Reputation Management with Social Media
Corporate leaders in nearly every industry, regardless of size or geography, acknowledge that the dark clouds of impending social media crises are gathering. They also believe they know with some certainty how soon a crisis will occur—within the next year. An overwhelming majority of them—79%—said they believe their company is less than 12 months away from as potential crisis moment. Most of them believe that that crisis will arise from within social media networks.
The Reputation Assault
Despite the overwhelming notion that at any time, a company's reputation can come under assault through social media, most executives are totally unprepared to manage and emerge successfully from crises fueled by social media. Nearly half of those surveyed said they lack even a basic form of effective online reputation monitoring. Not only are they not prepared, they don't even have the most fundamental tools to know if their reputations are under assault.
Top 5 Tips for Reputation Management through Social Media
1. Monitor your company's social media reputation.
Everything is discoverable today, and every potential online antagonist is operating in plain sight. Companies need to start listening and pay attention to any and all negative comments.. There are dozens of free and low-costs tools available to assist in the work of brand monitoring and crisis warning. From Google news and blog alerts to far more sophisticated programs that sort through the totality of more than half a billion online updates and posts daily, technology has made it possible for every company, brand manager and corporate communicator to keep his or her finger on the pulse of social media. Business leaders need to begin reputation management today by investing in the listening process.
2. Develop a social media crisis plan.
Most companies have a traditional crisis plan written for a different era. Smart companies today have developed specific plans and protocols to handle a reputation assault through social media. The single most important part of your social media crisis plan will be identification of key players who "own" the responsibility of a social media crisis response. Turf wars between marketing, public relations, internal governance departments will be lethal when you face a metastasizing crisis online. Be pro-active and clearly define specifically who handles these types of crisis.
3. Regularly test your crisis plan.
The old military adage holds just as true in corporate reputation management as in combat: No plan survives the first shot fired. Regularly testing your social media crisis plan by bringing together the key players from corporate communications, legal, marketing and online outreach, to identify areas in need of adjustment and better prepare your entire team for an organized and coherent response.
4. Develop and publish an employee social media policy.
Even in today’s social media world, you can’t expect all your employees to have a high level of social savvy. Socially savvy organizations understand both the value of a highly digitally engaged workforce and the potential threat from an unprepared employee entering into the social media wilderness without a guide. Develop a clear yet short policy that encourages your employees to learn and use social media in their personal lives as the first step. This policy should illustrate best practices for identifying the differences of the ever graying lines between personal and professional activities. In a crisis, a well trained and connected workforce can often be one of the best resources for correcting misinformation and reclaiming the narrative of a company's reputation.
5. Provide employee social media training.
Issuing a social media policy while not providing training is synonymous to giving a loaded gun to an 18-year-old recruit and sending him into combat without ever firing a practice round. Consider investing in a short online or in-person training program that will help your employees understand that in today’s social media world, there is little difference between personal and public conversations. Help employees understand the best practices for protecting themselves while bringing the goals of your social media policy to life in a way that encourages participation.
Why bother with Reputation Management?
We are now all in the business of crisis management. It is not a matter of whether we will stumble online but of when we will each have our moment. Understanding this reality and putting in place the training and protocols necessary to navigate the murky online waters will determine the difference between emerging successfully and suffering significant reputation and financial losses. More and more companies are finding that their customers and constituencies judge the overall quality of their brand based on their response and policies regarding the environment. One way to adopt an eco-policy is to choose green web hosting for your web site.
Social media is positive for businesses, but think twice before launching a social media campaign.
Social media networks offer an excellent way to stay in touch with friends and build your network as well as grow your corporate brand in a positive way. But think twice before posting anything online because it can be viewed by anyone. If negative comments ARE posted by anyone – either a customer or an employee, never ignore those comments. Address them appropriately and your business brand and company reputation will improve.