In an online world where everyone’s a critic, strategic management of your reputation is imperative.
‘Word of mouse’ now heavily influences consumer decisions. Social media drives perceptions and expectations: users spread information, opinions and experiences, enabling others to develop interpretations. What originates as subjective information transforms into a collective truth – determining what publics think about your brand.
Everything online is profoundly public, organisations can’t control what others say, but can manage reputation risks as they emerge. Your reputation should be long-term and authentic. Manipulated facts and distorted realities are quickly exposed and therefore risky – publics love transparency.
“In social media, an organization cannot just look good; it has to be good”
Mia Freedman’s honest relationship with her publics is fundamental to her brand and fuels Mamamia’s success:
“That’s what online enables … I’m not a robot, yeah I’m a hypocrite and I’m inconsistent sometimes. I’m imperfect and I think that this is the most important thing for me to be if I can serve any kind of role”
Your online reputation is not about being perfect, but perfect for your purpose.
Key to managing reputation is tracking what people are saying about your brand online. Look at two factors:
- Volume: know the size of the conversation, how many people are mentioning you? Track a variety of key words: like your brandname, organisation, industry, product, or service. Use Google alerts and social media metrics to formulate a complete picture of the conversation and demonstrate your level of exposure.
- Sentiment: gauge emotion behind the conversation, how do people feel about your brand? Use a sentiment metric to illustrate your brand perception versus competitors, measure success of campaigns and signal dramatic changes to forewarn crisis.
Reputation management needs to pre-empt crises and be ready to react if things go awry. A damaged reputation significantly threatens a brand’s market value, competitiveness, legitimacy and potentially, existence! It affects acquisition and maintenance of customers, and employees too.
- Be speedy and smart: social media is real-time. Quick, clever responses can address issues instantly. Don’t expect things to disappear, they must be addressed meaningfully, immediately. But, a considered and respectful response can counter negativity.
- Be proactive: reduce visibility of negative publicity by publishing positive and useful information. Get information you want people to see ahead of things you don’t. Reducing visibility reduces the harm negative content can do.
The digital age means a brand can be built or broken in 140 characters, make them count!
Aula, P. (2010). Social media, reputation risk and ambient publicity management, Strategy & Leadership, 38(6), 43.