The biggest fear companies have with social media is that they may lose control of their reputation. Once you open the door to public interaction, you run the risk of trolls and unhappy customers bringing down your happy atmosphere with complaints and attacks. Some companies are still stuck in the 80s (yes, I said 80s) when it comes to online marketing. They think online marketing should be like the time when the brand controlled the message and the nearest the public got to having a say was when they stopped buying the product.
Now we have a fast-changing digital world where crowd-sourced opinion can rise up against you like a tsunami of anger. Giving customers a public forum is too inviting to troublemakers and those customers who think their small issue is worthy of world attention.
The biggest mistake companies make is not in allowing these public forums to flourish but in trying to prevent them. Nothing breeds discent like a bit of censorship and nothing inflames a bad situation like hard-handed policing. If your company is afraid of embracing social media, consider this – your customers are free to say what they like about you anyway, anywhere they like. Give them a place to converse where you are present and you are more likely to earn respect for it than disdain.
Here are some useful reputation management tips for any company using social media.
- Be responsive. Twitter and Facebook are perfect for customer relationships. If people ask for help, give it to them. Don’t just reply with a stock link to some web page and then not converse.
- Don’t censor. Deal with any issues that arise calmly and factually. Don’t take the bait and fuel the anger. Anything that starts angry soon calms down if you stay calm and deal with it properly. Delete it and you will magnify the problem.
- Deletion of some content is fine if you have some set rules for what is acceptable on your channel. Customers will understand the need for some editorial rules.
- Remember, an angry customer whose problem is solved is likely to become a thankful and calmer customer. How you are seen to be dealing with customers can enhance or destroy your reputation.
- Don’t just assume people are there to talk about your products. People may congregate around your brand as a common interest, but not all conversations need to be about customer service or you trying to sell something.
The more you try to micro manage your reputation on social media, the more you are likely to look oppressive. The more rules you create, the more opportunity there is for people to bait you. Trust in the ability of a crowd to largely police itself.
Often you will find that, when trouble flares up, early trending is dissent and anger, with a one-sided negative view. However, people who are on your side may just be too afraid to speak up. They will appear once someone is brave enough to speak up in your favour. If you haven’t done anything to deserve an attack (like stoking the fire), people will speak up in your favour and the ones causing trouble will then be countered by opposing views.