As a business owner, you may already understand the critical importance of maintaining a positive brand image with your online target audience. As the reputation management and search engine optimization experts at Status Labs point out, even a single negative review or other online complaint can drive away up to 22% of a company’s prospective buyers. However, effective online reputation management involves more than just telling your customers what they want to hear — it also depends on projecting an authentic image that establishes your message as trustworthy.
Why Authenticity Matters
Research indicates that 86% of consumers value authenticity as a top factor in choosing a particular brand. They want to feel that a business is communicating with them honestly and openly, warts and all, so they can buy with confidence from that business again and again. Unfortunately, these same consumers tend to distrust marketing in general. They’ve seen too many companies buy influencers, spin empty slogans, and promise one thing while delivering another.
The positive side of the equation is that you can stand out against this sketchy field by crafting a genuine, authentic brand reputation right from the beginning. Once you’ve made this strong start, you can then focus on maintaining that authentic reputation so it never has to suffer a major or extended slip.
Factors That Drive Authenticity
How can customers and prospects decide which brands seem authentic and which don’t? The following key factors drive the perception of brand authenticity.
- Moral congruence: You can score big points with your target audience by stating your brand’s vision, mission, and values and then living up to those high standards in how you serve your clientele and your community.
- Consistent performance: The most authentic, trustworthy brands consistently deliver on whatever makes them uniquely attractive, from high quality or low prices to an entertaining user experience.
- Honesty: Authentic brands tell it like it is. For instance, a company that offers a premium service confirms that, yes, it does cost more than some others in exchange for extra luxury, durability, or overall quality.
- Transparency: Transparency goes a step beyond honesty to explain why your brand makes the decisions it makes, from selecting certain vendors to contributing to particular causes.
- Relatability: A specific audience will gravitate toward a brand that seems to embrace and include them as part of an overall “tribe.” For instance, Apple’s loyal customers feel they’re on the same cultural wavelength as the company itself.
How to Establish Your Brand’s Authenticity
Now that you know why authenticity matters and what it consists of, how do you create an authentic online reputation for your organization? Since your website serves as the hub of your online presence, start there by posting your brand’s mission, vision, and values. Fill your About Us section with honest, unadorned, straight talk about your company’s history and background. Add an FAQ page to address common questions and concerns as transparently as possible. Above all, include multiple contact links and express your eagerness to hear from customers and site visitors.
With your virtual storefront looking trustworthy, you can now build a social media strategy to match. Blog regularly on topics that affect your target audience, taking the time to issue corrections, rebuttals, apologies, or position statements that reinforce your credibility. Encourage comments, for better and for worse, on your YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media channels. Respond to any negative comments calmly, courteously, and sympathetically, communicating your willingness to make things right and then following through on those promises.
People and brands alike tend to be judged on the company they keep. Bear this in mind when selecting popular online influencers as your marketing partners. When possible, choose influencers who already use your products or services instead of blatantly purchasing their loyalty. Pay careful attention to the influencer’s brand image as well, rejecting those whose apparent values don’t mesh with those of your brand.