As a business owner, you have your hands full with so many important responsibilities; it is easy to lose sight of a few in the frantic scramble of the online marketplace.
One critical point of internet business that is easy to overlook until a problem arises is reputation management.
Why Is Reputation Management So Important?
In decades past, if a consumer had an issue with a business, its employees, or its practices they could tell a few people or try to address the problem in a newspaper. Their reach was limited, and damage control was manageable.
Today, any misstep you make can (and often is) broadcast across social media with lightning speed.
Entire web sites exist for consumers to complain and tear down businesses or individuals. Additionally, even deleted faux pas often become screenshots filed away online for posterity. Left alone, this type of bad press can destroy a business entirely.
For better or worse, every comment, social media post, and review is online waiting to pop up when someone does a search of your business or you. Do not put your head in the sand and ignore the fact that even as you read this, information could be piling up about you somewhere online. It is crucial to remember 86% of potential customers read reviews before committing to a purchase.
Because of this a negative review or a defaming comment carry the potential to erode customers’ trust in you and your product or service.
Who Is at Risk for Reputation Management Failure?
In essence, anyone who puts themselves and their brand on public display does so at their own risk. Whether this is fair does not change the fact that the internet is a very public domain.
Even without negative reviews or comments, things can cast a poor light on your reputation. Seemingly innocent comments, photos, or advertisements are at risk of being misunderstood. Poorly received attempts at humour or sarcasm are among the most frequently misunderstood types of social media postings.
In the case of reputation management, you will be wise to learn from some of the mistakes made by others. Here are some noteworthy fails with some helpful points to take away.
Respond to Consumer Criticism in Measured and Prudent Ways
Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, took criticism from international activist group Greenpeace for damaging rainforests in Indonesia to obtain palm oil.
As a way to make their presence known, Greenpeace requested supporters use anti-Nestle slogans as social media profile pictures. The Nestlé Facebook administrator added fuel to an already blazing fire by demanding, multiple times, the company’s critics remove their anti-Nestlé profile pictures.
Additionally, the Nestlé representative warned the deletion of anyone commenting on Nestlé’s Facebook page with an anti-Nestlé slogan as a profile picture. This response caused the conflict to escalate. Eventually, a company representative issued an apology for the demanding posts.
While it is our natural instinct to defend our self and our own, a few minutes of thought before launching a counter-attack on an angry mob of Facebook users could have prevented the debacle. Furthermore, a social media representative from an outside firm would have exercised control and dealt with the problem by searching for common ground.
Pay Attention to Every Link You Post
Sports network giant, ESPN created an uproar when a recruiting analyst attempted to post about the schools a potential recruit visited. In addition to some legitimate schools, an adult video site was on the list of schools on the social media post.
Even though the post vanished quickly, and a correct version posted, many screenshots continued circulating online. Neither the analyst or ESPN made a comment or apology about the mistake but instead brushed the incident under the rug. All the while, critics continued to bash the network and the analyst.
First, no matter how frequent or routine your posts on social media are, double and triple check the accuracy before posting ANYTHING on the internet.
Second, when a mistake happens, own it as quickly as possible and apologise. Pretending nothing happened, when clear evidence exists, makes your company appear deceitful. A reputation manager would know the importance of a swift response and apology.
Never Ever Use the Hashtag of a Serious Event for Self Promotion
During violent upheaval and protests in Cairo, Egypt information about the unfolding events appeared on Twitter with the hashtag #Cairo. In a case of extraordinarily poor judgement, fashion house Kenneth Cole high jacked the hashtag (a frowned upon action where someone uses a trending hashtag to bring attention to themselves.) Kenneth Cole tweeted: Millions in an uproar in #Cairo Rumour is they heard our spring collection is available.
This tweet brought the fashion company international disdain. The outrage intensified when in an apology, tweet Kenneth Cole representative said the company was not trying to make light of the protests in Egypt. This effectively admitted the company did know the hashtag’s meaning but still chose to high jack it.
Using the #Cairo hashtag showed unimaginable poor judgement. In addition, Kenneth Cole amplified the appearance of their callousness by issuing a half-baked apology that confirmed the company knew the hashtag symbolised a violent upheaval. A professional well versed in social media, would not attempt to high jack a hashtag, especially one that pertained to a dreadful series of events.
Use Automated Responses Responsibly
American Airlines caught the ire of thousands of Twitter users when the company responded to every tweet with an automated message, thanking the customer who sent the tweet for their support. This was not a bad look until the same message of gratitude came as a response to ALL tweets, not just the positive ones. As one can expect, the angry Twitter users became incensed when they received the thankful tweet in response to their complaint.
No matter how advanced our technology is, sometimes there is no substitute for a human response. Use automated responses carefully, or better still avoid automated responses.
How Can I Protect Myself From Reputation Management Fails?
The above examples are just a few ways poor judgement and the improper use of social media can harm your reputation. The unfortunate truth is that you can spend decades cultivating a stellar online reputation for your company and see it wiped out with just a few clicks of a mouse.
- Give your customers a reason to trust you. Make your business practices and philanthropical efforts well known and allow your customers and associates to get to know you. It is hard to make friends in the midst of a crisis, so build trust and positive relationships early.
- Stay aware of what is online about you. If you receive compliments and positive reviews, take a moment to acknowledge and express appreciation. If you see negative comments or poor reviews, take the time to address them as efficiently and pleasantly as you can. You will see damage control is always more effective when it comes right on the heels of something critical.
- Be sure to notice what people are saying to you or asking of you. Many potential customers ask questions about goods or services on Facebook or Twitter. Always scan your pages and be sure you respond to everyone.
- Always control your emotions when responding to critics. Remember that you are not having a private conversation behind closed doors; the world sees your dialogue. A safe rule is if you would not say it to your Nan or your children, do not say it to a client or customer.
- Defend yourself from illegal and unwarranted attacks. Being polite does not mean you are a doormat. If you experience defamation of character, do not be shy about asking local authorities to assist you.
- Consider employing a professional reputation management firm. As much as you may prefer to do everything yourself, there are only so many hours in a day. Focus your energy on what your company needs and allow someone with experience to watch your back.
Reputation management is an area that demands strategic planning and sharp focus. Do not allow yourself to become a casualty of ineffective reputation management.