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Protecting your online brand reputation


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Right now, there are people online with one goal in mind: Take down restaurant brands or extort them for free and/or discounted meals. In our latest white paper, we provide restaurant owners/operators and marketers an in-depth plan for managing their online reputation.

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Protecting your online brand reputation

  1. 1. WHITE PAPER - PROTECTING YOUR ONLINE BRANDReady or Not, Restaurants MUSTProactively ManageTheir Online Brand ReputationAuthored By: Heather Meng – Senior Strategist INF ORM • ENGAGE • INS P IR E • M O V E P E O P LE T O A C T IO N
  2. 2. IntroductionSociety’s adoption of an “always connected” lifestyle has created a newcontext in which a restaurant’s online brand reputation can riseand fall as the result of a few keystrokes. This connected lifestylehas manifested itself through technological advances (mobiledevices, notebooks and laptops) and the evolution of theinteractive Web (rapid growth of social media; viral natureof social networks; and the search engines’ (SEs) high valueof fresh content).The paradigm of managing your restaurant’s brand andinteracting with customers has changed. Socially networkedand active, customers now hold a level of influenceregarding how your restaurant’s brand is perceived in today’smarketplace. As a restaurant owner/operator or marketer,that means you have opportunities to Inspire Advocates toInfluence your brand across the social networks. It also means,you need a strategy to protect your brand’s online reputation whennegative comments are poised to make a damaging impact.Recent news articles indicate this new phenomenon: “Scammers are making some restaurants an offer they can’t refuse: A payoff or discount, or they’ll post a nasty rating on online review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List.  There’s no real data showing how often it’s happening, but anecdotal evidence suggests cyber-extortion is on the rise: scammers know online reviews carry a lot of weight, and can affect a company’s bottom line.” (June 2012) “The lawsuit essentially alleges that the heavily funded startup runs an “extortion scheme” and has “unscrupulous sales practices” in place to generate revenue, in which the company’s employees call businesses demanding monthly payments in the guise of advertising contracts, in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews.” (February 2010) “Mayugba (Restaurant Owner) said it was impossible to prove whether the man got food poisoning from the restaurant but offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice. The man said he deserved $100. If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.” (May 2012)All of this points to the fact that Ready or Not, Restaurants MUST Proactively Manage Their OnlineBrand Reputation. Summit Marketing | 1 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  3. 3. The Reality – Restaurants are Facing 3 New Burdens Custom t er ShifThe reality for restaurant owners/operators/marketers is today’s interactive CulturalWeb has created a platform from which customers are demanding attention.While several factors are contributing to the intensity of this environment, Enginewe will focus on three: Customer Cultural Shift, Search Engine Algorithms, Search msand the Underbelly of Social Media. Algorith1. Customer Cultural Shift lly ofCustomer expectations have changed as a result of the Underbe ia ed“always connected” lifestyle. First, they prefer more than one Social Mcommunication channel to reach your customer service. Thisincludes a desire to make those reaches through social media.Second, they highly regard online reviews and social media postswhen deciding where to dine out.An Oracle social media study regarding the preferred form ofcommunication released in March 2012 titled, “Consumer Viewsof Live Help Online 2012: A Global Perspective” showed that thosepolled anticipated companies would provide customer supportthrough the following social networks: Facebook 46% Company blog 29% Support forum 26% Twitter 17%Additionally, when consumers post questions or concerns on a company’s social network, more than50% of those who use Facebook and more than 80% who use Twitter expect a response within a dayor less.Search Engine Land’s 2012 Consumer Review Survey revealed a growing trust of online reviews. Ofnote, 72% of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. When lookingfor a local business to use: 27% regularly read online reviews 49% sometimes read online reviews 24% never read online reviewsThe survey also found an overall increase in the number of online reviews read by consumers –67% read 2-10 reviews; 7% read 20+ reviews. Summit Marketing | 2 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  4. 