Worried about what your customers are saying about you on Facebook? You are not alone. Since 2009, searches on the term “Online Reputation” have soared, indicating that it is a top area of concern for many businesses. Here we describe three steps you should take to protect your company’s reputation and manage the risk associated with social media exposure.
Not worried about online reputation yet? Check out these two examples to see why you should be.
Social Media Reputation Killers: Two Horrible Warnings
They say that if you can’t be a good example, at least be a horrible warning. If that’s the case, it’s pretty clear which of these two categories Comcast and Domino’s Pizza fall into; they’re textbook examples of why monitoring your Internet presence is so critical.
In 2006, an unhappy Comcast consumer took a short home video of a Comcast technician who fell asleep on their couch and posted it to YouTube. The video went viral in the worst way, spawning hundreds of similar “We hate Comcast service” videos, including other videos, real or faked, of Comcast support people sleeping on the job. The story was picked up by everyone from bloggers and Internet pundits to local and then national television news stations.
As late as 2011 the videos were still being posted; the one below which I used in an example at a recent talk showed over 60,000 hits and had been reposted by several different people, each receiving more than 20,000 hits. Millions of Comcast customers got the message, loud and clear.
In 2009, two employees of Dominos pizza posted a video of themselves treating the food in an extremely unhygienic way. While they thought it was just some raunchy humor and a way to pass a boring work day, they discovered their error when the videos went viral and Dominos corporate, forced to action by the wave of disgusted consumers they heard from, fired the employees and pressed charges against them in Federal court.
If either of these companies had had a regular system of online reputation management in place, much of the unpleasantness could have been avoided by a quick response direct to the consumer.
Monitoring Your Online Reputation
There is now an entire industry devoted to “Reputation Management.” While large companies in days past could hire “clipping services” to find mentions of the company in major newspapers, reputation management companies today use a combination of sophisticated technologies and staffing to keep track of company mentions across the web, including social media channels like YouTube. Hiring these services may be helpful, but it isn’t always enough to discover problems after the fact. Here are three steps that you can take immediately to start taking control of your Internet presence.
Three Steps You Should Take Today
- Put a policy in place. Check with your Human Resources Department. Is there a social media policy printed in the employee handbook? If so, has it been reviewed recently to be sure that it still meets the needs of the company? A good policy needs to address many areas: mentions of the company or product by employees who are also bloggers, mentions of the company or product on personal social media channels such as Facebook and YouTube, and resolution processes for “gray areas” or infractions. Team up with your research and development manager as well as the sales team to ensure that the policy covers the needs of all departments. And lastly, communicate the policy with all employees. Millions of employees manage personal blogs, most are present on social media channels, and almost all carry a portable phone on their person capable of posting photos and video in real time. As every employee can have bad days, a strong and clear social media policy is absolutely critical to protecting your business.
- Provide your own outlet for complaints. Customers post negative feedback when they feel frustrated and helpless. Social media channels provide an outlet for them to vent their frustration and strike back at an unresponsive support network. Providing your own outlet or escalation process on social media channels for unhappy customers can make sure that you have the opportunity to solve the problem before it becomes public property. Telecommunications company Celcomm provides a simple example of a customer service Facebook page. People who post their questions or problems on the page get a quick response on the social media channel that the consumer uses regularly. This not only helps Celcomm respond to questions in a convenient and inexpensive way (there is benefit to all of your consumers when you lessen the volume of phone support) but provides a more personal experience for the consumer. You not only protect your online reputation, you have the opportunity for a turnaround. A direct intervention resolving an unpleasant consumer experience may actually get your support page a “Like” and turn an unhappy customer into an advocate. A word of warning, however; do it right. If you do not respond in a personal and timely way to complaints, consumers will look for sympathy elsewhere.
- Monitor your brand. Even after you’ve done what you can to protect yourself, you need to monitor your brand in order to be sure that you respond quickly when a disaster does occur. There are many ways to do this: you can hire a reputation management service, buy a software package, or create your own in-house monitoring page. Even if you prefer to go low-tech and simply search your company name on Google and the main social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) be sure that the task is part of your (or your staff’s) daily routine. Put a reporting structure in place for communication about any negative mentions up the line.
Take negative mentions of your company seriously. The old adage that a happy customer will tell one person and an unhappy one will tell eight no longer holds true; these days an unhappy customer can tell millions of other people in Internet speed. Put a disaster management plan in place, and keep monitoring your online reputation to make sure that you never have to use it.