Online reputation is now an intangible corporate asset, but at the same time measurable and closely linked to the revenue trend: according to estimates of the World Economic Forum, digital reputation represents 25% of the market value of a company and, As we were also talking about SEO online reputation, it takes “five minutes” to ruin it, according to the expression of Warren Buffet.

Earning and maintaining customer trust is a complex task, and with today’s tools – social first of all – accidents are always around the corner and can cause disasters, if you do not deal with right on time: so here are 10 techniques and best practices that can help us recover our web reputation from a fail.

What is web reputation

Until a few years ago, the expression web reputation simply referred to the fame of a brand or a product on the web, while today it is a theme that extends to the whole complex of related information that can be found on the Net, that help create the subject’s digital identity and influence what users think.

It can be defined as “the prediction of a relationship between the company and the consumer, which presupposes a negative or positive expectation depending on what and how (the sentiment) is said on the web about the brand” (Marco Aurelio Cutrufo).

Reputation is often associated with the concepts of credibility and reliability: when a user/consumer decides to prefer a brand and buy his product/service, he performs an act of trust, starting a privileged relationship that should be mutual and satisfactory.

Creating this relationship of trust is difficult already in the immediate, and it is even harder the effort to make it endure over time: trust can be betrayed by an expectation too high that does not correspond to reality, for example, which generates a frustration in the customer that often reverberates in the online world. And, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a negative word of mouth is 20 times more effective than the positive one and can even cause a business to lose from 7 to 9 customers.

Less and less control on the spread of information

The Web world is fast by nature, and social networks have amplified this feature, extending the reach of content to an increasingly wide audience immediately and globally and, at the same time, making it increasingly difficult to manage and control information.

Now everyone has an online presence and, if we do not do it directly for ouselves, someone on the Net will talk about us anyway and will share his sentiment towards the site, the brand or the personality, that the average user has learned to consider to create his idea.

Missteps and fails on social media, how to react

So, even being careful not to touch controversial topics and avoid unhappy jokes online, you can always make a misstep of any kind that – element to keep in mind – cannot simply be deleted or hidden. Our tracks in the digital world are more and more numerous and can have long-term consequences, and surely you can not “pretend” that the error and failure did not happen (also because, probably, in a few moments it will have already become a viral content).

Therefore, it is essential to have a crisis response plan in case of a misstep on social media: it can happen to stumble, and what matters is to respond quickly and sincerely to mitigate any damage to the reputation. The main communicative error that can be made in this case is in fact to think that the fail could not happen to us and our brand, and therefore be caught off guard and react in an ineffective way.

10 techniques to overcome a misstep on social media

This is also the starting point of Victoria Edwards’ article on Search Engine Journal, who lists ten ways to restore the web reputation compromised by a social communications problem and prevent further damage in the future.

  1. To wait and plan before answering

Spur-of-the-moment answers are never recommended: reacting quickly and in the wake of the emotion of the moment to the error of the brand, regardless of which it is, is probably an intervention that worsens the damage.

More appropriate is to pause operations and plan solutions to effectively address the problem, so as to mitigate any and further consequences. This work must involve not only the social media team, but also the communication and public relations team as well as the one that takes care of the legal aspects, because it is important to weigh the words of the response well and carefully.

Most online users (especially on social media) look for the drama and follow all updates related to thorny cases: that is why it is important to keep calm, avoid answering to trolls and not be distracted by negativity – which lowers the whole conversation and makes the brand lose points – or anxiety.

A wrong reply message could cause big troubles.

  1. To establish and recognize errors

Admitting the errors and taking full responsibility for the problems that have occurred is often the best start to correct our social media reputation.

We were saying this before: today it is no longer possible to try to hide the incident and pretend that the problem did not happen: often, delete posts, photos or videos that represented the problem only serves to amplify their scope and turns the Web spotlights on the case.

Presenting a positive and sincere response can be essential to stem the creation and dissemination of false rumors: in the absence of “official” information, arranged directly by the organization or the person concerned, Web users will desperately search for other sources and look to external players (users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, newspapers….), who can further discredit the brand.

Communication of crisis to defend web reputation

We must therefore analyze the situation and understand what happened: in the early stages, it may be useful to respond with a simple and formal statement to “take time”, such as: “We are evaluating this situation”.

