Social media can be your biggest ally in monitoring and protecting your reputation online and it can impact several aspects of your business—from managing reviews to dominating search results for your name. When a crisis occurs, monitoring and managing social media are vital. This effort can impact your image and how you’re perceived in the marketplace.
Sometimes, events occur that drastically alter the way your company is viewed by its stakeholders. According to the Institute for PR, a crisis is an event that causes “a significant threat to operations or reputations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly.”
Academic scholar W.Timothy Coombs says there are three different types of crises organizations face – victim, accidental, and preventable. Victim crises are when the organization suffers a crisis due to no fault of their own. Examples of this are seen in natural disasters, workplace violence, product tampering, even Coronavirus. Accidental crises are those that happen despite seemingly good intentions, such as technical errors, data breach (could also fall under preventable), fires, or product defect issues (think Samsung Galaxy) – not resulting from negligence. In other words, it’s unintentional or uncontrollable. Preventable (or intentional) crises are risky events the organization knowingly participates in. Examples include sexual harassment, human-error product harm, or organizational negligence.
No matter what type of crisis your organization is facing, here are five ways social media can protect your online reputation:
- Social media allows you to engage with customers and immediately respond to issues, comments, and crises.
During a crisis, your organization may see an increase in social media comments. Though stakeholders may be speaking poorly about your organization through comments or posts, be sure to remain responsive and do not hide or simply hope that the issue will resolve itself. When you delete users’ comments, it can appear you’re trying to hide something.
Instead of deleting comments, you can use in-app messengers (like Facebook Messenger, and Twitter / Instagram direct messaging) to send private messages to these people to assure them. By directly connecting with people and taking time to send private messages to them, we’ve created relationships and reduced fallout on social channels, which protects reputations.
Silence also isn’t the answer and, during times of crises, no response is a clear response. Acknowledging the crisis and providing your audiences with the information and resources they need, helps them view your brand more positively.
- Social media sites appear high in search results, and because you can manage most social content, you control the narrative (your image online).
Perception is key, and while your organization may or may not be to blame for the crisis, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and protect your reputation online. The first five results on page one of a search are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all search clicks. With this in mind, it is easy to see why complaints, negative reviews, and information about an organization or crisis that appear high in search results can seriously impact credibility, reputation, and sales. In fact, through our ongoing review of our clients’ analytics, we have found that if a complaint (a negative social review/post) appears in the first five organic listings of a search result, a B2B organization can expect conversion rates to decrease by 30 to 40 percent. In some business sectors, we have seen a conversion rate drop 65 percent due to negative content that appears high in an organic search.
The main thing to know is that social media channels appear high in search results. Google places a priority on social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like. As a result, if you have active social media profiles, they will likely appear on page one of a search result for your company or your key executives’ names.
- Social media allows you to post fresh content in real time, so you can consistently and proactively disseminate positive information about your organization to manage perception.
Social media allows you to develop and share a steady stream of content, from resources to stakeholders on managing the crisis – to subject-matter-expect advice. In other words, your content can pop up consistently reminding your potential customers that you are the expert and still offer smart solutions despite reputational challenges. If you proactively build a strong social presence, you can enhance the likelihood that your well-managed social content and profiles appear prominently on search engines so you can manage perception and your company’s image.
- Social media is a tremendous resource for collecting positive reviews about your company, which can markedly influence stakeholders.
The unfortunate reality is when companies receive praise for their services, the positive stories rarely appear and get noticed. During a crisis, you can expect a disproportionate number of negative reviews that communicate an inaccurate view of true customer satisfaction. We have met with companies that have thousands of happy customers and only two dozen negative posts and complaints. The ratio of satisfied to dissatisfied customers was not reflected in the negative reviews that prominently appeared online, and they lost sales opportunities because of a small percentage of unhappy clients. This is due to the fact that only a very small percentage of happy customers posted reviews. This demonstrates the importance of managing your online reputation and developing an ethical system for attracting reviews from happy customers.
Reviews pack a lot of punch. In fact, 83 percent of people in one survey reported that they do not trust advertising, while 72 percent said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from real people. Just how trusted are these peer-review sites? According to a Nielsen survey, peer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising, and when it comes to making a purchasing decision, buyers are 92 percent more likely to trust their peers over an advertisement.
Be sure that customers will see right through any attempt at deception, so be persistent in your efforts to encourage happy customers to post their authentic thoughts.
- Social media channels are a great place to disseminate publicity, views, thought leadership, and expertise, which impact reputation and image.
Here is another way social media can help you protect your reputation: Google and other search engines consider media outlets to be authoritative due to their credibility, fresh content, and heavy web traffic. This means that if you secure earned media coverage, it will rank high in Google’s algorithm—particularly if you syndicate synopses of the articles on social channels with links to this content online.
Then, use SEO tactics, such as link building, to promote it. If you act strategically, then, you can leverage positive media mentions of your company to control search results.
Managing search means managing perception, so work to manage the message and content that potential customers and partners see.
Of course, it is smart to prepare for crisis scenarios that could impact your reputation and organization’s livelihood.