4. Customer Use of Online Reviews 30% 2012 25% 25% 2010 22% 21% 20% 20% 19% 18% 16% % of Respondents 15% 14% 10% 10% 8% 5% 5% 5% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 0% 0% 0 1 2-3 4-6 7-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 50+ Number of Reviews ReadThese studies highlight the cultural shift of consumers preferring social media communications with businessesand their reliance on online reviews in their local business decision-making process. Have you met these shiftswith evolving communications strategies?2. Search Engine AlgorithmsWhen your “always connected” customers and potential customers use search engines (SEs) to find informationabout your restaurant, it is important that the Page 1 search results reflect positively on your brand. In order toinfluence the Page 1 results, you should have a fundamental understanding of how the SEs function.Search engines use technological algorithms commonly referred to as spiders, that “crawl” through websites,identifying website elements, determined by the latest algorithmic formula, to rank URLs. Current formulasprioritize fresh content thereby increasing the importance (rank) of recent events; regularly recurring events andfrequent content updates. Because of the prioritization of fresh content, to optimize your SE rank restaurantsmust create their own fresh content; and engage in two-way conversations.3. The Underbelly of Social MediaWith the rise of activity in social media, we are also seeing an emerging presence of online review websites.Unfortunately most of the review sites do not validate customer reviews of businesses. (A snapshot of theirpolicies taken directly from their respective websites is included in the Addendum.) We have divided some popularreview sites into two different categories: Summit Marketing | 3 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  5. 5. Neutral review sites that capture both positive and negative reviews — Yelp (71 million/mo), Citysearch (7 million/mo), TripAdvisor (40 million/mo) — Neutral review example: 4/23/2012 The food was very good! The wait staff were very friendly but the wait time on the food was very slow. We had to wait for our food for 1 hour at least or longer. This is not acceptable. We had a party of five one of our people left because the wait was so long. A person can only eat so much bread water or drinks lol. The food was great but the wait time has to improve. Negative review sites that capture only disparaging reviews — RipoffReport, PissedConsumer, CompanyNameSucks, ComplaintsBoard IS TOO CHEAP TO GIVE AWAY A PEPPER Comments (4) Complaint by on ASU Tempe campus refused to give me a side of hot Review #: 312809 peppers. They always have in the past but now say its corporate policy to Posted by: not give away sides. Yeah they can put it on the sandwich, but not as a side. From: Phoenix, AZ Well I dont like them leaking onto my sandwich, but I do like eating them. Posted On: 2012-04-17 Too bad, they say. No sides. Well cram it with walnuts . Im not coming back. Cheap jackpipes. And their sandwiches arent as good as they pretend anyhow. Im just mad about the peppers.A frightening reality of negative review sites is on one hand they do not validate the accuracy oftheir content while on the other hand for a fee they offer reputation management services. Theethics of their business practices is troubling – as is their steady monthly traffic. Estimated Monthly Website Traffic 4,500,000 4,000,000 3,500,000 3,000,000 Traffic 2,500,000 2,000,000 1,500,000 1,000,000 500,000 - APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEPT AUG NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR APR 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2012 2012 2012 2012 Summit Marketing | 4 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  6. 6. The review sites are sure to affect restaurant reputations one way or another in that: The user generated content (UGC) primes them for high SE rank Unsubstantiated customer comments are posted They generate high monthly trafficThe Result – Restaurant Owners/Operators/Marketers Feel the PressureYour responsibilities have increased. In addition to all of the “business” responsibilities, you also have tomeet the demands of today’s interactive Web. MANAGING THE RESTAURANT TODAYS INTERACTIVE WEB Customer Interaction Restaurant Customer Cultural Shift Vendor Relationships Owner/ Review Sites Operator/ Customer Service “The Books” Marketer via Social Media Menu Changes Inventory Trip Advisor Food Costs Facebook Economy Twitter Yelp Employee Retention Hiring Search Engines Sales: Daily, Weekly, Monthly City Search Promotions Fresh Content Franchise Expectations Unvalidated ReviewsThe result of the Customer Cultural Shift, SE Algorithms and rising Underbelly of Social Media isthe generators of fresh content can impact restaurant brands and reputations. Brands are nowinfluenced by conversations and information shared online, but largely out of their direct influence.Long gone are the days when planned annual, quarterly or monthly marketing/promotion plans set thecourse for a restaurant’s brand positioning and marketing strategy. Rather – to be effective – marketingstrategies must include ongoing online engagement.Where to StartKnowing all of this, where should you begin? Is there a correct approach? What if you say the wrongthing? When should you respond and when should you not respond? Should you seek legal adviceas you determine your approach? How do you balance taking care of your customers and not givingcomps to everyone who complains? How vulnerable are you to false complaints? How long do customercomments and your responses stay posted? You have limited time and resources to dedicate to this, sohow do you prioritize? Summit Marketing | 5 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  7. 