The internet has made it possible for everyone to have a platform where they can voice their opinions, insights, and thoughts. This has been both a blessing and curse for brands when they become part of others’ conversations — because it’s not always good news. Now, brands are taking back their reputations with the help of AI-enabled consumer intelligence.
What Is Brand Reputation, Exactly?
We define brand reputation as a brand’s earned image. It’s the way your audience and the general public perceive you, even if they have not done business with you.
For instance, the pizza chain Little Caesars is commonly viewed as a value brand, offering decent quality pizza for a low, predictable price. Fashion icon H&M has earned a reputation of being a hotspot for trendy clothes at affordable prices. Nike is worn by professional athletes and has become synonymous with quality and performance.
Every brand has a reputation, and that reputation continues to evolve over time. Your audience plays a big role in how others perceive your brand. But you can also become part of the conversation through your actions, business decisions, and marketing messages.
Why Brand Reputation Stakes Are Higher than Ever
To be fair, brand reputation management has always mattered. But in today’s climate of social media, online review sites, and viral content, your reputation can change in the blink of an eye.
Take Theranos, for example. A company built on a huge promise to make blood testing faster while using less blood was built on fraud. Once investors and the public found out, the company’s reputation plummeted. Trust eroded and the founder’s fate rested in the hands of a jury.
Even well-meaning intentions can kill a brand’s reputation. For example, Kenneth Cole’s attempt at marrying humor with current events backfired. A tweet during the Egyptian protests read:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new Spring collection is now available online.”
Fans thought the brand was making light of a dire situation and received intense criticism for its insensitivity.
Sometimes, a brand’s customers will purposely try to shape others’ opinions. The Marie Callender’s burnt pie fiasco comes to mind.
One customer, the now-famous Sharon Weiss, burned her Thanksgiving pie and took to social media to blame the outcome on the company. Though it turned into a viral joke, not all brands enjoy the same positive publicity that comes from being called out by a customer.
The bottom line is this: people are talking about your brand online. And when they do, it can affect how other people feel about your brand.
We’ve seen a few trends shaping the online brand reputation landscape:
Consumers Trust and Depend on Online Reviews
Online reviews continue to be a valuable piece of the decision-making process. In fact, studies show that 9 out of 10 customers will read reviews before making a buying decision. More than half of consumers say they would pay more for a product to support companies with good reviews. And 94% of customers admit they have avoided a business due to negative reviews.
The number of review sites underscores the role that reviews play in making decisions. Purpose-built tools like Google Reviews, TrustPilot, Yelp!, TripAdvisor, G2, and a myriad of other platforms give customers places they can go to easily compare companies and products.
Even if you’re convinced you’ve got an excellent reputation, your online reviews may say otherwise. And people are more likely to trust third-party data than anything your company can come up with. The more third-party reviews you have, the better idea you (and everyone else) will have of what people really think about you.
They Also Rely on Social Proof…
Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing. It’s given consumers not only a way to share their thoughts and opinions at scale, but also connect directly with brands to do the same. Sometimes, sharing comes in the form of a direct message. Other times, it’s a comment on your post or advertisement that the whole world can see.
Public social proof isn’t a review, per se, but it does speak volumes about how customers feel about your brand. For instance, if they bought a product from you and weren’t happy about it, they might post a comment on the next ad they see from you. Nearly 78% of consumers say they read the comments on social media posts, so brands should treat them with as much weight and importance as an official review.
…And They’re Not Shy on Social Media
Speaking of social media, users aren’t usually shy when it comes to speaking their minds. Even if they don’t tag your brand in their post or comment directly on your brand’s profile, they could be sharing their experiences with their own audiences.
This can be a great thing for your brand because it helps to spread positivity to a lot of people quickly. But when those experiences are bad, it can also spread negativity just as quickly. Social media has become a safe space of sorts where people feel comfortable ranting about their experiences. Many use platforms like Facebook to seek validation from others, especially when they may not feel validated in the real world.
It’s unfortunate for brands when this happens, especially if customers don’t connect with you first to seek resolution to a problem. But it can and does happen. Because you can’t control how consumers treat your brand online, you need to be prepared to defend it as best as possible.
How to Monitor Your Brand Online in 4 Steps
Monitoring your brand mentions and consumer sentiments online is a feat that requires around-the-clock attention. That’s why more companies are turning to AI-enabled consumer intelligence tools to help them keep tabs on conversations at scale and in real time.
Here’s how AI consumer intelligence can help you improve your brand’s reputation in four simple steps.
1. Get a snapshot of your current reputation.
Where does your brand’s reputation currently stand in the minds of your audience? You need to know your starting point before you can decide what to do next.
Consumer intelligence gives you direct insight into your audience’s sentiments about your brand. Linkfluence looks at both qualitative and quantitative data to compile your reputation report, including things like:
- Social media posts
- Online reviews and ratings
- Brand mentions on forums, blogs, and websites
- Feedback collected from surveys, etc.
From there, Linkfluence uses machine learning and natural language processing to add context to your brand mentions and user comments and feedback. Create a starting point to benchmark your success and watch how your brand reputation changes over time.
2. Use consumer intelligence to start tracking your reputation online.
Once in motion, AI consumer intelligence tools will continue to monitor your brand’s reputation across the internet. When social media users mention you in a comment, your AI consumer intelligence tools will document it. When a customer leaves you a four-star rating on Yelp! or Google, you will know about it.
Each of these events doesn’t stand alone, either. Rather, AI machine learning will look at a variety of factors, such as an influx of mentions or reviews in a very short time span. For example, the occasional bad review isn’t always a reason to panic. But hundreds at once could be a sign of a bot attack or the unrolling of a crisis that will demand immediate attention.
Consumer intelligence helps to dissect events and add context to them. This way, you not only see what’s being said, but can also learn more about why it’s being said and adjust your approach. Detect potential shifts in how customers feel about your company so you can take quick action before content goes viral or comments spiral out of control.
3. Use feedback to shape, tweak, and improve your reputation.
Managing your reputation with real, honest insights is one thing. But changing your reputation for the better based on what others are saying is quite another.
As you’re collecting consumer intelligence across the web, you also need to consider how to use those insights to grow your brand reputation.
For instance, you may find that customer complaints about long customer service response times is a recurring theme. This is something you may be able to improve by using live chat bots, a self-service resource center, or a dedicated customer service phone number for a specific problem. When customers find resolution faster, this may also improve your brand reputation.
One of the biggest advantages of using AI consumer intelligence to improve your reputation is learning the context behind conversations. You’re not just collecting mentions and reviews. AI machine learning and natural language processing turn data into insights. The dots are connected for you, so you can spend more time fixing and responding and less time analyzing.
Is AI Consumer Intelligence the Next Era of Reputation Management?
Your brand’s reputation isn’t something that’s out of your control. In fact, today’s consumer intelligence tools have put brand reputation management more within your reach than ever.
Discover exactly where you stand with your customers and the general public. Track your reputation across the web and watch how it evolves over time. And take quick action when your reputation starts to take a dip and mitigate damage to the image it’s taken you years to build.
To learn more about how Linkfluence gives you the power of AI consumer intelligence, contact us today.