Social media plays a huge part in business nowadays. When using it to its fullest, it can span a range of essential business processes such as marketing, PR, networking and customer services.
However, it’s important to realise how fragile a company’s reputation can be online. A good reputation can result in a loyal band of followers; but on the flipside, one piece of poorly worded or poorly timed content; a fundamental misunderstanding of how a platform works; or a particularly harsh response to a customer complaint can land you in particularly hot PR water.
So let’s investigate some ways to keep your reputation intact over social media.
Even if you’re a seasoned social media user, take some time to re-familiarise yourself with the platforms your company uses/intends to use in order to see how other brands communicate on each and what can be achieved by businesses like yours.
Get up to speed on how users interact with each other, and how to share content from elsewhere. Check out your competitors on each channel – observe the things they talk about, how these topics relate to their industry, what groups/hashtags do they use, what topics appear to be off limits?
As a bit of objective insight, also check out unrelated brands that you like to see how they use certain platforms too. Do a bit of test posting on each social channel and get to grips with how things work; generally familiarise yourself with each platform’s benefits, drawbacks and general foibles.
My advice would be to set up a personal or anonymous account/page to do your research on. This way, any rookie errors or missteps won’t have your company’s branding emblazoned all over them.
Put Everything in Black & White
The next question is to ask whether you’re going to manage your social accounts yourself or are you entrusting it to a member of your team? If you’re delegating, it could really be worth putting together some social media behaviour guidelines to inform staff about how you expect them to behave on the various platforms, what activity is encouraged and what sorts of things are discouraged. You can also include key information about privacy and security policies that they may need to refer back to.
Intel have made their guidelines available online, it’s a great place to draw some inspiration. Provide clear guidance on language and tone, post frequency, what topics are and aren’t appropriate, and any groups or hashtags you would like to be visible in.
This kind of guidance and clarity is key to effective delegation. All direction and information is there in black and white – your team don’t have to second-guess the kinds of behaviour, language and engagement you want them to pursue. Simply saying “keep it clean, moral and legal” is potentially too vague and open to interpretation. Always err on the side of clear direction – leave no doubt in the minds of those responsible for the brand’s social channels as to what your profiles should look like.
Engage with Comments and Feedback – Both Good and Bad
A key point to managing your online reputation isn’t just the information you put out there, but how you deal with comments and feedback you receive over public channels. Always respond to comments, replies and shares in a timely and professional fashion. A simple “thanks for retweeting us, have a great day!” can go a surprisingly long way. Engaging, chatting and being friendly is a genuine way to sow seeds of harmony – it is called social media after all!
However, you aren’t always going to come across sunshine-and-roses interactions. If someone posts a complaint or leaves a negative review, always respond graciously and professionally. Never ignore, hide, delete, bury or discredit any criticism – aim for honesty and transparency at all times. Accept the critique, deal with the issue at hand directly, and don’t be afraid to simply say “sorry”; sometimes it’s just that simple. Respond with empathy and try to make things right for the person wherever you can.
Also be aware that people may be talking about your brand away from your official page or without tagging you in. Every week or so (more if you deal with customer service issues over social) search for your brand name on all of your active social media platforms to see if any such posts are present and reach out.
Similarly, be aware of any reviews and comments left on online listing sites (such as Yell.com) and respond to those too – it may not be social media per se, but it’s still an important avenue to maintaining your online reputation.
Check out our recent articles “How to Professionally Respond to Online Reviews” and “Turning Negative Reviews into Positive Experiences” for more information on how to respond and what to do next.
On some social media channels like Facebook, users can list their employer on their personal profile. Though it may seem tempting to encourage this as a bit of free exposure, it might not work out to be such a great idea. Why? Because whether you like it or not, employees that list their status as a member of your team are constantly going to be associated with your company.
Look at it this way: if someone lists themselves as being in your employ and then posts a silly drunken weekend video, or makes an off-colour remark – your company will be associated with that in a small but potentially significant way; more so if that content goes viral. By maintaining a regime of “employment non-disclosure” over social media, you give both yourselves and your employees the freedom to keep both lives completely separate.
Doing this can also have some personal security benefits too – check out this anecdote over on Forbes to see how.
Protect Yourself from External Threats
Hackers gaining control of small business’ social media accounts is a significant – and growing – threat. Always use strong passwords, never share security information and only give login details to team members you trust. Check out our previous article about protecting your brand from social media hackers.Take control of your brand’s reputation on social media - here’s how. Click To Tweet
How do you currently protect your online reputation? What social media platforms do you receive the most engagement on? Do you have any reputation-handling advice for social media newbies? Let’s have a chat in the comments.