Water Cooler
Back to All Articles

Online Brand Reputation Management: The Good, The Bad, and the Trolls

Picture this: you live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and nothing’s a secret. One day, Nancy has a bad experience with a clerk at the grocery store. Tales of the rogue clerk spread through book club and golf league like wildfire, and the grocer soon sees his sales plummet.

In this digital age, the web is much like that small town. Rumors take root on sites like Google Places, Yelp, and Angie’s List, and, if left unmanaged, spread and endure, damaging sales like Negative Nancy’s comment did to our poor grocer.

What to do? Some may tell you to ignore the haters and focus on what you do well. We’ll argue the opposite. The first step to effective online reputation management is embracing the negativity that comes with a digital presence.

Embracing Negativity and Acknowledging the Haters

When voicing frustration with a company or product, the web offers the path of least resistance. Online reviews are simple to create, ubiquitous enough that customers don’t feel self-conscious writing them, and often provide users with a sense of welcome catharsis.

If you’re the business owner, however, it may seem like folks only write reviews when they have a negative experience, and then, these reviews are frequently irrelevant, unfounded, or even vulgar. Here’s what to do:

  • If the comment is reasonable and from a customer, respond and offer help.
  • If the comment is unsubstantiated trolling, respond and offer help.

If it’s hard to tell the difference between a troll and an unhappy customer, our Director of Digital Marketing, Derek Blaszak, weighed in on the topic in a New North B2B article.

The moral of the story is no matter what a user says about you online, it’s best to respond and be helpful just like you would in person.

11 Tips for Responding to Positive and Negative Reviews

  1. Monitor messaging around your brand at least once a day.
  2. Whether it’s a team of one or many responding to customers online, have a set of brand-standard responses and resources on hand.
  3. Vet reviews to see if they’re legitimate and always ask for more information. This will help you tailor your response.
  4. Respond publicly.
  5. Respond in a reasonable amount of time.
  6. Try not to delete negative comments.*
  7. Always offer a means of resolution that others can see.
  8. Take it offline. Provide a method of 1-to-1 communication like a direct message, direct phone number, or non-generic email address.
  9. Follow the “rule of two.” Only publicly respond to a negative review twice. After that, it’s on the user to either accept your means of resolution or get over it.
  10. Be authentic and make sure your responses vary. Disgruntled customers will become enraged customers when they receive evidently automated responses.
  11. Remember it’s a real person on the other side of the screen. Be nice. It goes without saying, but if you’re typing something you wouldn’t say out loud to your neighbor, backpedal!

*Negative Comments—To Delete or Not to Delete?

We get it. You see a Facebook troll who has never interacted with your company ripping your beloved brand to shreds. Clicking “hide” or “delete” soon becomes a very appealing option. Still, it’s best to not delete comments because that person may notice your interference and ignite a firestorm about your company violating the First Amendment.

However, if that post is dangerous, vulgar, or emotionally damaging to an individual, your company reserves the right to remove it from any property you manage. In extreme cases, you can even get it removed from properties you don’t own. Every brand has the right to control the content related to their brand as much as every customer has the right to express themselves. Strike a balance between transparency and protecting your brand and customers from vulgarity.

Can’t We Just Avoid It Altogether?

Sorry, friend. The definitive answer is no. Even if you’ve never logged into Facebook, if you have a business, it’s more than likely that your business already has an online brand presence. Because it’s impossible to avoid people talking about your business, it’s essential to take a proactive stance and deal with commentary head on.

At the very least, monitor reviews, comments, and overall user sentiment online. Best-case scenario, you hire a team of professionals to monitor the conversation, resolve the bad comments, and engage and amplify the good comments. It’s much more cost-effective to have a team that does online reputation management than it is to run a 24/7 phone line.

With the right crew in place, you could be raking in stellar Google reviews and leveraging this positive commentary for wide-reaching and highly integrated lead generation, marketing, and sales efforts.

We know an agency who can help. It’s us! Element tackles every part of brand management, including review management, profile verification, directories management, and review acquisition. Give us a buzz and we’ll get cogitating on the best online reputation management tactics for your business.


Be the most enlightened person around the water cooler.