7. These concerns are all legitimate and very real. This white paper serves as a starting point for you as youdetermine your online brand reputation strategy.The Solution – Summit Marketing’s PerspectiveSummit Marketing recommends businesses – especially restaurants due to the high volume of usergenerated reviews – proactively monitor and steer your online brand reputation. Step 1 – Know Where You Stand Before you map your online brand reputation strategy, you need to establish a baseline. The baseline should capture your current SE rankings and your current reputation on any customer review sites that show up on the Page 1 results. Search Engines Conduct searches on the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) using your restaurant’s name. Make a list of the Page 1 (top 10) results for each SE. For any review sites listed, read through the reviews to get a sense of your restaurants’ brand reputation on the site. Then categorize the URLs by content that is positive, neutral or negative towards your business. Look for trends across the SEs. Analysis Combine the findings from the SE rank and customer review sites and tier the results. Level 1 URLs are your assets (social media assets, website, blog, etc.) Level 2 URLs are relatively neutral, where you can legitimately influence the information (local websites, neutral review sites, etc.) Level 3 URLs are the negative review sites. Below is an example of an analysis of Page 1 search results on Google: Google Page 1 Search Results Rank URL Posts Notes 1 Client Website: Home Page N/A SEO efforts are working 2 Client Website: Blog N/A Could optimize 3 Yelp 8 4 reviews in 2012; 4 in 2011 4 Trust Link 130 40 in 2012; reviews skew negative 5 Client Website: Contact Us N/A SEO efforts are working 6 Client Twitter Page N/A SEO efforts are working 7 Client Facebook Page N/A SEO efforts are working 8 PissedConsumer 70 33 in 2012; several on same day; all negative 9 Yellow Pages N/A Company profile page 10 Client Asset: Dated Blog N/A Forgotten outdated blog Summit Marketing | 6 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  8. 8. A key component of Summit Marketing’s approach to managing online brand reputations is to deploystrategies that maximize the search rank of green and blue URLs, thereby mitigating the influenceof the red URLs by pushing their search results to Page 2. Step 2 (Develop Execute Your ActionPlan) describes how to: Optimize green URLs through search engine optimization and content creation. Maximize blue URLs through customer reviews and establishing local presence. Step 2 – Develop Execute Your Action Plan The analysis from Step 1 (Know Where You Stand) will guide your brand reputation strategy, the sense of urgency, level of effort and scope. Your plan of action should be categorized by what you can directly affect, what you can influence and what you want to leave alone. Attention Multi-Site Restaurant Models A cohesive online engagement plan must be applied across all locations to maintain brand voice while also balancing local specific messaging to engage local customers. This means providing communication processes and policies and activating social monitoring tools to minimize brand risks; while enabling local restaurants to employ their own LSM tactics. Your brand reputation plan should begin with maximizing the online assets you can directly affect. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies that organically increase website and web page ranking with the search engines are SEO strategies. Summit Marketing starts with a SEO analysis to determine if your website – the cornerstone of your online presence – is performing optimally. We conduct a Barriers Analysis that identifies issues that hinder your website’s SE ranking. Recommended solutions are provided for each identified barrier. Summit Marketing then creates a Keyword Report listing words that align with your business. The keyword report is critical as these words should be used as you write anything that goes online, i.e. website copy, blog updates, social media updates, etc. You will predictably notice a lift in the SE rank of your online assets by overcoming your SEO barriers and incorporating keywords in your online copy. Content Creation Your content should take the form of planned and two-way conversations. Planned content may include press releases, blog updates or social media posts. To help guide your content, Summit Marketing recommends creating an editorial calendar with dates and content topics outlined in advance. This disciplined approach sets the tempo for your content creation. Summit Marketing | 7 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  9. 