It’s fair to say that the digital landscape has given us all a platform to air every thought that warrants sharing, and also many that don’t!
Unfortunately for businesses, customers will often bypass customer services and immediately go online to air their views. While channels such as Facebook allow you to brush criticism under the carpet (not advised, angry customers will usually respond), reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor and Google can blemish your name on a longer-term basis.
While your customers will always have scope to poorly portray your business online, there are some simple ways to monitor and respond to criticism in a proactive and timely manner.
Here are 6 things you can do to protect your brand and enhance your business reputation on social media;
1. Manage your teams’ social usage
In the digital industry, staff are usually expected to be full advocates for their brand. This can go as far as having work credentials on personal Twitter bios. Staff might also be encouraged to have separate social accounts which are standardised by the company with headshots and handles.
However, the digital marketplace is all about online visibility, and businesses in other sectors are likely to have an entirely different approach to what their staff can share!
Whether you want your staff to represent you socially or not, you need to put a social media policy in place. This will help to protect your business and your team members.
Important issues to consider are:
- What can your staff share? Can your team say they work at your company (LinkedIn aside)? Can they use social media during working hours? This needs to be agreed in writing.
- What is considered intellectual property? Team members might share their work without realising this is breaching contract.
- Ensure your ‘brand voice’ is well communicated. If members of staff will be representing the company via social media, ensure they know how to portray your brand.
- It is always wise to revoke any privileges/change log-in details when somebody leaves the company, however ensure that a strict policy is put in place which prohibits staff from negatively portraying the company once they leave.
- If your team sometimes work outside of your premises, ensure they’re aware of unsecured WiFi connections. Accessing sensitive data in public zones can put your business at risk of infiltration.
Acas also provide an excellent free guide which also takes into account legal considerations and online bullying. You can find it here.
2. Track when your business and brand are mentioned online
There are some comprehensive tools available which help you monitor online mentions, however the most thorough ones on the market can be out of reach for businesses with limited marketing budgets.
Tweetdeck is a good way to monitor keywords associated with your business, staff, suppliers or location. By setting up dedicated streams, it’s a free and easy way to flag up social references and anything which could harm/help your brand.
While Tweetdeck will only monitor Twitter, it can allow you to capitalise on positive coverage, (e.g. some good news in your industry), keep up to date with what senior staff members are posting and monitor your competitors in one place.
Social tools such as Sprout Social are also ideal for monitoring social mentions across Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and while they charge, it is only a small monthly fee.
If you haven’t already set up Google Alerts for your brand and business name, consider putting this is place so you can monitor any new coverage of your brand. While it won’t be comprehensive enough to pick up every review and mention, it’s a free way to receive company coverage via email.
3. Respond to negative reviews
The saying ‘you catch more flies with honey’ is only too true when it comes to dealing with negative coverage of your business. Bad responses to customer complaints have pushed companies into national news – remember, if people take to social media to criticise you then they’ll be willing to publicly share any resulting correspondence.
Take the time to thank positive reviews and address negative reviews by responding sincerely. Apologise, explain, offer to address the issues and prompt the customer to contact you directly on a dedicated email address.
This gives the impression that you’re going above and beyond to help the customer, yet the correspondence remains private. If necessary, set up a ‘Let Us Help’ or ‘Customer Experience’ email for dealing with any customer complaints.
4. Highlight and use positive feedback
Although collective customer reviews are powerful, there’s no reason why you can’t showcase your most positive feedback.
Consider setting up a dedicated customer testimonials page on your website and share positive reviews on your social channels.
If your customers compliment you via emails, phone calls or face-to-face, ask them to review you online too. Send them invites to review you on any industry specific sites (Houzz and the RAR are good examples of sites which allow this) and prompt them to share their feedback via their own social channels.
5. Control graphics and descriptions
When sending out press releases or publishing content, make sure your business is portrayed exactly how you want it to be. Send images over (ideally different sizes) with any news releases and add a company biography at the end of your content. This will save editors precious time, stop any old logos or company services being listed, and allow you a degree of control over your branding.
With content hosted on your own website, pay special attention to the Meta description and featured image too. If you use an SEO plug-in such as Yoast, head to the ‘social’ tab and customise how your content is displayed when shared via the most popular channels.
No matter where your content is shared, you’ll know that any text snippets show your company and message how you want it to be portrayed.
6. Offer great customer service
Can your staff be given more authority to make your customers happy? If you’ve ever paid over the odds for a bad hotel and had to complain at 10pm at night, you’ll understand the frustration when the poor team member on the desk has no control over upgrades or complimentary extras.
Equally, some of the biggest brands fail to have customer service channels which are open when their customers are likely to need them most (for example evening and weekends).
If you sell higher value items via an ecommerce site, it’s worth establishing a help option outside of Monday-Friday hours. When your customer are met with a frustrating error message, a public forum can be the only place they feel their problem is likely to be addressed.
While negative reviews can be crushing, even the most highly rated businesses often have scathing reviews among the reams of positive feedback. By responding quickly and professionally, you can ensure your business is being well reflected amidst even the most unsightly reviews.
This article was written for ByteStart by Victoria Browne, social campaigns manager and copywriter at Fluid Creativity.