The Things They Say: Managing Online Reputation
Managing the corporate reputation online has become a main focus for marketing managers. New Media Knowledge’s Chris Lee caught up with Vikki Chowney of new reputation management site Reputation Online to see what best practice firms should deploy to monitor their online reputation and respond to negative “buzz”.
By Chris Lee
“Politicians are obsessed with [focus groups], companies like it and buzz is linked sales,” he said. “Attitudes drive behaviour.”
According to Brandwatch, there are more than 50 million blogs and hundreds and thousands of forums on the Web in which consumers can communicate with others on their thoughts on a brand, product or service. The company said that people are 80 per cent likely to believe what other consumers have said compared to just one in five (20 per cent) who believe a company which says the same fact.
Reputation, Reputation, Reputation
Vikki Chowney is editor of Reputation Online, a free website aimed at those responsible for managing brand or business reputation online. She believes that increased Internet access has opened up the way consumers communicate online and share positive and negative experiences.
“Social networks and self-publishing tools have made it possible for anyone (with enough desire) to make or break a brand,” she told NMK. “One person’s experience of bad customer service or a poorly performing product is no longer restricted to quick chat in the pub on a Friday night. It can be instantly posted online, which has a knock effect and can result in hundreds and thousands of lost sales.”
According to Chowney, brands – especially high street retailers – are listening to online buzz referring to them, their products and services, but not many are responding.
“Companies know that they have to monitor the space, but are still unsure about what to do with the information,” she added. “Smaller firms have actually led the way in this respect, utilising free tools as they are able to be more flexible – but it seems like the big players are catching up fast.”
Chowney believes that common sense and transparency are essential ingredients when it comes to online reputation management best practice. The key, she says, is openness in communications with customers and clients, as is the quality and tone of the content firms push out to the Web.
Companies should start monitoring with tools such as Google alerts, Addict-o-matic or an RSS reader such as Netvibes to get a view of what is being said about its brand, rivals or industry across multiple platforms.
“If people are talking, and a brand is not responding, it’s a smart move to look for an appropriate way to get involved before a competitor gets there first,” Chowney warned. “If comments are dispersed across the web, maybe a company blog is the way forward to show a little personality and deal with people’s concerns. If they are mainly contained within Facebook, act accordingly and start an official group. It’s the same for Twitter, or any other social network - go where your customers are.”
Chowney says that online reputation is such an important sphere that some organisations have installed a dedicated employee to manage online customer relationships and cites smoothy maker Innocent as a good example of best practice.
“It is very open in its approach to talking about the business, and even managed to overcome the negative response to selling part of the business to Coca-Cola by staying true to its brand values, and talking about it,” Chowney concluded.