Guest post by Richard Larson, Brand Manager
With each passing day privacy becomes a thing of the past and every last iota of information about a person or a company is merging with the internet. Despite the internet increasing in age, there are still any number of aspects about it that maintain its Wild West feel. One of the latest and most important concepts on the virtual free range is reputation management.
People are increasingly taking to the internet to publicize any and all negative feedback or criticism they may have of your company. My elderly parents got mad at Walgreen’s recently and my mom mentioned that she might call the company and complain. I literally laughed at her. Nobody calls and complains anymore. Rather everyone takes to the internet, and more often than not, to social media to air their grievances. A phone call goes to one person, but one little bit of negativity on the internet, immediately pings out to the entire world like radar. So with that in mind, here are 5 common mistakes to avoid making, in terms of online reputation management.
1. Real World Mistakes Lead to Online Blowback. Gone are the days when a company could make a mistake and have it go unnoticed. I went out to dinner recently with my parents for my mom’s birthday. At the end of the meal, I asked the waiter if he could do something for dessert for my mom; assuming that the dessert would be on the house for her birthday. The restaurant ended up charging us for the dessert. As far as I know, most restaurants usually have the courtesy not to charge for the dessert on a birthday, if they want your business back. This faux pas didn’t cross my threshold to launch an online criticism, however many other people may have taken directly to sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon to voice their displeasure. One misstep like that and your online image is going to take a hit.
2. Not Establishing An Employee Social Media Policy. This seems to be common sense, however many companies are slow to react to the furious evolution of social media activity. The best way to react to a public relations disaster is by not letting it happen. Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Look to the NFL as a perfect example. It seems that every other week players are sending out the most image damaging Tweets you can imagine. By creating a policy you set boundaries for what you expect as acceptable behavior. You may also be legally protecting yourself from potential fallout.
3. Keep Business and Personal Separate on Social Media. Consider this the new “separation between church and state.” Politics and social issues are becoming more and more polarized in the United States. What you personally believe, may be shared by many, but not by all. There is a good chance that if you express a political thought on your company page, there will be a loud and vocal minority ready and waiting to jump all over the opportunity to bash your company, and maybe turn it into a boycott (See Papa John’s Pizza). Your personal views on sex, religion and politics have no place in social media. Just like most people regard this trio as taboo in public social situations it is also off limits in the social media arena.
4. Replying to Anger with More Anger. If your company is on Facebook there will be a day when an angry customer lights up your page like the 4th of July. Much like #1, the days of getting angry with a customer and the rest of the world not seeing it are over. Sure there will be times when some complaints are invalid or illegitimate. However the complaints that are sincere and on target must be responded to properly. This means not taking a defensive or competitive tone with the customer. Rather always introduce yourself, register the customer’s complaint, tell them how you plan to rectify it, and strongly consider re-establishing trust by offering an exchange, refund or even store/company credit. This will make your online reputation shine.
5. Dismissing Online Comments and Reviews. Courtesy, courtesy, courtesy. It’s that easy. Most customers expect you to respond to their feedback on social media and nowadays there is no difference between seeing them face to face in store and engaging them on social media. Take the time to respond to negative feedback even if you had no control over the matter. Politely apologize. You always want to nurture customer approval, trust and loyalty. This also means acknowledging positive feedback as well. Thank people for their business and their testimonials. They will feel appreciated and keep doing business with you.
Bio: Richard Larson is author and Brand Manager for GoPromotional.com, the UK’s leading online supplier of promotional gifts.
Photo credit: eVisibility