Managing online reviews is a fairly easy task if you’re talking only about reviews left on your own ecommerce site. It becomes far more difficult when dealing with third-party sites that you don’t have any direct control over, and it becomes extremely difficult if you find yourself managing online reviews across a wide variety of different platforms.

That’s an increasingly common situation, not just for companies who list their products through multiple third-party retailers but also for those that have directed customers to dedicated online review sites. That, by the way, is something you absolutely should do if your company has a page on such sites. It may complicate your digital marketing strategy, but it’ll be worth it, especially if you develop some skill in managing online reviews.

That management is a multi-stage process, and it starts by trying to maximize your chances of a good average star-rating or other review metric at the outset. That means appealing to satisfied customers to leave positive feedback wherever they might be inclined to do so. It does not, however, mean trying to discourage unsatisfied customers or suppress their bad reviews beneath the good ones. That strategy can easily backfire.

That isn’t to say that you should let nature take its course on any given review site; but it’s increasingly important to take a delicate approach to managing online reviews. If you are too heavy-handed in reacting to negative reviews, you run a risk of giving the impression that your digital marketing strategy is deceptive and that you are hiding negative customer interactions rather than addressing them. If that narrative becomes prevalent, it may be more difficult to escape from than the negative reviews themselves.

Managing online reviews often means promoting the good while passively accepting the bad. Reviews that seem belligerent or unreasonable should probably be ignored, while those that seem productive should be fodder for your efforts to improve customer relations and cultivate a reputation as a compassionate and self-aware company.

Self-promotion and self-aggrandizement have their place. You can link to highly positive reviews from your company website or social media pages; you can include excerpts from them in your promotional materials; and you can reach out to their authors in an effort to cultivate repeat business and let similar positive feedback proliferate to other sites and other product listings. All of this serves to make positive reviews more visible, but it all constitutes only half the battle, at most.

Engaging with certain types of negative feedback is also part of managing online reviews. When customers seem to have legitimate complaints and have voiced them in public, it’s usually a good idea to be equally public with your response, and to focus on fixing the issue for that customer, rather than contradicting their complaints. That strategy might not often lead to negative reviews being retracted, but it will generally give onlookers a positive impression of your company’s culture and values.

In the long run, that should be the goal for managing online reviews – to shape the public’s overall perception into something positive, not to manipulate them into seeing only the praise people are giving you.