Social media is an entrenched part of the corporate landscape, and on the one hand, it’s great. It can be a valuable way to reach out to existing customers, potential customers and potential employees, and to establish and polish your brand. On the other hand, it can be a minefield—if you say the wrong thing, if a customer uses it to complain, or if a former employee decides to air dirty laundry, you may find yourself in a tough spot. Here’s how to tame the social media beast:
- See what has already been said. First things first: conduct an online audit. Do a Google search, see what has been said about your company, and check to see where it lands in search results (second listing, first page or third listing, second page). Use Bing and Yahoo search engines, also. If you're in a service industry, check review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Places. Don't forget employee sites such as Glassdoor and sites set up to take complaints, like the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report. Run searches on the names of key employees or executives at your organization, and also try using search terms such as “I hate [your company name] or [your company name] sucks.”
- Keep an eye on what's happening now. There are social media monitoring tools, many of which are free, that you can set up to let you know the minute your company’s name is called out on a social media site. Google Alerts, Social Mention, Talkwalker and Trackur are four popular choices.
- Give people a way to reach you. To avoid having customers and others complain about you elsewhere, offer them a way to bring any problems or questions have directly to you—and be responsive—instead of leaving them frustrated and wanting to bash you to the world online. You can add an area to your website, like a forum, or assign someone to respond as quickly as possible to emails and tweets.
- Participate on social media platforms. If people can see that you’re reachable and responsive, they’ll be more likely to try to get in touch with you directly and not complain publicly. Stay active on popular sites like Twitter and Facebook.
- Be responsive, but polite. If you do see negative comments and reviews popping up about your company, you need to reply to them promptly and with a helpful attitude. You need to let it be known that you’re actively trying to ensure customer satisfaction, even if people don’t come to you directly. More often than not, people just want you to respond to them. They want to be heard. If they post something and it goes unanswered, that fuels the fire. (For more on this, follow these ideas for responding to positive or negative online reviews.)
Is there anything we haven't thought of? How do you protect your online reputation? Share your comments and opinions below.