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How to track your brand reputation

Spot trends, measure campaign effectiveness and gain a greater understanding of how your stakeholders perceive your brand.

In today’s digital era, maintaining a positive brand reputation is more important than ever before. It can drive sales, help you to attract new customers and retain existing ones, and make a valuable contribution to your bottom line. In contrast, taking a hit to your reputation can spell disaster. It makes sense to make tracking the reputation of your brand a core activity. The good news is that there are a number of handy tools and techniques available to help you. Read on to learn more about the importance of brand reputation management and the strategies you can use to make sure you can monitor and quickly respond to changes.

How exactly does it differ from brand perceptions? Brand perception describes the image of your brand in the minds of current, past and future customers based on the products and services you offer, which can be partially managed through carefully designed marketing activities. For example, customers have perceptions about the quality, value and variety of the goods that you sell, and you are, to some extent, able to shape these perceptions through actions such as your advertising, distribution strategy and pricing strategy. 

The reputation of your brand, on the other hand, is something very different. Think of brand reputation as being the degree of credibility and trust you convey to your customers and to the public more generally. Essentially, it is your company character, and that can’t be managed in the same way as brand perceptions. For example, while you can use promotional strategies to alter perceptions of your brand, you can’t promote your reputation. Building the reputation of your brand takes much more of a sustained effort. It is earned through fulfilling your value propositions and brand promise. That’s why it's important to use a brand tracker to continually monitor your brand reputation over time. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The power of sentiment analysis can help you track brand reputation without having to sift through masses of data.

Sentiment analysis involves analysing snippets of text for their tone in order to understand what people who are talking about your brand really think. The snippets can be anything at all but typically might be online reviews, tweets, comments or customer feedback. Using sentiment analysis, the subjective undertones of the expression is analysed to give a sense of attitudes, opinions or emotions towards a topic. Sentiment analysis classifies the text in three ways:

  1. Positive sentiments
    Positive sentiments evoke some positive view of the brand. For example, imagine you run a roadside cafe. A positive sentiment might be a comment on your Yelp profile like “The food there is really good!” or “Such a convenient location!”
  2. Negative sentiments
    Negative sentiments express some level of dissatisfaction or disdain with the brand and its offerings. If an online review expresses something like “My food was not good and they wouldn’t refund me”, then this is a problem.
  3. Neutral sentiments
    Neutral sentiments express neither positive nor negative feelings. For example, a comment that says “I haven’t tried this place yet, maybe I should” would be classified as neutral.

Obviously, the more positive the sentiments towards your brand, the better your brand reputation is likely to be. So, your goal should be to try to boost positive sentiments and to reduce the relative proportion of negative (and neutral) sentiments. But, to do that, you first need to conduct sentiment analysis. Let’s take a look at how.

In the past, sentiment analysis was a manual activity. Having to comb through reviews and feedback to gain a sense of what customers were thinking was obviously a difficult and time-consuming job. Today, thanks to digital tools and machine learning, sentiment analysis can be performed in real time and with minimal human effort, freeing you up to focus on responding to negative sentiments and driving positive reputation. Some of the tools that are available include:

  • SurveyMonkey makes analysing your respondents’ opinions in their own words a breeze. Understand how your respondents react in their own voice through our open-ended text analysis. With features like word cloud and tagged responses, you can simply identify the most common words and phrases from the answers to open-ended survey questions. We also offer Sentiment Analysis, which automatically categorises your text responses to reveal the emotion behind what people are saying.
  • SentiOne describes itself as a social listening and Artificial Intelligence-driven conversational platform. Essentially, SentiOne’s bots do three things. First, they listen to social media platforms and spaces where customers are talking about your brand, and then they perform real-time analysis of conversations and react automatically by participating in discussions. This means that you can instantly take proactive steps in bolstering your reputation by responding appropriately to negative sentiment.
  • SEMRush is a digital visibility management platform. Its power lies in the ability to do multiple things at once that will help boost your brand reputation, such as managing content marketing, undertaking research into competitors’ actions and reputations, and analysing the efficacy of ad campaigns. You can filter mentions by negative, positive or neutral sentiment, allowing you to easily pinpoint the feedback and comments that are shaping the reputation of your brand online.
  • Another option is Brand Grader, which is an online reputation management tool. You simply enter the name of your brand into the tool, as well as your contact details, and the platform generates a report that shows you where, and how often, your brand was mentioned in the past 30 days.