9. To engage in two-way conversations, you need to know where your customers are and whatthey are saying. We use a social listening platform that tracks conversations on 25+ sites. Ourtool shows us who is saying what, their Klout score and where they made their comment. Thisknowledge allows us to immediately engage with customers to thank them, provide clarificationor to mitigate a situation. A timely, friendly response shows others our commitment to ourcustomers and to customer service. Are you “listening” in an organized and full-coverage fashion? If This Seems OverwhelmingKnow that Summit Marketing can manage your online social presence or train you and your staff how to build relationships with your customers via socialmedia interactions. We teach you how to recognize and Inspire your Advocates to Influence, leading to Improved Revenue, Retention and Reputation.Review Site ParticipationAs you plan your strategy, reference the SE rankings from Step 1 (Know Where You Stand) toprioritize on which neutral review sites to focus your efforts. Now, go to the sites and read thereviews. Look at your ratings, review dates for recency, number of reviews and the reviewers’intent (constructive or malicious). This will determine your scope and level of effort. I f the reviews are negative, but low in quantity and dated – with a focused effort, you should be able to turn the situation around by encouraging customers to post reviews that reflect current comments. I f the reviews are negative, high in quantity and fairly recent – they may have some legitimacy. — Look for trends in the negative comments. — Consider making adjustments in the areas identified by your customers. — nce you’ve made the improvements, re-engage your customers, asking if they O could post reviews about their most recent experience. I f the reviews are positive, but low in quantity or dated – engage your customers and ask for online reviews.How should you approach customers to encourage online reviews? Simply ask. To focus youreffort, specify to your customers the desired review site for them to visit. If you already collectcustomer surveys or feedback, reach out to those happy customers and ask if they can post anonline review about their experience. One innovative strategy to consider is making a tabletcomputer available to your customers during their visit. Train your front-of-house staff to informyour customers of the tablet’s availability for sharing their experience with friends, review sitesand other social sites. Summit Marketing | 8 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  10. 10. Review Site ResponsesJoin in the conversations about your restaurant and respond to both negative and positivecomments. When responding to a negative review: B e timely and concise. M aintain a sincere, unemotional tone. Th ank them for being a customer and for their feedback. O ffer to have them contact you directly.Here are some examples of responses to negative and positive reviews “Thanks for alerting us to this. We work hard to offer good food and friendly service, and I’m sorry that we didn’t meet your expectations. I hope you will give us another chance in the future. If you’d like to contact me directly, please call the restaurant and ask for Ken.’” “It’s very disappointing to receive a comment like this. We work hard to offer good food and friendly service, and will investigate the concerns you have raised [or you may like to address the specific complaint in a non-defensive way]. I hope you will give us another chance in the future. If you’d like to contact me directly, please call the restaurant and ask for Ken.” “ Thank you very much for the positive comments. It’s always encouraging when customers acknowledge the good work of our team. We look forward to seeing you again soon.” What Not To Do When responding on review sites, it is important that you do not: — ake a review, for you or for a competitor - Site visitors are likely to F see through this, which will reflect negatively on you. — espond negatively to a review about you - Just remember you R have no control over how long your negative comment will be live on the Web. — gnore the information - If the negative reviews are showing a trend, I investigate the matter and adjust as necessary. Summit Marketing | 9 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  11. 11. Activate Your Restaurants’ Presence on Local Sites Create business profiles on geography-specific sites, such as Citysearch, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, Google or Yahoo! Local. Because SEs favor localized search results, this simple step can influence your Page 1 results. Take advantage of these opportunities. Negative Review Sites – What To Do Ultimately it is your decision how you respond to certain negative sites whose business models thrive on negative comments. Some suggestions we have provided our clients include: S can them, but largely ignore them. People will see the sites for what they are. A ddress your commitment to providing excellent customer service on your website. Perhaps point to a company policy about addressing customer complaints. You may even state that it is unfortunate some review sites exist for the sole purpose of degrading company reputations – and that it is your policy to not interact with or through those types