Why Managing Your Brand's Online Reputation is More Critical Than Ever Before
You’re a customer-first brand that prioritizes customer satisfaction, but no matter how hard you try, there will always be a handful of unhappy customers who leave disgruntled reviews or share negative sentiments about your brand on social media. Perhaps they received a faulty product, or maybe they were just having a bad day and the product didn’t live up to their expectations. You can’t please everyone, but having a strong online reputation management (ORM) strategy can minimize the impact of negative feedback to help your brand maintain a positive reputation.
Online reputation management (ORM) involves monitoring mentions of your brand name on the internet, primarily in reviews and on social media. This may sound like a job for your PR team, but ORM is different. PR teams work proactively to increase exposure to your brand and strengthen your reputation. ORM is a more defensive strategy that centers around seeking out negative content and working to minimize the damage.
Virality's Role in Online Reputation Management
In the age of Instagram, ORM is more important than ever before. Social media algorithms favor viral content, and unfortunately negative and controversial content has some of the highest potential for virality. This is because virality is based on engagement. Engagement meaning, how many people are watching the video (most likely a tiktok or reel) from start to finish? How many people are liking and commenting? The more controversial a video is, the higher the engagement will be. This can cause negative press around a brand to spread quickly. However, the phenomenon of virality also causes trends to come and go rapidly. So while negative press around a brand could be trending for a day or two, as soon as a new scandal happens, the internet will all but forget about it.
Internet trends move so quickly that most viral mishaps are often looked past within a matter of weeks. For example, many of us remember the Kendall Jenner + Pepsi Ad Debacle of 2017. For those who don’t, Pepsi released an ad where Kendall Jenner walked into a crowd of protestors, approached front line police, and handed the police officers a can of Pepsi which miraculously ended a conflict between police and protestors. Viewers were outraged as they felt this ad belittled protestors and minimized the issue of police brutality.
In April of 2017 it felt like this ad was all anyone was talking about. Folks on Twitter were calling for boycotts of all Pepsi products, and Pepsi’s stock certainly took a hit. But today, most people scarcely even remember that it happened. This scenario exemplifies how brands can quickly move past even the most ‘cancellable’ scenarios. Between Pepsi’s reputation as a staple household soda and the speed at which internet gossip moves, Pepsi recovered quickly. By May, the internet had moved on to other scandals, and nowadays no one thinks twice about drinking a Pespi. Virality is both an enemy and a friend to brands trying to maintain a positive online reputation.
Online Reputation Management aims to get ahead of any negative sentiments and address them before they become a larger, or even a viral issue. Things rarely escalate to the viral level, but regardless, social media has made people more connected than ever before which enables negative or positive sentiment about a brand to spread quickly if you let it.
Here are a few key steps to an effective ORM strategy:
Hire a Community Manager or Community Management Team
If someone tweets about a negative experience and tags your brand, they expect a response within a few hours. The speed of communication on social media demands a dedicated employee or team to monitor mentions of the brand on Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok. Additionally, if a customer contacts a brand via social media and does not receive a timely response, they may post a negative comment on the brand’s account in order to get the company’s attention, or to express their frustration and gain sympathy from others online. Instagram has even started including a ‘typically responds within’ blurb that users see when messaging a verified business account. People are utilizing social media as a way to get a quick response from a company representative when they have an issue. And this makes sense; we scarcely talk on the phone anymore as everyone communicates through Instagram instead. So instead of relying on a customer support hotline, brands need to meet customers where they're at, which is on Instagram and Twitter. For example, check out this helpful exchange with a member of the community management team at clothing retailer Savage X Fenty:
Their community management team responded within minutes and began working to answer the question at hand. This quick response was possible because Savage X Fenty has a dedicated team managing their social media accounts. If this customer were to receive no response to their direct message, they might start commenting on the brand’s posts asking why they’re being ignored. Then, others will see the comments and develop a negative impression of the brand.
