Company reputation value

Online forums about money are perhaps the most active; money issues affect everyone and consumers look to each other for advice on how to save money. Because of this, the audience on these forums is huge, and it can be overwhelming to financial brands to know how to engage with them.

The importance of brand trust

The importance of consumer trust was recently underlined by the 2015 Edeleman Trust Barometer; an online survey of 33,000 people in 27 countries. In the report’s Executive Summary, Edelman wrote that 80% said that they chose to purchase a product/service because they trusted the firm behind it. 63% said they refused to buy a product/service because they distrusted the business in question.

The result of this worldwide survey illustrates that consumer trust of the finance sector rose from 53% of respondents in 2014 to 54% this year. The reverse is true for the global banking sector; 54% of respondents trusted it in last year, whilst only 53% said the same in the 2015 Barometer.

Who consumers trust

The financial services and banking sectors were two of the least trusted industries in the Edeleman survey. It also showed that 63% of consumers trust “a person like yourself;” a higher number than those who said the same about financial analysts (53%), regular employees (49%) or CEOs (43%).

The Executive Summary stated that the trust consumers place in other consumers has a direct effect on your company’s profit margins. 68% admitted that they have recommended a business they trust to a friend or colleague, whilst 58% said they’ve shared a criticism of a firm they distrust.

Sharing online

This begs the question, how are consumers choosing to share information on companies they trust and distrust? Increasingly they’re doing so through online channels such as comments, review sites and forums. The Bright Local 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey found that use of online review platforms such as Twitter, Google+, Yelp and TripAdvisor went up from 2014 to 2015.

The poll also indicated that 92% of consumers now regularly or occasionally read online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good company. Smart Money People’s Customer Reviews in Finance Services survey suggested that 87% of consumers believe customer reviews of financial services are “somewhat important,” “important” or “very important.”

Effect on reputation

What consumers say about financial companies online is important to Google as well. This is why you need to manage comments about your firm on online money forums. As these independent platforms are regarded highly by consumers and Google alike, they tend to rank highly on the first page of a Google search for your business’ name.

Statistics quoted by Moz say that 50.4% of people who do a Google search only look at the first page of the results. This means that if someone posts unwanted content about your firm on a money forum, it could damage your reputation online. 75% of the 1,000 business owners and higher managers polled for our The Business of Reviews Report said that forum posts, online reviews and comments are important to the financial and reputational status of their firms.

Response tips

Finance companies need to know how to respond to unwanted money forum posts to protect their reputation online. Here are some tips you can use to determine how you respond:

  • Assess the post: Does the forum post make a valid criticism of your firm? The answer to this question should dictate how you respond.
  • Say sorry: The first thing you should do when confronted with a legitimate criticism on a money forum is apologise, and address the poster’s concerns. This will defuse the situation, as you’ve assured the consumer that you’ve listened to what they have to say.
  • Go private: The longer you communicate with a disgruntled consumer on a public money forum, the more likely you are to damage your firm’s reputation online. Ask them to communicate via a private direct message to limit the effect of a forum post.
  • Take action: If the criticism isn’t valid and it features defamatory content about your firm, there are a number of actions you can take to address the situation. You can contact the forum and ask for the post to be taken down. Meanwhile if you have the grounds, you can take legal action to restrict the impact a forum post has on your business’ reputation online.
  • Highlight the positives: You should take every opportunity to show people why consumers trust your company. If someone posts a positive comment about you on a money forum, promote it on your blog, social media etc. to shield your firm’s reputation from unwanted content online.

Manage the conversation

You shouldn’t underestimate the effect that money forums can have on your company’s reputation online. Consumers, especially those of financial services, want to hear what other consumers have to say, so manage what’s said about you on forums to promote a positive image of your company online.