of businesses. Actively apply for awards or accreditations that build your restaurant’s reputation, such as accreditation by the Better Business Bureau. Be sure to show those achievements on your website. You could also respond to complaints posted on the negative review sites, but we don’t suggest that. It creates risk as your brand could get tangled up in their web. If you have considered taking legal action against negative review sites or against a reviewer, please consult with your legal counsel and conduct online searches regarding others who have taken this approach.Step 3 – MeasureAs you execute your Action Plan, periodically track your search engine standings and compare themto your baseline. As you track, note which actions have resulted in a lift in SE results.Continue listening to the social conversations and look for upward trends in positive discussionsand increased levels of “passion” (observed by word choice) in the discussions. Adjust your tacticsas necessary, and continue your social media engagement and proactive online brand management.The Time Is NowIn June 2012 alone, there were two significant changes that underscore the growing trend andsignificance of customer reviews. First, Bing and Yelp announced a partnership. This furtheremphasizes the value SEs have for fresh content. Second, Foursquare announced it would soon beadding a review element to its widely used app.In ClosingKnow that you do not need to be a social media expert. Learn what you can, do what you cando, and if you need extra bandwidth or guidance to help take your restaurant to the next level,let’s talk. Summit Marketing | 10 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  12. 12. References:,2817,2405873,00.asp Summit Marketing | 11 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  13. 13. AddendumSnapshot of online review sites’ content policies. WEBSITE CONTENT POLICY Accuracy: Make sure your review is factually correct. Feel free to air your opinions, Yelp but dont exaggerate or misrepresent your experience. We dont take sides when it comes to factual disputes, so we expect you to stand behind your review. We have no control over, and make no representation or endorsement regarding the accuracy, relevancy, copyright compliance, legality, completeness, timeliness or quality City Search of any product, services, advertisements and other content appearing in or linked to from the Properties. We do not screen or investigate third party material before or after including them on our Properties. TripAdvisor takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any Content posted, stored or uploaded by you or any third party, or for any loss or damage thereto, nor is Trip Advisor TripAdvisor liable for any mistakes, defamation, slander, libel, omissions, falsehoods, obscenity, pornography or profanity you may encounter. Opinions, advice, statements, offers, or other information or content made available through ROR are those of their respective authors and not of Xcentric, and should not Rip Off Report necessarily be relied upon. Such authors are solely responsible for the accuracy of such content. Xcentric does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information on ROR and neither adopts nor endorses nor is responsible for the Xcentric accuracy or reliability of any opinion, advice or statement made. Under no circumstances will Xcentric be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from anyones reliance on information or other content posted on ROR Online Content: Opinions, advice, statements, offers, or other information or content made available through PC are those of their respective authors and not of PC, and should not necessarily be relied upon. Such authors are solely responsible for the accuracy of such content. PC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or Pissed Consumer usefulness of any information on PC and neither adopts nor endorses nor is responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, advice or statement made. Under no circumstances will PC be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from anyones reliance on information or other content posted on PC. No conclusions are drawn by, as to content validity. Complaints Board does not edit or censor posted messages or investigate them for accuracy. IN NO EVENT WILL Company Name Sucks BE LIABLE FOR (I) ANY INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR INDIRECT DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, LOSS OF PROGRAMS OR INFORMATION, AND THE LIKE) ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF OR INABILITY TO USE THE Company Name Sucks SERVICE, OR ANY INFORMATION, OR TRANSACTIONS PROVIDED ON THE SERVICE, OR DOWNLOADED FROM THE SERVICE, OR ANY DELAY OF SUCH INFORMATION OR SERVICE. Summit Marketing | 12 K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M
  14. 14. CONTACT INFO CHIP TOLLIE Director - Commercial Accounts Direct: 913-562-3421 Mobile: 913-220-6636 HEATHER MENG, PMP Senior Strategist Direct: 314-447-3515 Mobile: 314-619-0857 Summit Marketing | 13K A N S A S C I T Y • S T. L O U I S • W A S H I N G T O N , D . C . • W W W. S U M M I T M A R K E T I N G . C O M