It’s interesting; people spend so much time on Instagram talking to their friends who are also on Instagram all the time and therefore respond quite quickly to each other. But now, people expect the same behavior from brands. Which is fair, since brands want their followers to see their social media content as native and relatable, just like a post from a friend. In turn, brands are held to the same standards that we have for our peers when it comes to social media interactions. These high expectations are exactly why having a community management team is so important.
Provide a Respectful Public Response, then Move the Conversation to Private Messages
Let’s say a customer tags a clothing company in a tweet stating their pants developed holes after just two wears. The customer likely wants two things; a refund and a public apology. A generic example of an appropriate response would be to reply to the tweet stating “This is not the experience we want our customers to have. Please message us directly so that we can make it right.” This way, you’re showing you care and will work to correct the situation, but you're also taking the conversation out of a public forum so the details can be handled privately. The disgruntled customer gets their resolution, and the public viewers of the tweet see that you value customer satisfaction.
The same goes for responding to negative reviews on your website. Publicly state that you are sorry to hear about the customer’s negative experience, and ask them to email your customer service team directly so you can make it right. This way future customers who read the review will know that if they receive a faulty or defective product, the situation will be remedied.
Here’s an example of a great response from Starbucks to a customer complaint on Twitter:
The Starbucks care team expressed empathy, apologized, and provided clear and concise instructions on how to continue the conversation in a private forum. That’s how it’s done!
Do not delete negative reviews or “bury” negative reviews under positive ones. Customers are smart, and an overwhelming amount of 5 star reviews will be seen as a red flag that your company is hiding negative reviews. It may seem counterintuitive, but a couple bad reviews actually help to validate the positive reviews by proving that the feedback is unbiased. However, if a review has overly vitriolic or profane language, it’s best to delete it as that is an unreasonable reaction and you don’t want other customers to be confronted with foul language when visiting your site.
If your company makes a more widespread mistake, quickly post a public apology stating why the mistake happened and what you plan to do to fix it. Utilizing the pants with holes example again, I’d recommend an instagram story post explaining that the fabric was faulty and the team will be sending out higher quality replacements or refunding customers who experienced that issue. The Instagram story is the best placement for a public apology because it is easily visible by your engaged customer base, but it won’t live on your Instagram grid forever like a feed post will. This way, you’ve addressed the issue without drawing unnecessary attention to it, so it can be resolved and your brand can move on.
In order to be forgiven in the court of public opinion, you must truly take action to remedy the issue at hand. This often comes in the form of issuing a refund or store credit for a problematic item. Or if you provide a service, making fixes easy for the customer. Here’s a great example of a helpful response from Jetblue Airways:
The ORM team responded quickly and helpfully. Rather than just telling the customer to stay on the line until they reach a customer service representative, the community manager offered to fix the issue for them. The key here is that they are making issue resolution as easy as possible for the customer, diffusing frustration. This experience could have caused K. M. Sutton and their followers to stop being brand loyal to Jetblue, but by fixing the issue, their team was able to retain a loyal customer.
Stay Informed with Google Alerts
Set up Google Alerts for brand terms so that you know immediately when any negative press arises. Setting up a Google alert is easy. Simply visit https://www.google.com/alerts, type in your brand name and enter in a few settings around where the alerts should be sent and how often you would like to be alerted:
Google alerts are a great way to monitor sentiment around your brand, both positive and negative.
In conclusion, a branding issue or bad review can feel like a big deal, but utilizing our ORM tips, your brand should be able to recover quickly. The internet moves fast! So as long as you’ve got a plan in place that involves reacting to negative sentiment with empathy and truly making things right with your customers, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
ORM is a part of your business that requires empathy, energy and genuine connection between the customer and the brand representative. If you're struggling to find the budget to hire a dedicated community manager, or your current team lacks the time to do community management yourselves, consider using a tool like MarinOne to automate some of your more mundane and time consuming tasks like reporting, paid media ad creation, and ad account optimization. Automate the things you can, so that you can focus on the things you can’t. Click here to schedule a demo of MarinOne today.