I recently got an opportunity to do an interview for Reputation.com on the unbreakable link between social media and reputation. How can you keep from making mistakes in social media that can tank your reputation? Here are some thoughts.
What are some of the biggest mistakes businesses make with social media?
The biggest mistake I see businesses making is the failure to be customer-centric. When we work with our brands day in and day out, we think our customers and potential customers view the brand the way we do. Being customer-centric involves an active listening and CRM commitment that strives to put together content that customers can use – stuff that is practical and solves their problems. Instead, we’re busy broadcasting our messages. You can’t live viral campaign to viral campaign. Social media has to be a long-term commitment to develop relationships with customers.
Another huge one is failure to teach people how to use social media responsibly. Allowing interns or inexperienced people to put together key messages on social media with no guidelines can be disastrous. Businesses need to train all their staff to be social media ambassadors – but especially those charged with social media on beha
lf of the business. Responsible use training can cover a multitude of sins provided it becomes company culture and doesn’t just get lip service. See every employee as a potential ambassador and teach them how to use the media responsibly, but train your social media managers to learn how to triage potential problems and not to mouth off online.
What are customers looking for when researching a company online?
Jay Baer’s new book, Utility, is very good at explaining this. Customers are looking for useful information first – they don’t want to know about your products until they know they will solve their problems. And if you’ve been there helping them along with that information, they’ll buy from you. Potential customers are actually looking for the information about what your products do, not necessarily looking for your products. Your content should be customer-need oriented. They will trust you if you’re interested in solving their problems, and that trust will equate to loyalty which ultimately bolsters reputation and increases your bottom line.
Are the goals or messaging in social media different for a non-profit than for a profit business? If so, how do they differ?
I would think so. There’s a difference between selling a product that people need to solve a problem and selling a cause you want people to donate to. I think the motivations are different. Reputation and trust are much more important with a nonprofit. I think the way we approach donors is different from the way we approach customers. However, social media is a media after all – a means to an end. You can put social media to work in a number of different ways, content-wise, and it will produce positive results. I’ve learned a lot about social media from Beth Kanter and Kivi Miller – basic principles of marketing are the same.
What are the most important things a business can do to protect its reputation?
Other than hope people are ethical and behave? I think first and foremost you do a risk analysis and bring in someone (if you can’t do it yourself) that will look at all the areas you are vulnerable in – from operations to social media to organizational blind spots to you name it. And do it at least annually. And make a commitment to address what you find. If you take a look at the criteria for ranking in the top of the Reputation Institute’s annual report, you’ll see there is much more to it depending on your sector. Some sectors are just risky, others have a reputation for being ruthless. Those that have customer-centric missions like Zappos and Amazon will probably always do well because they treat their customers well. You can’t have a good reputation today if you don’t put your customers first.
What is the first thing a business should do when its reputation has been damaged?
That’s a complicated question because it really depends on what kind of an event you’re dealing with. Operational? Ethical? Moral? Is there life loss? Lives in danger? Crimes involved?
Hopefully there is a plan in place. If not, don’t hesitate to get help.
Most companies are not equipped to handle a reputation event because of the turmoil – emotionally and operationally – that is involved. Get help. I can’t stress this enough. Experienced crisis management agencies are invaluable. They will save you long-term dollars and help you shore up your reputation damage before it gets out of control. And call them right away … or early if you see something coming.
If you have to wing it: assess, apologize, make amends and communicate, communicate, communicate. But get help. It’s the best money you’ll ever spend. Get somebody to do a risk analysis now and get a plan in place. You’ll be glad you did.
Get Chris Syme’s latest book, Practice Safe Social: how to use social media responsibly to protect your reputation and build loyalty. It’s available in e-book and print at Amazon.com here.