We live in a time where word-of-mouth can travel across the globe in mere seconds. Every little detail can affect how a brand is being perceived by customers and prospects. That's why online reputation management is key to make sure a brand's presence online and on social media is what they want it to be. But often, when panic hits, brands end up doing more harm than good to their brand reputation. Here are 4 ways companies can damage their online reputation - and what social media experts recommend they should do instead.
1. Monitoring your brand - and your brand only
Many businesses have understood how important it is to keep track of online discussions about their brand and products. But they fail to realize that many other aspects can impact their online reputation as well. When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made an unfortunate remark about how to ask for a raise at a celebration for women in tech in 2014, the public outcry followed immediately.
As Cheryl Conner of Forbes writes: "A CEO's personal opinion can quickly turn loyal customers against them and the fallout can live forever in search results."
With the discussion mentioned above going on for months and also raising the question of how well Microsoft itself pays its female employees, Nadella's comment is a good example of how important it is for companies to keep track of what execs and other important company figures say in public spaces, and how those comments can affect overall online reputation.
2. Not caring about online reputation until a crisis hits
No reputation means no bad reputation at least, right? Many brand managers seem to think this is the case and consequently don't worry about their brand's online reputation until it's too late and a crisis hits. But establishing a stellar reputation that can carry a brand through a crisis takes lots of time and effort. One way to go about improving brand reputation and visibility at the same time is to become a voice of your industry, e.g. by offering expertise on industry news and developments or publishing thought leadership pieces.
But that takes time, so it should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. "A thought leader does those things over time, consistently producing material that people will listen to month in and month out", explains Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner.
When working to establish a brand representative as an industry leader, monitoring the progress of these efforts is equally important to find out which type of content best resonates with different audiences. Social listening is an easy way to do just that. By using the Talkwalker Content Analytics IQ App for example, brands can discover which topics and content are driving interest among their audience and industry.
GM foods are currently one of the main topics driving discussion in the food industry.
3. Panicking when your online reputation is threatened
Nobody likes to receive negative feedback, especially not a business. Just like positive reviews can attract new customers, negative ones have the potential to scare off new and existing clients. And no business can afford to lose customers. But there are good and bad ways to react to negative feedback. And panicking will increase the chances of choosing the wrong way to respond.
As Gini Dietrich of @spinsucks says: "Yes, things happen in real-time. Yes, we live in a 24/7/365 world. Yes, it's fast-paced and you have to act quickly. But that does not excuse you from thinking. An issue or a crisis is emotional. You will feel defensive." Her advice instead is to write down what you want to say - and then delete it. After you have gotten the emotions out of your system, you can think about how to handle the situation instead.
A good first step is to gauge the impact of whatever negative posting you received using social analytics. Analysing overall sentiment towards your brand before and after negative posts about your brand were published can help youjudge how serious the situation really is. Setting up alerts that update you about negative posts immediately are another good reputation management tactic. For a more detailed look at how to handle an online reputation crisis using social listening take a look at this case study about a major international bank.
The above screenshot from the Talkwalker Crisis Management IQ App helps brands quickly and easily discover negative brand mentions.
4. "Sitting it out"
Eventually, every crisis blows over. That's the mindset of many people who fail to understand how severe the damage to a brand's online reputation can be even after the shortest of crises - and especially in a world connected through social media.
"The marketing manager and brand police will want to know what is being said about the "Brand" to protect PR disasters from destroying a reputation in hours or even minutes as real time communication offers both opportunity and potential catastrophe at the speed of a tweet", says Forbes Top 10 Social Media Influencer Jeff Bullas on his website jeffbullas.com
In 2011, employees of the pizza chain Domino's posted a video showing them preparing disgusting sandwiches to be served to customers. The video was posted on a Monday and it took Domino's just about a day to respond with a video of the CEO apologizing. The employees in question were fired the same day, but the damage was done - the original video had been viewed more than a million times in less than two days and the damage to Domino's online reputation was enormous.
With time being such an important factor, keeping track of online mentions with a robust social listening tool and setting up alerts to be dispatched at the very first sign of trouble are key to good reputation management. Such alerts should include anything that might turn critical quickly. For food companies, it could be terms like "food poisoning" in combination with their brands; for financial institutions, the term "fraud" and their brand name should always be tracked.
Online reputation management is a key aspect of business success. In order to keep your business's online reputation flawless, social listening - combined with the tips listed above - offer the opportunity to stay one step ahead of what's going on so you can protect your online reputation more effectively.