Social media might be full of celebrities and people being social, but it’s a great stage for small businesses to engage their customers too.
Indeed, it’s your chance to show off ‘who’ your brand is, what you do, and why you’ve got the solution to your customers’ problems. Most importantly of all, it’s a chance to show off to the right people.
However, there’s a fine line between success and failure on social media. See, dozens of good moves can see your reputation soar, but just one bad move on social media can ruin all your efforts, bringing your reputation down and killing your brand.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what social media reputation management is, and what you can do to carefully manage yours.
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What is social media reputation management?
Almost all business owners — 97%, in fact — believe that online reputation is important. Social media reputation management is a strategy to prevent havoc being wreaked; it’s about identifying obstacles standing in the way of a good reputation, and finding suitable solutions.
While it’s important to always be looking at ways to grow a business, it’s also essential to look at ways to stop a business being dragged back down.
While each social media reputation management strategy will differ based on the individual needs of a business, there are typically three distinct aspects that are involved:
- Building a reputation;
- Maintaining a reputation; and
- Fixing a reputation.
Where should you start? It helps to know where you stand.
Knowing where you stand
Knowing how your audience feels about you is hugely important in terms of reputation management. After all, you can’t manage your reputation if you don’t know what sort of reputation you have! However, it’s not always easy to know where you stand. Why? Because customers don’t generally talk to you.
The problem is that 96% of customers that are unhappy with the service they received won’t complain to the business… but they will talk to their friends.
The good news is that social media lets you listen to their conversations.
Nope, this isn’t some nefarious, underhand tactic that will get you into trouble. Instead, this is called social listening. It’s a totally legit way of listening to the conversations people are having about your brand so that you can see whether the opinion is generally positive or negative.
And if it’s negative, you can put in place damage control strategies that flip this opinion. This is exactly what Taco Bell did. It used social listening to learn that a number of customers were unhappy with a certain meal. Then, Taco Bell contacted its restaurants and talked them through the exact recipe to ensure the meal was produced to a high standard.
The fact that this all played out on social media meant that public opinion about Taco Bell went from ‘okay’ to ‘amazing, this brand actually listens to its customers’.
Building your reputation
Building a reputation is about being seen as a small business that offers value and expertise.
It’s also about being visible.
Picture it: a giant furniture retailer, with its name plastered all over the web, sells the same bed at the exact same price as a tiny store you’ve never heard of. It’s natural to think negatively about the unknown store simply because it’s unknown.
Building your reputation on social media, then, is about getting people talking about you.
Here are some options.
- Paid options, such as display ads on Facebook. Yes, these marketing methods cost money, but they also work to provide your brand with a greater social media presence. Presence instils trust and ultimately generates a better social media reputation organically. It’s worth spending on.
- Earned media. While paid ads are about getting your brand seen by new people, earned media is about giving existing audiences something worth sharing with others, boosting your reach.
Maintaining your reputation
Maintaining your social media reputation is a little different. This part of the management strategy is less about raising awareness, and more about engaging in the right way with the audience you already have.
The key here is responding to comments and enquiries in a timely manner, and in a way that not only provides value to the individual but which also encourages them to stick around and engage further with your brand.
Fixing your reputation
Can things go wrong? Absolutely. Will they go wrong? Maybe.
The truth is that it’s impossible to please everyone, so a negative review, comment, or post is likely to happen at one time or another. And this is where fixing your reputation comes into play.
Dealing with negativity in a way that rebuilds your reputation and doesn’t damage it further is about knowing where the line is, and making sure you don’t cross it.
The thing is that it’s very easy for brands to engage in confrontations with unhappy customers who are venting about something. Nike is one brand who know the reputational cost of getting into a heated online battle with customers (hint: it never ends well). To that end, Nike has a separate twitter handle called @NikeSupport that deals with customer service issues on social media. In this way, its fully trained team handles angry customers effectively and professionally, while the rest of the team is able to focus on what they do best.
On the flip side, Nestle didn’t like what people were saying about its environmental policy and simply shut down its site. It didn’t do them any favours. Instead, it should have been assertive, acknowledged the comments, and taken action.
What sort of action should you take? Probably not the sort of action taken by this coffee shop in Canada.
Through this defensive stance, the business showed that it was not only uninterested in listening to customer feedback, but it also didn’t really give two hoots about its customers’ needs, either. The tweet showed that it had everything it needed. Great. Who cares about the customers’ needs, right?
Instead, responses should acknowledge the way that the commenter feels, which shows you care about their experience. Responses should also be open-ended, where possible.
Responding to negativity is key to social media reputation management, but responses don’t delete this negativity, they simply negate it.
This can be problematic, especially with research showing that just a single negative piece of content about a business can result in a 22% loss of potential new customers; a figure which rises to 59% for three negative pieces, and a whopping 70% for four or more.
A good way to deal with this is to integrate your social media reputation management strategy with your content marketing strategy, creating more positive material that ranks higher than negative articles for the most commonly used search terms.
Keeping it consistent
Believe it or not, social media reputation management itself isn’t the tricky part.
The tricky part is implementing the strategy into your business and ensuring that the strategy is used consistently to support your reputation goals.
Encourage all members of staff, particularly those with access to social channels, to review the strategy regularly and make sure it always complements your brand’s aims.