Most business owners understand the importance of social media for gaining publicity and connecting with customers. Your posts and pages on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are essential tools for growing your business. However, it’s also important to realize that not all attention is positive. You have to focus not only on broadcasting your messages but also on managing your reputation on social media.
What is Reputation Management?
Businesses have always had to work hard to build and maintain a trustworthy reputation. In the digital age, however, this has gotten quite a bit more complex. You not only have to be concerned with customers with whom you interact directly but also online followers and, in some cases, trolls. Let’s look at some of the major components of reputation management on social media.
Identify the Right Tone and Style
It’s essential to publish content that matches your audience’s preferences. This depends on the type of business you have as well as your own brand. A financial services company, for example, will want to project a more serious and formal image than a store that sells party supplies.
Keep in mind that your reputation is based on your customers’ perceptions as much as what you actually say or do. If you fail to meet their expectations or offend them in some way, your reputation will suffer whether fairly or not. That’s why you need to understand your audience and learn as much as you can about their preferences.
Be Wary of Offending the Public
You also need to be mindful about what might offend people, especially if you’re trying to be humorous. There are countless examples of companies getting into trouble by crossing a line. For example, an infamous Snapchat ad last year asked “Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?” While this ad, which was making light of domestic violence, was quickly removed after a public outcry, the backlash caused major embarrassment for the social media company.
Both small businesses and major brands need to be mindful of broader public sentiments as well as the preferences of their own customers. A controversial post can easily go viral in a bad way. Social listening is important for monitoring your customers’ attitudes as well as public opinion in general.
Create a Clear Social Media Policy
Your employees can help you make a stronger impact on social media. They can serve as brand ambassadors and give your posts more authenticity. However, employees can also do damage to your reputation if they post something inappropriate. That’s why you should have a clearly defined policy for what is and isn’t acceptable.
Depending on how large your business is and how well you know your employees you may want to limit who is able to post on social media under your business account. You can always let and even encourage employees to post under their personal accounts.
Monitor and Manage Online Reviews
Reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List and many other sites can make or break a business today. This has become a major component of reputation management.
- Encourage customers to write reviews. You want to give your customers, especially satisfied ones, lots of encouragement to write reviews. At the same time, make sure you stay within the TOS set up by review sites. For example, don’t offer incentives to write positive reviews.
- Monitor reviews. You should know about it as soon as a new review appears. You can monitor sites manually, use Google Alerts or work with more sophisticated social monitoring tools to track reviews.
- Respond to reviews. It’s always a good idea to respond to reviews, whether positive or negative. Thank customers who took the trouble to praise you. Address complaints in a level-headed way. When possible, take steps to satisfy the customer by offering a refund or replacement. If it’s a complicated issue, ask the customer to contact you via phone or email as you don’t want your review pages to be filled with long interactions about problems.
- Address fake reviews. If you notice a bad review that looks suspicious, report it to the company. If someone who isn’t a customer leaves a negative review, be sure to point this out publicly.
Think of Social Media as Part of Your Customer Support
Customers are coming to expect support on social media. Some businesses offer customer service on their social media pages. Even if you don’t, however, many people with questions, comments and complaints will post on your timelines.
If you don’t answer such queries or respond in the wrong way, it can harm your reputation. One of the most common flaws is that businesses let comments sit on their timelines for weeks without a response. This can turn a minor complaint by a customer into a bigger issue as others may interpret your lack of response as indifference.
It’s a good idea to think of your social media pages as part of customer support. At the very least, respond to customer queries by asking them to phone or email you. If it’s a question that’s relevant to other customers, however, it’s best to post a full reply right on your page.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may experience a social media crisis. This can be a minor hiccup or a serious issue with long-term implications. There are a few things you can do to minimize the damage and move forward.
- Remove problematic posts. If something on your timeline has caused a firestorm, delete it. It’s true that someone can always copy and repost it. However, it’s still best to remove it from your timeline.
- Explain or apologize. Don’t pretend that the incident never happened. Explain or clarify your position. When appropriate, apologize.
- Dilute it. One of the worst things about negative social media attention is that it can become associated with your business for a long time. One way to remedy this is to publish more content on similar topics. This will at least dilute the effect and hopefully push the controversial content down in the search engine rankings.
Your social media activity is a major part of your public image so it’s crucial to monitor and manage your reputation. Make sure everything you and your team post reflects your values and those of your customers. Respond to posts and reviews. Keep looking for ways to improve your reputation to make social media a stronger tool for growing your business.