Managing reputations in the Internet’s Wild West

As technology keeps developing, the Internet does too. It is simply impossible to imagine a world without social media and blogs, certainly for Millennials. Almost every business is traceable on the Internet, going from moving companies to hotels. Not only is it easier to find an accommodation while travelling on the Internet, it is also possible to read and post reviews that can influence other people’s decision making process. Those opinions can make or break a travel brand, as nobody will ever choose a hotel or a hostel whatsoever with 100 bad reviews and two good reviews. But how can companies regain control of their reputation? And is it necessarily a bad thing that consumers have so much power? At the 14th edition of Travel Technology Europe in London, a panel conversation was held to get to the bottom of the world of review sites, social media channels, persuadable blogs and their power. Moderated by Bruce Martin, Managing Director of award-winning social media agency Ginger Juice, the expert panel featured Matt Eames of Feefo, David King of Adobe Marketing Cloud and Professor Dimitrios Buhalis of Bournemouth University.

Bruce started the session by introducing himself and the other panelists, after which he kicked off the panel conversation by asking if the experts actually believe the Internet is a Wild West. Matt Eames feels that the Internet gives a lot of opportunities and believes a business simply should not lie about what it has to offer rather than making false promises and being surprised by negative reviews. “Promising excellence and not being able to deliver it, that’s where the problem lies”, he says. Dimitrios agrees and explains that giving the best value is the only solution. He continues saying we haven’t seen anything yet and travel brands can still manage their reputation. The world of reviews is only the start of customer’s power.

In a world where nearly 50% of the world’s population has Internet access, it is almost impossible to not be visible. However it is possible for brands to take (back) control over their reputation by handling an up-to-date reputation management system. First of all it is import to interact with customers that left a review, either if that was a positive or negative one. “The one that responds will always come out best”, says Matt. “And a product with a one star review can sell better than a brand without any reviews”. David, Livefyre expert at Adobe, agrees with Matt and even says that bad reviews can be good too since it creates a bit of reality. A world that goes by the Hypodermic Needle Theory where mass media ‘injects’ information into a large group of people is long gone. The general public doesn’t just take in everything and can now think for itself and make up its own opinion by interacting with peers. Publishing fake reviews, as a brand, is therefore a bad idea since it could first of all be a lie and the modern consumer mostly sees through them. Consumers are a lot more trustworthy towards other consumers than believing brands that are obviously biased.

But how do you make your content trustworthy as a brand then? David says using User Generated Content is the new way of communicating, certainly in the travel industry where creating memories is so important. Matt says “travel is almost the best for encouraging reviews because if you had a really nice time you are more willing to write something about it compared to buying a washer or a tap with which you are not really bothered to leave an opinion”.
Dimitrios gives another tip: deleting a negative review is a bad idea, friendly responding with plenty of information however gives other consumers the feeling that even if they have a problem, the company will do its best to make it right and is therefore another source of extra information.

 

All panelists agreed on the fact that interaction with consumers is key, no matter if it is a bad or good review. A good response can add extra value to the travel brand’s reputation and can lead to more customers.

Author: Evelien Peeters
https://www.linkedin.com/in/evelien-peeters/