The growth and public nature of social media for customer communications is forcing many organisations to re-evaluate how they manage their brand’s reputation online. Perhaps a negative story about the organisation has recently picked up traction online? Or perhaps a high volume of negative comments are posted to social media that aren’t being picked up or responded to?
In each of these cases lack of reputation management on the part of the organisation has allowed them to lose control of the narrative on social media, and therefore how their brand is perceived. Statements such as “Their products are really poor quality” or “Clearly they don’t care about their customers” can very quickly propagate through social media if left unchecked. A social media reputation management strategy is key to combating this.
Reputation is how an organisation is perceived through the eyes of its customers, suppliers, employees and other interested parties. Everything an organisation does – from launching a new service, dealing with a customer query or how its employees conduct themselves online, helps to define an organisation’s reputation.
A strong reputation on social media can help you to:
- Attract and retain customers
- Increase perceptions of quality & service
- Attract high calibre recruits
- Improve employee morale
- Protect against negative attacks
Social media is a key tool to shape and influence brand reputation, however it should not be done in isolation but alongside other marketing channels such as more traditional PR activities through to Search Engine Optmization.
In order to manage your organisation’s social media reputation, there are three key steps to consider:
Any reputation management activity should take place firmly within the context of the organisation’s wider social media strategy, marketing and overall objectives. Specifically, an organisation needs to have established:
1) Social media aims and strategic objectives – What is the organisation trying to achieve through its social media channels and how does this fit with the wider corporate plan?
2) Audience(s) – Who are the primary target audiences? How can they be categorised? What are they hoping to achieve when interacting with the organisation on social media?
3) Channels and resources – Given the objectives and the identified audiences, what social channels and platforms should be used? Has the right level of resource been allocated to deliver this?
“The delivery of enterprise social media is no small feat and many organisations underestimate the resource, planning and project management required to deliver on their agreed objectives”
Before attempting to improve an organisation’s reputation it is important to understand the current customer perceptions. By conducting an audit of existing social media activity; outbound content being posted through the organisation’s corporate channels and any inbound conversations (both direct and indirect), it is possible to establish a benchmark. Without this information, it will be challenging to effectively manage or evaluate any changes.
Measuring sentiment is an effective way of tracking the perception of an organisation over time. At the most basic level, it is simply a case of measuring the volume of positive, negative and neutral comments received. This will enable analysis of inbound social media messages to take place, and demonstrates any shifts in the sentiment of customer engagement.
It is possible to do this manually, however the most time efficient method is to use a social media management platform like SoCrowd.
It is worth remembering that customers will talk about an organisation and its products or services on social media, but not always direct these messages to the organisation’s social media accounts. By implementing a coherent listening strategy (and using tools such as SoCrowd’s Buzz Monitor) these comments can be discovered, analysed and responded to; enabling customer interaction and providing the opportunity to directly manage the organisation’s reputation online.
The final step is taking into consideration how your organisation will manage the process of building and influencing its reputation online. A robust social media strategy should establish a process to efficiently manage both inbound and outbound social media content, whilst ensuring there is consistency in the customer experience.
When it comes to managing the reputation of your own organisation on social media, it is recommended to:
1) Plan what you need to monitor on social media – Listen for conversations that include your company name, product or services, key employees, or common pain points.
2) Don’t think social media operates in isolation – Collaborate with sales, operations or customer service.
3) Focus on engagement – Listen for negative posts and engage with them quickly where necessary, responding to what is being said, and then act to resolve the issue.
4) Move from reactive to proactive – Post about known problems or issues that are potentially impacting customers or your audience, and mitigate possible inbound complaints and questions.
5) What starts on social stays on social – Don’t simply direct customers offline whenever they have a question or complaint.
6) Follow up with customers on social media – Engage with those who have problems or questions resolved by the team to show you care.
Reporting on key social media metrics such as customer sentiment and average time to first response will help you to evaluate and assess the impact of these actions in improving your organisation’s reputation. The SoCrowd platform can help day-to-day social media users with efficiencies, alerts and insights, whilst providing senior management with complete visibility over social media activity.
This blog is an excerpt from The Complete Guide to Enterprise Social Media. Download the guide to read more about adopting social media across large or complex organisations.