This is a question that is often asked by my clients and when I deliver presentations and J-P De Clark really gets to grips with sentiment, reputation, trends, influencers and conversations.
The fear of a bad reputation or negative feedback keeps many businesses from engaging in conversations with customers and prospects on social media. At the basis of this are often miscomprehensions and a lack of strategies to efficiently monitor, analyse and respond to online feedback.
This leads to missed opportunities and often to wrong investments of time, resources and budgets in tools, practices and efforts that provide no business value.
Monitoring and analysing online sentiment, reputation, trends, influencers and conversations must lead to insights and actions. It must be measured and is a must for businesses that care about what people say and do and about their brand.
Social media are still unknown territory for many businesses. If you have been working with them for a longer time, you know that most of the brand reputation and negative feedback related fears to start with social media marketing, engage in conversations with people and handle online comments are what they are: fears.
However, many businesses do not have this experience yet and are exploring the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and (perceived) threats of social media and public online feedback.
Every day, people and businesses tell me that, regarding social media, they are most of all concerned about a “bad” reputation or criticism. In a way it’s normal: for many businesses the whole social media phenomenon is new and overwhelming. That is all too often forgotten by early adopters and experts.
However, the fear for the extent of possible criticism on social media and Internet is not realistic and a clear illustration that many organizations are not used to really listen to what people say. Business also often fear that they will need to many resources to deal with all criticism.
What they unfortunately fail to see is that social media listening an online feedback offers a huge opportunity to gain business and customer insights, detect trends, optimise their communication and improve the customer experience.
There are crucial misunderstandings regarding social media monitoring, reputation and sentiment:
- Social media monitoring, sentiment and reputation management are not a matter of constantly being on guard as a watchdog. Brand equity matters but you do not strengthen it by ignoring or silencing online feedback.
- One doesn’t always have to respond immediately, or even at all, to every form of criticism everywhere all the time. Yes, we live in a world with increasing customer expectations and both positive and negative customer experiences can travel fast. And, yes, customer service and relationship marketing are key but business is still a combination of customer satisfaction, the bottom-line, selling and ROI.
- Companies that are active in social media often take on a defensive attitude and are prepared with a small army of opinion makers and brand advocates to stamp out the negative buzz as it were. There is no need for that. Some social media consultants even advise companies to pro-actively find people who could, sometimes against payment, make as much ‘positive’ noise as possible so that ‘negative’ reviews disappear.
The question is what happens if you engage in these practices in a misinformed, defensive and even obsessive manner:
- You invest more time and resources than needed
- The ROI of such practices is negative
- You don’t help your clients at all
- Sooner or later opinion deforming practices will see the daylight one way or another
- You don’t focus on your core business and value creation processes
- Fear keeps you away from one of the main information and communication channels your prospects and customers use: social media
Are there threats? Yes, you always have the malcontent former employee, unethical competitor or eternal complainer.
So what do you do?
- You monitor and analyse in a structured and efficient way
- You use the thus gained insights to improve your communication strategy
- You ensure an optimal customer experience
- You define a reputation management plan
- You define the resources and structural needs to put it in place
- You listen to feedback and respond correctly
- You define some guidelines
- You offer people channels to give feedback
- You keep the communication lines open
- You measure and improve
- You don’t just listen, you act
- You use a tool that enables you to act
But most of all: you act, react, interact and focus on the positive instead of the negative.
Takeaway: Negative feedback and reviews are not a threat but an opportunity if you listen and act the right way.