Controversial or unique postings can go viral rapidly. Spinning out into cyber-space and having a life of their own for years to come. Great promotion, if it is a positive piece of coverage about your product or service, similar to a good piece in a national paper. But what if the posting is nasty, a lie, defamatory or designed to damage your business? Managing a corporate or an individual’s reputation on-line is tough and, because of the rapid growth in social media, it is becoming harder. <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Over time tell a story</span> The art of building a good reputation on-line and maintaining it includes time and honesty. In a ‘crisis’, time is the one thing people feel they do not have, which is why it is important to prepare for the worse and hope it never happens. Some of the pitfalls can easily be avoided or minimised by careful preparation and planning, others can be solved with technical support or legal action, but critical to managing your on-line reputation is developing your unique and genuine story. Stories involve emotion, detail and colour, not just facts. It is the complete opposite of corporate speak, when words such as ‘objectives’ or ‘vision’ are commonplace. A good story can be a strong case based on evidence but it has to be much more than a list of examples. It has to be simple and understandable by the people you want to have a relationship with – you’re forging a connection – ideally saying something that is different but has a good ‘plot’! <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>A genuine conversation</span> Far stronger than a corporate responding defensively when someone makes a negative comment (for example marching into a forum and ‘shouting the facts’ – an approach bound to irritate forum members and is likely to result in a high level of abuse) is a subtler approach. It is about having an authentic conversation. There is a bus company in rural Wessex that does this quite well. As a result, their rebuttal work comes (often first) from their fans on Facebook, who they regularly chat with as if they were sitting at home chatting over a cuppa. Jokes are shared, including comments about the looks of certain drivers. But if there is a problem with their service a message is out on Twitter and Facebook quickly. The information they post is genuine; mostly pretty ‘un-spun’, even raw, written by technical experts (such as members of staff who manage the routes). The content has value to the reader. Critical to their reputation is that their content is trusted. As a result their local reputation has improved as they have built their on-line reputation. Of course having a conversation is impossible if you don’t know it is taking place or to whom you need to talk. Companies have to know what is being said about them, by reading customers’ comments, industry blogs, taking part in forum discussions and actively monitoring their on-line reputation. From knowing who is saying what, the next step is to start to have a relationship with those people with the aim of converting critics to fans. Protecting or enhancing your reputation on-line takes preparation, time, honesty and, above all, persistence.
Managing online reputations
Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.