Marketing on the internet and social networks carries with it significant risks. Maintaining a good reputation online is vital.
Playing the social network game also means taking the risk of generating negative reactions or comments, or being victim of fraud or parody. Managing a company’s reputation on the internet and social networks is therefore an integral part of any online marketing strategy.
The internet works as a very powerful magnifying mirror, where every defect or failure is likely to be shared across the world in no time at all. There are plenty of examples of respectable companies whose online marketing strategy has been crushed in just a few days following crisis communication which was deficient, arrogant or misplaced. Maintaining a positive online reputation is therefore of crucial importance for companies and for individuals.
Here are a few basic principles to help you manage your online reputation:
- Continually monitor your reputation. The best way of gaging your online reputation is to set up a monitoring device to assess what is being said about you and to be able to react quickly. For example, use Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts or other similar tools. Carry out searches using keywords including your name, the name of your products or service or the name of your most visible employees.
- React (very) quickly. Pointless having the best online marketing strategy, a modern website and popular interactive videos if you do not reply to your audience. Try at least to answer the most relevant questions or comments on social networks (for example, on your Facebook page). In the case of positive comments, a simple “thank you” can suffice to show that you care about opinions. The relevant negative comments can help you improve the quality of your products or services: reply calmly and politely and show that you know how to call yourself into question.
- Locate and follow the best. Every sector of business has its share of bloggers or influential writers on the internet, who enjoy great credibility. Try and get yourself known and appreciated by them.
- Establish a precise policy for the use of social networks within the company. Your online communication should convey an impression of consistency and unity. It is essential that your employees participate by refraining from writing comments that are negative or harmful for your company, including (and especially) on their personal profiles. Draw up a precise charter about your online communication, describing explicitly what can be said by whom and in what circumstances, and make sure your employees read it.
- Post high-quality content. As well as attracting an audience, offering high-quality information of benefit to browsers is the best way to acquire and maintain a positive reputation.
- Drown out negative information. Negative information about your company, whether true or slanderous, may come up on the first page of search engine results. It is sometimes possible to get certain harmful content removed, but this process is usually long and complicated. A more effective way consists of drowning out negative information by getting it removed from the first pages of search engine results. This requires the use of advanced referencing techniques and it may be wise to call on companies specializing in the protection and cleaning up of digital reputations.
- Rely on your virtual community. In a crisis, your fans are your best support. If you have implemented a successful online marketing strategy, you should normally have a faithful virtual community of fans. They will step up to defend you in the event of an attack.
- Have a plan B. The internet is a very responsive and versatile environment. No marketing strategy, even the most professional and best established, is safe from failure or fraud. Pay attention to the results of your efforts and learn the lessons of any disappointments.
Sources: Réseaux Sociaux et Entreprise: Les Bonnes Pratiques, Christine Balagué and David Fayon, Pearson, 2011; Le Marketing en Ligne, Jon Reed and Christine Balagué, Pearson, 2011.