Another approach you should consider using to track brand reputation is keyword research. This essentially involves getting inside the minds of your customers to understand the language that they use when searching for content online. If you know that customers searching for vintage leather handbags online tend to search for “vintage leather bags” rather than “vintage leatherware”, you’ll be in an excellent position to be able to design the language on your website and elsewhere in order to appeal to your target market. You can then also monitor that same language to learn more about what is being shared online that’s relevant to your brand.

There are two different types of search that you can use to perform keyword research: branded keyword search and non-branded keyword search.

  • A branded keyword is a search query that also includes the brand name. For instance, customers might search for “Gucci vintage leather bags” or “Gucci bags”. 
  • A non-branded search is a search that is not connected to a specific brand, such as the simple search for “vintage bags”.

Monitoring both types of search patterns can highlight elements of your brand reputation. Obviously, monitoring branded keywords will be crucial in understanding what is being said about, or linked to, your brand. However, if you also keep an eye on non-branded search patterns, you can learn what is being said about competitors (which helps you to make inferences about your competitive strategy), and identify opportunities to better connect your brand with popular search terms.

Without using dedicated keyword tools, you can actually learn a lot about the keywords people are using with tools built right into your market research platforms. For example, let’s suppose you wanted to test ad creative. Within your research, you could build a question into your survey that asks “What is the first word that comes to mind when you see this?” The answers will yield many different keywords, which you can use to inform your strategy moving forward.

Online reviews are customer opinions and recommendations shared on dedicated platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor, or on platforms where sales take place, like eBay and Amazon. Many businesses describe online reviews as a double-edged sword. It is a way to conduct brand reputation monitoring. On the one hand, a positive review is a free source of positive advertising for your brand. But what about negative reviews? These have the power to destroy your reputation. There are three main reasons for this:

  • Customers do their research.
    For 89% of UK residents, trust plays a role in making a big purchase, and people are more likely to trust a brand that's established. What's more, 31% of millennials don’t trust companies without a website.
  • Customers trust the recommendations of others.
    Although advertisements undoubtedly have the power to shape customers’ purchasing decisions, customers tend to trust the views of other customers more than they do the word of a business. This includes recommendations from friends and family, but also the reviews provided by strangers encountered on the internet. Moreover, the online environment makes it easier than ever before for customers to seek out those all-important viewpoints. A negative review that exists permanently online can, therefore, dissuade not just one but potentially hundreds of customers from buying your product or using your services.
  • Negative reviews are more powerful than positive reviews.
    This is because customers are more likely to relate negative experiences than they're to relate positive experiences. In fact, 49% of customers recommend a brand to friends or family members without being prompted. Furthermore, people are more likely to listen to negative reviews compared to positive reviews. The trick, therefore, is to try to increase your ratio of positive to negative online reviews.

For these reasons, continually monitoring online reviews based on a careful brand reputation management strategy, brand reputation monitoring and responding to them appropriately represents a crucial part of your overall brand reputation strategy. In addition, reviews are a vital source of information that can help you to identify weaknesses in your business or operation, which in turn can improve your value offerings. 

