Friday, 27 May 2022
How people view your business can make or break its future. Here are six ways to protect your good name.
In today's market, your online presence is the first thing people look at before using your services or buying your products. Potential customers will search for your website, browse your social media and check our reviews, so it's essential to have a positive digital presence.
However, the online world comes with risks. It's not uncommon for a company's social media officer to make an ill-judged or insensitively timed post, which goes viral and brings the company into disrepute. And a negative review by a disgruntled customer — or even a vengeful ex-employee — will put customers off and damage your brand. In 2019, the Adobe Brand Content Survey reported that "customers of all ages are likely to stop purchasing if a brand makes them uncomfortable".
"New communication technologies mean reputation issues can escalate dramatically and swiftly," says Dave Stallon, Business Owner and Former Commercial Director of the Federation of Small Businesses. "Social media and round-the-clock news increasingly pose risks to companies' reputations. It's crucial to have effective means of dealing with this."
American business magnate Warren Buffett once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it." Rumours spread quickly and that social media gaff or dodgy review could threaten to undo all your hard work. It could also haunt you for years to come, popping up whenever your company is googled. However, there are ways to protect your reputation...
The starting point for a cohesive social media presence is to create a set of guidelines about how you want your brand to be perceived. Do you want the tone to be serious and authoritative? PLayful and irreverent? Friendly and inviting? Create a statement that conveys this, and make sure all staff review it regularly. All social media posts should be measured against this statement to ensure a consistent tone.
In many companies, social media is given to a junior staff member or intern to look after. This is a mistake as they are representing your company name. Make sure all social media posts are seen by at least one other responsible person before they go public. Anything potentially controversial should be considered carefully and perhaps run past your legal team.
A member of staff should be responsible for regularly (daily or weekly) checking what appears in an online search for your company. You can set up an alert, such as Google Alerts, so you can emailed whenever there are new mentions. Check social media frequently to see what followers have commented on your page and elsewhere on site.
If you find critical comments, it's best to take an amicable approach to defending your business — an overly aggressive reaction only make you look worse. You'll win points by trying to work out issues through discussions, compromise and good customer service. Use clear information to set the record straight. However, in the case of serious libel or a smear campaign, be prepared to defend yourself legally.
Reviews may appear on your own website, social media or independent consumer review websites, and can make or break your credibility. BrightLocal found that 88% of people won't do business with a company that has negative reviews. Monitor reviews regularly and respond to them promptly, whether they're positive and negative. Address criticism constructively and professionally, offer compensation if appropriate, and invite them to discuss it further offline.
If things go wrong, there are ways to prevent a complaint or scandal appearing at the top an online search for years to come, through an SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy. Online reputation management services have techniques for boosting a positive digital profile for your company. Even better, they can help prevent problems before they occur, saving you money in the long run.
It's vital to manage your business's online reputation. Rebecca Fitzgeral, Founder and CEO of StrawberrySocial, explains why:
"Reputation is everything — it's the trust your consumers have for your brand. If your reputation is damaged, it can be devasting. Your comany's ongoing success is dependent on understanding what your consumers want and how it's messaged. Taking time to review and prepare for potential risks can be the difference between success or paying large amounts to correct your reputation.
"Online moderation is the review, monitoring and removal of online content deemed inappropriate by your company. It may involve crisis management, including escalating, signposting help or reporting potential emergency situtations. Many organisations use specific technology for this.
"Through meaning brand/user interaction, online community management increases the size and strength of your community. The message may need to be specific, or customised using your tone of voice. This ensures you're meeting your users where they congregate, and advocating for them. It builds trust and consumers will promote your work and even support you during tough times.
"StrawberrySocial helps clients in five key areas of online reputation and engagement: persona, people, safety and responsibility, politics and divisive topics, and budget. We work with a variety of tools, depending on what best fits the client's needs."
Rebecca's advice for those running an online business:
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