On the Scene: Online reputation management

Negative online reviews are a fact of life.

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But instead of ignoring the problem, or overreacting, businesses should use critical feedback as an occasion to connect with customers, a trio of social media experts said during a panel discussion hosted by Oregon Business this morning.

“Use negative reviews as an opportunity,” said Josh Breese, director of strategy for Anvil Media. Businesses can apologize to customers without necessarily admitting fault, he said.

Customer interaction should focus on “honesty and empathy” said Michael Taylor, creative strategist for Laundry Service.  

About 60 people attended the seminar, which took place in the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower downtown.  Members of the audience peppered the panelists with questions about new media platforms and online reputation strategies.

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Don’t get into a Twitter war with customers, and “don’t respond more than twice,” said Carly Schoonhoven, content marketing coordinator for Iterate Marketing.

“Don’t do anything on Reddit,” Breese said. “They are vicious.”

It’s okay to ask customers for reviews, but businesses should steer clear of incentivizing positive feedback. “It’s inauthentic,” Taylor said. (And in some cases illegal).

Schoonhoven said it’s a good idea to integrate social media and customer service, and to have a pre-arranged plan for responding to online complaints.

“Negative reviews are not that different from one another,” Breese said. 

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Panelists talked about larger social media trends such as the ongoing shift to mobile and video. Customers are looking for immersive video experiences, said Taylor, and young people of course are glued to their phones.

Different channels appeal to different audiences, and businesses need to evaluate new platforms as they come online. But in the end, content is king.

“It’s not enough to have someone managing your Facebook page,” Breese said. The money has to go into content production. “It’s the foundation of what you do.”

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The proprietor of Oregon Caves and Chateau, a Wi-Fi free lodging, asked if running an internet-free destination resort is a viable business proposition in the year 2017.

In an era dominated by ubiquitous social media, unplugging has its pros and cons, panelists said.  “The phone is the best for business,” said Breese, “and the worst for personal and mental health.”