Thankfully, there are a few review management tools out there to help you quickly monitor reviews and these can be adopted into your brand reputation monitoring protocol:

  • Reputology is a very popular tool for businesses that rely heavily on reviews, such as real estate firms and hospitality companies. It is an integrated tool that allows you to track reviews on a range of social media platforms, such as Hootsuite and Facebook, which is great news if you have a social media strategy that spans multiple websites.
  • Another option is Mention. Mention enables brands and agencies to monitor the web, listen to their audience and manage social media. It puts brand, market, competitor and audience insights at your fingertips.
  • ReviewPush is also great if you think your business will be mentioned in more than one online location. As well as tracking social media platforms, you can monitor reviews on websites such as Foursquare and Yelp. You can also respond to reviews quickly and easily from within the platform, definitely saving you time, and potentially saving your reputation if a negative review pops up.

Waiting for a crisis to occur before starting social media reputational repair can be too late. It’s imperative to have a social media monitoring strategy. 

Social media monitoring is the process of reviewing, analysing and tracking who is discussing your brand and what they’re saying via social media. Monitoring your social media means looking at hashtags, keywords and discussions that are happening within your business’s social media environment. Let’s take a look at some of the tools you can use to help with social media monitoring.

Make it a habit to regularly monitor social media channels for mentions of your brand, your products and your competitors. Respond in a productive way to both negative and positive posts. Clearly, given the number of different platforms and users, it can be a challenging task. However, there are tools that can help.

  • Google Alerts is a free and simple-to-use tool that helps you to track any mentions of your company online. Simply enter your brand name into the search bar and set up an alert. You’ll get a notification every time your brand name is mentioned.
  • Social Mention is a powerful and free social media search engine. Just enter your brand name into the search tool and the system will perform a search that yields real-time results. It also gives you a summary of the top hashtags associated with your brand, the sentiment of social conversations surrounding it and the reach of your keywords. 
  • Zoho Social allows you to capture mentions across multiple social media channels. The platform has a listening dashboard that gives you a real-time stream of updates from your audience across all channels you’d like to monitor.

Probably the most important source of information about customer reactions to your brand is the feedback provided by your existing customers. Brands spend a lot of time and cash trying to appeal to new customers, and certainly that is important, but don’t forget about your existing ones! They're a crucial source of feedback. Existing customers can provide insight into their purchasing experience, into the usability and features of your products and services, and the quality of your customer service. By tracking these insights, you can identify patterns and trends in negative feedback, take swift corrective action where necessary (therefore preventing negative opinions from escalating and being shared widely) and amplify positive feedback.

First, let’s make sure we’re clear about what we mean by customer feedback. Feedback provided by customers is any insight or opinion into your products, services or company provided by a current or previous customer. What we mean by that is that customer feedback does not necessarily have to come in through formal mechanisms, such as a customer feedback form or an online review. 

Feedback is sometimes shared verbally in-store, or it can be gleaned by a follow-up communication in which a customer asks you how a feature of your product works. Since feedback comes in a number of different ways, you need to be constantly alert. Let’s also look at some specific strategies that you can use to explicitly elicit valuable customer feedback.

These days, there are numerous methods for collecting customer feedback. Some of the most popular approaches are:

  • Surveys
    The beauty of surveys is that once designed you can administer them repeatedly, which helps you to track customer feedback over time. For instance, you might consider sending a survey to customers after every purchase, or on a regular cycle, such as annually. If you monitor customer feedback regularly (and also engage in follow-up communication for negative feedback), then you’ll be able to effectively solve problems before they escalate, ensuring your brand reputation remains intact.
  • Focus groups
    Holding focus groups of between five and 15 people is useful if you’re looking for qualitative customer feedback or a little more insight than surveys can give you. It’s also useful if you want to test the possible impact of a marketing campaign or some other activity on brand reputation. For example, you might present focus group members with some advertising copy and ask them to give their feedback in real time. 
  • Word of mouth
    Don’t forget to get customer feedback directly from your customers! The best time to ask is straight after they’ve used your service or purchased from you, when interaction with your brand is still top of mind.

So there you have it: the importance of maintaining a strong brand reputation, and a range of powerful strategies you can use. If you’re ready to start gathering customer insights, our customer experience solutions can help by allowing you to gain the data you need to get on the fast track to customer loyalty success. 

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