If we ascertain that there was indeed an error (human or technical) on our part, we should always offer the apology in an authentic way, with a human-toned message and not too robotic (which appears unfeigned): it is useless to ask ouserlves “why” to apologize, because people demand it, and so we “have to” do it.

It is crucial to give an answer: it must contain truthful information and objective facts about the event and must be distributed on all channels that dealt with the case – social platforms, web pages or forums.

This allows us to propose the brand as an information channel: users (and the media) interested will refer to our social page to find out what happened, without relying too much on sources that report the facts in a partial and perhaps tendentious way to create the scandal.

  1. Providing solutions to the error when possible

Often, the inconveniences encountered by users depend on problems related to data, errors or service interruptions: a brand (and those who maintain its reputation) cannot control everything, but being ready to respond with solutions to offer quickly will help the brand clean up its web reputation and prevent the case from exploding.

Truthfully speaking, these negative events can generate opportunities of growth for the brand: managing feedbacks and solving people’s problems can generate positive engagement and strengthen online reputation in the long run.

  1. Investing in brand monitoring

Listening and monitoring tools on social media may appear expensive and useless, but they are very useful in times of crisis, because they offer immediate alerts on what is happening; more generally, they serve not only to check if the brand appears in discussions on the Web, but also to keep an eye on people’s feelings towards the brand.

This allows us to do research, study the problem in advance and react immediately to prevent it from degenerating. You can also use free tools, such as Google Alert: what matters is not to neglect this activity and take action only after the case bursted.

  1. Working on the SEO to clean up the SERPs

Google is now the first channel of information for millions of people: if the misstep has become viral and has infested the SERP, you need to activate a strategy of cleaning up negative results to try to recover the image of the brand.

The simplest technique is to produce and promote different content on the brand, a long-term strategy that – if well executed – could effectively push the lower positions the content not so pleasant towards the brand. One way to start solving the problem is to create sponsored content or develop a campaign that mentions the value promoted by the brand.

  1. Managing complaints offline

A useful trick to avoid putting in place all the problems is to activate assistance systems that do not directly involve the public bulletin board of the social page or site comments.

When a negative post appears, the best thing to do is to accept the message and ask the user to send an email or message privately.

For example, we can use as a means of communication the direct messenger native to the specific social platform, or create a support email account entirely dedicated to the answers on social media. Just activate easy-to-remember addresses for people – like socialmedia@brand.com or socialsupport@brand.com – and channel the problem and discussion into these.

This not only serves the security of the brand, but also to ensure the confidentiality of the data subject, who can report his problem (and possibly personal data) in full respect of privacy.

  1. Using testimonials to launch a new campaign

After a misstep you have to get back on your feet: when the waters have calmed down and the fail of the brand no longer makes news, it is time to highlight the positive aspects of the company to the public.

One way to do this is to develop a campaign (not necessarily big) focused on presenting the value or benefits offered by the brand, perhaps emphasizing the human aspects of the business – like showing the people behind the name and how they play a fundamental role.

Another useful technique is to take advantage of the testimonials of satisfied customers, who can become testimonials and start a positive word of mouth.

  1. Strengthening emergency communication

Restoring the brand on social media is also an opportunity to make an in-depth analysis after the problem has disappeared, bringing together all the interested sectors – social media teams, legal and PR – to understand not only the case, but especially the reaction, the timing, the consequences, figure out what could have been better and study plans to prevent complications in the future.

Not having an emergency plan is definitely a mistake, but also not re-evaluating the responses to crises is wrong, because it limits our ability to be ready to face new cases.

  1. Rivedere le operazioni aziendali

If complaints and missteps often occur and concern the same topic, it is not the social media or communications team that can solve them, because they may concern a business operation problem.

There may be a lack of technical support, or a production error and so on: social support can help up to a certain point, but the user perhaps expects a different and more concrete intervention.

In such cases, you need to invest in ways to improve the support provided with the purchase, a means to increase customer satisfaction and create new brand ambassadors at no costs.

  1. Pay attention to competitors

The battle between brands is often fierce and there are times when a competitor invades our space to do everything in his power to further jeopardize our brand.

They could develop content that shakes hands on failure, try to tarnish the brand, propose themselves as problem solvers or (in cases of problems born from wrong communications) bearers of a different and more inclusive philosophy: in most cases, the best thing to do is to avoid being part of that noise, because this dispute will make our brand look even worse and may even cause legal repercussions.

 

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