Online Reputation Management: Past, Present and Predictions

It can be difficult for the average Web professional to monitor every trend and keep up with every piece of technology that may move their digital enterprises forward.

Thankfully, there are thought leaders, like Chatmeter Founder and CEO Collin Holmes, who can shed light on topics that need to be explored further in order to understand how they can impact your company's bottom line. Today, Holmes shares insights about Chatmeter and tips and trends in reputation management by answering the following questions for us:

For the unfamiliar, what is Chatmeter?

Chatmeter is the oldest and largest provider of review management and SEO analytics that provides brands with actionable information about what customers are saying in and around local store locations to better improve a brand's online reputation.


What types of organizations is Chatmeter designed for?

Our target is across multiple verticals including but not limited to retail, auto, banking, property management and healthcare. We only work with brands that have physical stores - at least 20 locations or more for us to work with. The majority of our brands and chains have 200 stores.

What's an area of reputation management that enterprises are struggling with?

Reputation management has dramatically shifted from just monitoring social media or page 1 of Google, to the world of reviews and customer experiences being created on local search sites like Google Maps, Facebook, and Yelp.

This new world of reputation management is more impactful than the old definition of what's on page 1 of Google and there is a potential storm brewing if not addressed. With enterprise chains, it starts with the pure volume of data you must deal with. Someone like Kohl's has 1,200 stores, which equates to tens of thousands of pages they would have to monitor daily for new reviews. In addition, they're getting thousands of reviews each month, which can be overwhelming without the proper software. That can't be done manually. Even if a business only has 50 stores, that would mean opening over 1,000 Web pages to look for new reviews.

Even further, businesses need to transform massive amounts of data into actionable data. Looking at each review individually or even monitoring trends in the average star ratings can only tell so much about a company's online reputation. This is where sentiment analysis tools make a big difference. Sentiment analysis identifies key topics (food, service, ambiance) that customers are talking about and helps companies understand what they are doing well and where they can make improvements. With the transparency of today's world created by the online sharing of these experiences, Enterprises are challenged with creating the best customer experiences to remain competitive. Thus, it's not just about the knowledge, it's about implementing real change in operations, training and management, which is usually the most challenging.   

How can enterprises identify how well/not well they are doing at online reputation management?

The first step is to get a sense of where your reputation sits across multiple channels online. Due to the volume issues associated with enterprise chains, it's best to talk with a few vendors that provide "Review Management Software" who can provide you some insight. Everything is relative and depends on your industry. For example, often restaurant chain reviews skew significantly higher than auto repair. In addition, your locations will vary based on the volume of reviews you may get. Your San Francisco locations should be getting a lot more reviews than your San Angelo locations.  

The best way to deal with those variables is insuring that any software you choose to work with automatically compares your stores with competitors. If one of your locations has a 4-star rating online, but local competitors are averaging a 4.5-star rating, your location could be losing out on potential customers without ever knowing why. It's usually not until the store, the regional manager, or corporate sees these benchmarks in their software that triggers action.

What role do competitors play in an organization's reputation management?

In the local search space, competitors play a critical role in reputation management. When customers are searching for a local business online, search engines return a handful of viable options. Customers then spend a few minutes reading reviews and browsing pictures for each of these options. In essence, they are researching and comparing each business's online reputation. This means that an organization will be competing directly with the online reputations of each of their local competitors.

Competitors can often drive an organization to step up their game.  When you see that your competitors are getting a lot more reviews, or they are actively responding to reviews, that usually forces you to act to make sure you are not losing market share, growing your customer base, and retaining existing customers.

How can organizations better leverage competitor information to understand what needs to be improved within their own company?

One of the biggest drivers for local search rankings (i.e., Google Maps), is the quantity (total), quality (rating), and frequency of reviews for a location. Therefore, it's vital that you are benchmarking these performance metrics with local competitors all the way down at the store level. This is something that typically, can't be done without help from a third-party. With the right software, enterprises will know which of their locations needs immediate attention and which locations are outperforming their competitors online. This type of information and competitor knowledge can then be leveraged to determine how companies should implement operational, training, and management changes to drive better customer experiences where needed. 

How will online reputation management change in the next year or so?

Enterprises are finding themselves emerged in the world of big data. Marketers have huge challenges in front of them due to the tremendous number of marketing channels that have exploded onto the scene, all of which have their own performance metrics. Many retailers have both online and offline distribution channels driving more challenges for measuring customer experiences that are shared online. All of this is driving needs for machine-driven technology such as artificial intelligence, programmatic advertising, and chatbots. Enterprises are not able to read thousands of reviews and understand what topics of their business are working and not working. They will need to start implementing data solutions across a wide variety of content, meaning that today's CMOs and Marketing Directors will need to be more sophisticated than ever. According to a recent survey with mid-sized to large agencies, 61 percent said the top projected revenue growth area is with emerging technology and 40 percent plan on investing more in these areas. It will be exciting to watch how emerging technology will change how digital marketers implement their SEO strategies while utilizing these new machines.

+ Read: The Basics of Responding to Reviews

Another game-changing technology that's impacting reputation is voice search. People are now starting to ask, "Where's the nearest place to get the best sugar-free vanilla latte with soy milk," instead of, "Coffee Shops." That has a huge implication both enterprise chains and the content on their sites as well as the local search providers, their algorithms, and the content they are hosting. Studies have shown that by the year 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. That level of adoption shows how often people are turning to voice search and that to be relevant, enterprises will need to optimize for an entirely different search behavior.

About Collin Holmes
Collin-Holmes-headshot_2017Collin Holmes, founder and CEO, started Chatmeter in 2009. Prior to Chatmeter, Holmes was VP of Product Management and Marketing at V-Enable (now xAD). His extensive experience in the local search industry, both online and mobile, provides a solid foundation for the direction of the company. He has worked in leadership roles at several startups and held other notable positions in product and marketing roles at Akamai Technologies and AT&T Wireless. He earned his MBA from San Diego State University and a BA from UC Riverside.