Today, social media is a prevalent and indispensable business tool.
It allows companies to engage with customers and stakeholders beyond ‘traditional’ media gatekeepers and to promote their brands like never before.
However managing corporate reputation in the social media age can be fraught. Companies are only one ill-judged marketing fail or customer service disaster away from a social media firestorm.
Here’s how your company can protect its online reputation (and avoid a virtual lynching) by being sensible, attentive and responsive.
Build your online reputation
Get actively involved in social media and build your online credibility.
Having active social media accounts that are regularly updated, provide useful information, curate and share content of others, and respond to interactions in a timely manner all help to build reputation and credibility.
Having an already established and positive online reputation helps to safeguard corporate reputation when negative or unconstructive comments appear online.
Monitor your mentions
One of the key ways to track and monitor your company’s online reputation is to set up Google Alerts so the company is notified each time key words are mentioned.
This allows you to track and manage online mentions and identify opportunities to become involved before issues get out of control.
Monitoring services like Hootsuite can also track your online mentions.
Have a social media policy
Develop a comprehensive policy for all employees outlining your company’s expectations on the use of social media (both in and out of the workplace).
It imperative that all employees understand their responsibilities and accountabilities when using social media to protect the interests of both employees and the company.
Approach editors, journalists and bloggers directly when they have published incorrect or inaccurate information.
You can ask the website or blogger to publish a response addressing the concerns they have raised and outlining the actions you have taken to resolve the problem.
Alternatively, post a comment on the blog or article with a link to your website detailing how your company is addressing the issue.
Houston, we have a problem
So what do you do when despite being on your best online behaviour your company is facing a crisis?
Here are some tips to managing a social media crisis.
Know how to spot a crisis
The first thing to do is ‘Don’t Panic’. Somebody sending your company a mean, sarcastic or critical tweet or Facebook comment doesn’t constitute a crisis.
Are you finding out your company may have an issue via photos or videos on social media? You could be facing a crisis.
Does the issue affect a very large number of people, or is it generating a huge amount of negative interest? You could have a crisis brewing with the potential to do long term damage to your reputation.
Respond to criticism
It is vital to acknowledge legitimate concerns and respond appropriately.
Acknowledge the posters concerns, say sorry (and mean it), and provide feedback on how the issue is being addressed. This could include live updates (site URL) or posts on what you're doing to solve the issue.
Don’t get into an argument. Provide a direct email contact and take the issue offline if possible.
Social media is real-time, so the faster the response the better your company will appear.
Have a plan
Make sure your company has a plan in place to respond to emerging issues or a full blown crisis.
‘War game’ the issues you know could affect your company. Determine when they can be handled by your communications team, and when they need to be elevated to management and the CEO.
Depending on how acute the issue is it may be appropriate to have your CEO respond via social media.
Have a dedicated page
It may be appropriate to create a Web page with a statement addressing the crisis, to be updated as information becomes available.
This will allow you to direct people to a webpage with all of the information in one place, and will ensure your side of the story is online.
Frequently Asked Questions will also be helpful to keep all staff informed about the crisis.
Stand your ground
Inevitably, as your social media presence grows you will be targeted by people who don’t share the same opinion and your company will have to stand by its activities and decisions.
This is where your hard work to build supporters pays off. In some cases your supporters may step in to help resolve a conflict, call out inappropriate posts or to correct inaccuracies.
Feature image coutesy of Getty.