In 2006, as a keynote speaker was delivering their high-powered speech at a tech conference in Japan, a Dell laptop suddenly burst into flames.
Pictures and video footage of the burning computer became viral overnight and spread like wildfire across the internet. Thousands of bloggers started bashing the company and demanding they apologize. In a matter of days, the company’s hard earned reputation and goodwill in the marketplace was in jeopardy as Dell issued the biggest product recall in computer history.
In April 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded and the ensuing spill flowed into the Gulf of Mexico for three months before it was capped. This oil spill caused huge damage to the marine and surrounding environment. It also caused huge economic damage.
Meanwhile, BP’s reputation and business took a massive hit – thanks to the huge impact of social media – particularly a parody of BP’s global pr machine on twitter called BP Global PR. A good summary of the social media commentary around the BP disaster can be here: http://andysternberg.com/bp-oil-spill-crisis-management-compounded-social-media/
These are just two examples of how circumstances (the former no real fault of the company’s, while the latter very much the opposite) and the phenomenon of social media can impact on business nowadays.
Today many businesses have experienced, through no fault of their own, scheming competitors bad mouthing and spreading false rumours about them through social media. These days, the means to spread rumours about a business are many and as a result, it is imperative for businesses to proactively manage their online reputation.
Today, a customer can research a product or service just about anywhere including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and of course, within the dreaded search engine result pages. Reputation Management online is not as tough as one would imagine and can be broken down into four solid pieces. Monitor, Listen, Response and Amplify.
a starting point to online reputation management is for businesses to proactively monitor conversations happening about them. Automated keyword searches can quickly reveal the topics and themes that customers (and competitors) are talking about. Companies often feel overwhelmed in the beginning due to the large volume of content on the internet. But proper configuration and tweaking of keywords can help tremendously.
A business needs to separate the noise from the real conversations taking place on social media about their products or services. The real conversations can be separated into two distinct categories; those that are actively talking about your business, and those that may warn of a storm on the horizon. The latter category requires you to listen carefully and diffuse the storm before it gains strength.
Categorize and separate these conversations into those that need “immediate attention” and those that require “active listening.” This allows time to prepare and to strategize ways to diffuse a situation before the conversation turns into an ugly rant against your company or brand.
Listening requires a careful plan of action with a fine balance between coming across as over protective and defensive and simply monitoring your reputation.
An effective response to ameliorate crises is an art using social media. You don’t want your communication to sound like a well honed PR message. Social media users are highly aware of this and astroturfing ( a term referring to political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but designed to mask its origins to create the impression of being spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behaviour) by companies or organisations
People complain on social media channels because they are not satisfied, and they are usually hoping for a resolution. Always be sympathetic, and put yourself in the customer’s position. This does not mean that you should allow a customer to take your brand hostage while they are ranting against your company. However, responding means first analyzing what went wrong and how you can make it right.
A critical piece that companies often neglect is to amplify the positive actions the company took to satisfy the angry customer. Use social media to let the world know that your company goes to great lengths to satisfy their customers. Amplification of positive experiences with your brand or services goes a long way in the social media world. This amplification is not just leaving a comment behind but finding strategic, meaningful ways to communicate to the rest of the world. This is the art of social media.
These are some of the high level strategy pieces that a company or organisation can employ to manage its online reputation.