difficult to monitor reviews and mentions with each location you add, especially since different managers at each locale may lead to extremely differently reviews for each individual franchise. For this, you'll need a thoroughly robust reputation management system that allows you to not only monitor reviews and social media but also provide you with reports on your general online profile, so that you can make sure you have a positive image across the entire franchise, at all locations.
Other factors to take into consideration when choosing the right reputation management software for your business include:
- Integration with other systems. Some advanced reputation management systems will leverage the database that is part of your customer relationship management (CRM) software so that you can contact recurring customers in order to encourage them to leave and share rave reviews. They may also integrate with your larger suite of marketing software to consolidate your reputation management efforts with other marketing campaigns, like blast emails and lead generation.
- Cloud-based software vs on-premise software. As recently as a few years ago, most software was housed by companies on-premise, and the companies themselves were responsible for maintaining the physical hardware. This required plenty of space, as well as IT knowledge/resources, making some software unavailable to smaller businesses. Fortunately, these days you'll find that most reputation management software is cloud-based, and thus available to even the smallest of businesses who could make use of this kind of system. These cloud-based solutions are implemented more quickly and easily than on-premise software, with fewer up-front costs and less of a need for IT assets, making it ideal for small-to-midsize businesses.
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