"Tardy feedback, empty promises, and defensive or aggressive reactions are the three biggest reputational management sins on social media."
Social media tools make it easy for professionals and businesses to stay in touch with their influencers, peers, and clients. It is also a great reputation management tool – if used correctly.
A fear of loss of control has discouraged many from fully embracing the benefits possible through effective and strategic social media communication. The fear is not unfounded, as the nature of social media allows anyone to say anything about any topic at any time they want.
Many react to this risk by not participating on social media platforms. This reaction is however the worst possible option; much more responsible being responsive to comments and feedback about services or a brand in a way that will help build a great reputation.
Know what is being said about you
Managing a brand’s online reputation starts with understanding that online activity influences offline actions. The Internet it not just a faraway place that hosts static websites. It has evolved into a space where people talk to each other about products, services, and brands that impressed or angered them.
It is extremely important to monitor a brand’s reputation on a continuous basis, especially with review websites and feedback posted on social media driving a large percentage of purchasing decisions.
Regular – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon – checking of what is being said about a brand online will provide a good benchmark of the sentiment held towards a brand.
Tools that can be used to monitor online mentions of a brand include Google Alerts, and searching for a brand’s name on review sites and industry discussion forums. The easiest way to monitor social media for mentions is to have accounts for yourself and your brand, and visiting them on a twice-daily basis. Comments won’t always tag and link back to your official profiles, so a search for a brand’s name through the social media platform’s search function might also be necessary.
Know what to do when nothing is being said about you
The previous edition of the Professional Accountant journal included an article on how to effectively use social media for brand building and marketing purposes. Alternatively, there are countless free resources available online that provides advice for beginner to advanced social media users. A simple Google search on how to do social media for business is a great place to start gaining insight into the skills and strategies that deliver the best results.
Know what you want to be known for
A brand can not dictate its own reputation, as reputation is based on perceptions held by stakeholders. These perceptions are informed by a combination of experiences with a brand compared to expectations, and feedback and reviews of the brand provided by peers and influencers.
To manage its reputation, a brand can merely ensure that as many as possible of its actions are geared towards delivering products and services that live up to the brand’s promises and to reasonable stakeholder expectations.
To manage its reputation online, a brand needs to make sure that those communicating online on its behalf is very sure of what the brand wants to be known for. This knowledge will inform the type and tone of responses a brand provides in response to negative comments posted on social media.
When reviewing comments, it is necessary to try and understand the context of the comment, and see it from the point of view of the poster. A good rule of thumb is to never just react to negative comments; rather review, reflect, and then respond.
As an example, if a brand wants to be know as an intelligent, customer centered, professional services provider, then a response in line with: “Thank you very much for the feedback. We appreciate your effort to help us to always improve our service levels. We will investigate the incident, and provide feedback as soon as possible.” is much better than “We are sorry you feel that way. When you contacted us we tried to explain to you why we can’t do what you want. If you want more help, call us on our landline.”
Know who you should trust
It is for this reason that the person managing a brand’s social media should not necessarily be the person that is the most tech-savvy, but the person that has the necessary communication skills to implement effective client care.
The person managing a brand’s online reputation should be aware of everything that is happening in the organisation and with customers; both positive and negative. This will enable them to provide speedy client care online in line with what is happening offline.
Furthermore it is crucial that staff members are aware that their online behaviour – posts, comments, and conversation they make online in their personal capacity – can and will have offline disciplinary consequences.
Know how to use negative comments to your advantage
When dealing with negative comments online, the focus should be on how the brand deals with the comments both online and offline. Tardy feedback, empty promises, and defensive or aggressive reactions are the three biggest reputational management sins.
A reputation manager has a responsibility to respectfully consider the value of every comment and opinion, even if the intent seems malicious. An online response that aids in resolving an offline issue is a proven way of turning disgruntled people into loyal brand advocates or fans.
A good generic process to follow when dealing with negative comments is to publicly invite the disgruntled person to have a private conversation around the issue, and then initiate the private conversation either offline or online. Once the issue has been resolved in private, it might be a good idea to provide feedback of the resolution on the public online forum for future reference for others.
If the disgruntled person persists with damaging comments, use the privacy settings of the social media platform block them from posting, or get legal advice if the potential financial damages to the brand starts getting severe.
Once tarnished, restoring reputation takes time, but is possible through consistent effort and transparency.
A continued refusal to adopt social media as a strategic communication platform is not helping – it is merely a silent approval of the brand reputation others are promoting.