How negative social media can affect your business
- When two employees of Domino's Pizza posted a spoof video on YouTube showing them making 'unsanitary' pizzas, it was viewed over 1 million times before the firm reacted, causing substantial reputational damage
- Charlotte Proudman tweeted an exchange with solicitor Alexander Carter-Silk after he commented on the photo in her LinkedIn profile. Both were publicly criticised, and the solicitor's firm made a public apology
- A Lacoste employee was fired for posting a photo of his paycheque on Instagram, claiming he had breached confidentiality rules
- When O2 experienced major network problems, negative tweets reached an estimated 1.7 million people
- When 60 employees were fired at HMV, the firm forgot to remove their social media access first, and they 'live-tweeted' as events unfolded
- Dell estimated that the average online promotor earns it $32 while the average online detractor costs $57
12 tips for protecting your online reputation
- Set ground rules - set out your expectations of staff (who is allowed to use social media for business, what platforms, what they can and can't do/say, rules on personal use, etc.) in policies, the company handbook, disciplinary procedures, etc. and give regular reminders.
- Encourage whistleblowing - encourage everyone to report anything they see online that may harm your firm.
- Follow the golden rules when engaging with online feedback:
- Respond quickly - you can address problems and challenge misconceptions quickly, preventing escalating situations.
- Move the conversation out of the public domain - use direct messaging and email to keep customer information private and reduce any social media escalation.
- Play nicely - if you're angry, aggressive or come across as uncaring, others may wade in; remember, for every detractor, there'll be many more watching to see how you handle the situation. Always react to reasonable feedback, both good and bad.
- Be proactive - others may be willing to support you in a crisis if you show a genuine commitment to your industry.
- Create a dedicated presence across relevant social media - as Domino's Pizza found out the hard way, if something negative is said about your company, you need to be able to respond quickly. You can't afford to waste time getting set up. Create accounts across the social media platforms where your customers spend their time and on consumer or industry-related forums and review sites. Don't limit your presence to sites where your marketing team prefers to promote your brand and products. If your brand is large, dedicated fan pages and support handles help you manage your presence more quickly and effectively.
- Use automated tools to monitor online activity - different types are available depending on what is being tracked. Here are some suggestions:
- Create keyword monitoring - once you've identified what's important, set up notifications with RSS feeds and alerts for your brand and product names. Use relevant keywords including company name, website address, products, the names of senior managers, competitors, expressions or phrases - i.e. '<firmname> is rubbish', '<productname> scam/ripoff' and so on) and track all mentions in online conversations.
- Engage in social listening - tools including iGoogle, Netvibes, Hootsuite, or Rankur allow you to track sentiment across the Internet. Social media management tools can integrate your inbound and outbound interactions and analyse sentiment to help you prioritise negative feedback and react quickly.
- Learn from mistakes - if you get it wrong, 'fess up' and admit it; don't try to stonewall criticism or stay silent (think Domino's), as the situation can snowball.
- Decide how best to respond in advance - knee-jerk reactions to online comments are best avoided. Try to plan how you'll handle the two main types of negative comments (i.e. complaints and so-called "reputation bombs" - e.g. negative reviews, opinions on hate sites, adverse media coverage) up front.
- Respect the right to freedom of speech - remember that people are entitled to express opinions about your firm, products and brand (under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), so don't overreact and be too heavy-handed. It's all about good judgment, but...
- Know when to fight back - when online content breaks the law, it's time to take a stand. So, if someone uses defamatory language, reports false information, or attacks your brand or company unfairly, then it's time to get serious.
- Get help if you need it - how you deal with such attacks depends on what resources are available, but you might consider referring the matter to the police (to deal with discrimination or threats), legal redress (to have false information corrected or removed), aggressive SEO (to restore your online status - replacing the negative story with more positive ones again), cyber investigations (to uncover the source of attacks on your brand or company - e.g. by rivals or states), and more.
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