In a world where information flows 24/7 — with instant news sharing from the media and consumers alike literally at our fingertips — businesses and their marketing teams are faced with both advantages and disadvantages when handling their reputations in the online arena. What’s more, the online space is a very public arena fraught with emotion, strong opinions and empowered users who are not afraid to flex their muscles.
The Internet has opened up the ease and speed of two-way, open communication, a concept that brands often pride themselves on when they can successfully achieve it. But, keep in mind that only one way in the two-way communication is controlled: the way in which brands communicate to their followers. The alternate way, the public consumer response, can be a mixed bag of uncensored information that can open Pandora’s Box and sometimes even incite a flurry of negative social media attention.
While communicating with consumers online is a definite must, marketers should also be aware of the volatility in the digital world and understand the negative effects it can have on brands, in addition to the positive influence it can have when leveraged and managed correctly.
Cringe Worthy Moments
There are countless, cringe worthy moments in the media of companies who have made online faux pas followed by severe consequences. From an insensitive Tweet leading to job termination to outcries from disgruntled consumers exposing a company’s poor customer service, and everything in between, these blunders are prime examples of why marketers must be properly trained to handle online reputation management.
It may seem melodramatic to think that a reputation can be made or broken with a simple tweet, but it’s not too far from the truth. Do you remember when the topic of domestic violence in the NFL was primetime news? The hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were trending on Twitter to encourage an open dialogue about the realities and complexities of domestic violence amid criticism of why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship. DiGiorno Pizza blindly tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza,” and the Twitterverse reacted… angrily. Within mere minutes, DiGiorno issued a Tweet apologizing and stating that the company was unclear of the hashtag’s significance. But the damage was done and this Twitter misstep now lives on in infamy.
Yet this is a teachable moment. Every brand wants to be a social media superstar, but you have to be smart and also sensitive when appropriate. Take time, even if it’s only a few extra minutes, to evaluate a hashtag or post to ensure its message isn’t insensitive and that it’s in line with your brand voice and image. Being timely and relevant can be a beautiful, creative process —but it can also be a nightmare if you don’t do your due diligence to confirm the content is not offensive before the whole world sees it.
Of course, there are also the times when negative social media attention seems to be completely unprovoked. This can be through an unfair and unexpected negative review online or direct post to your page. In an industry where exceptional customer service is paramount, it would be ideal if every one of your pleased customers would take to social media to sing your praises (and don’t be afraid to ask for those testimonials!). However, more often than not, it’s human nature to use social media to air grievances.
Unappealing reviews or social posts are bound to happen from time to time, but it’s how the company handles the situation that determines how industry peers and consumer followers will perceive the brand. It’s important to show you care and are interested in working to do everything possible to have a positive, meaningful experience with each individual.
Respond publicly in the same forum, and always remain calm, friendly and professional when engaging with a frustrated consumer. Being transparent and sharing solutions that are in the works are all thoughtful ways to address their concerns. Furthermore, if possible, provide a phone number or alternate direct message forum.
In essence, managing an online reputation requires a similar skill set and thought process that any good marketer should already be implementing in their customer service programs. The difference is that it needs to be handled even quicker, yet with the same amount of consideration before acting.
In the same vein that the Internet can quickly create chaos for a business, it can also swiftly yield success. The key is to understand how.
A large part of reputation management is having a healthy general brand awareness. It’s important that people not only perceive your company in a positive light, but also that they are aware of it at all. This is especially important in a service industry such as pest management, where establishing trust and making connections are vital to long-term customer relationships. So get out there and be active!
According to a study from Ipsos, a leading market research firm, 38 percent of people have recommended a brand they “like” or follow on a social network. The same study also found that on average, almost one in four people worldwide, 22%, said they bought a brand because a friend recommended or followed the brand online.
These findings show that marketers should make a conscious effort to highlight what makes their brand so special in the online space.
Take Coca Cola for example, a brand that forged its path to specializing in spreading happiness—who doesn’t love a soda bottle with their own name on it? The company’s “Share A Coke” Facebook app lets people customize their own label, creating a personal experience for each consumer. According to EConsultancy, this led the Coke Facebook site’s traffic to grow by 870 percent, and page ‘likes’ climbed by 39 percent.
Whether it is tweeting, blogging, using an app in a creative way, or posting online videos, marketers can leverage the Internet to their advantage by using it as a platform to share controlled, positive content.
In the pest management industry, these options can vary, including: positive customer testimonials, corporate social responsibility initiatives, a themed video series such as “the day in the life of a pest professional” or “how you can help keep this pest away between our home visits,” fun, custom content and more. Don’t be afraid to infuse your personality in these posts, too.
Approaching consumers online in a proactive, beneficial way will increase brand awareness, and ultimately parlay recognition into loyalty.
Engage, Engage, Engage
In an industry charged with protecting public health, food and property from pests, the stakes can be high if a customer is dissatisfied with a service. And, in the online universe, companies are held to an even greater level of scrutiny. If you turn a blind eye to online reputation management, you are forfeiting the chance to diminish any concerning conversations, not to mention you are running the risk of a negative situation spiraling further out of control.
What’s more, you could also be missing exceptional opportunities to demonstrate your company’s value as a trusted partner helping to protect both health and home. Share what you do, why it’s important, and always take the opportunity to engage with customers, opening up that two-way communication.