With the use of social media incontrovertibly on the rise, it's no surprise that more and more businesses are jumping aboard to become "social businesses." Yet for all the benefits of going social, there is a consideration most businesses completely miss: keeping brand control online.
Most businesses' social efforts result in increased brand loyalty and awareness. However, some companies lose control of their brand or reputation. This is most often because of poor enforcement of policies and procedures--assuming those protective measures were in place to begin with. Loss of brand control online can be avoided by implementing a few simple measures and guidelines, and having a response plan for any mishaps.
Here are five tips to help you monitor and control your brand online:
- Draft an official online media policy and procedures guide. You need to set guidelines for your employees, representatives and consultants that covers active employment and post employment. Make sure you provide guidance on what's acceptable on their personal social sites as it relates to your brand.
For example, on some social networking sites there's a "currently employed at" section. Once employees start posting this kind of information on their personal sites, the actual brand loses a measure of control. Your brand's now associated with those employees' potentially improper personal posts and photos or lack of brand enthusiasm.
The responsibility is on the company here: Make sure that anyone internally involved with your brand understands your online policies and expectations.
- Build your social proof and credibility. It's extremely important that you build your credibility and prove (aka social proof) that you're worth doing business with online. You can do this by asking for recommendations on sites such as LinkedIn or by posting client and customer testimonials on your blog or website.
- Share partner content. Post and share content from non-competitive partners. This is a great way to build trust and position yourself as a leader within your industry, as well as with your clients, customers and target market. This can be done by posting their articles on your site (with permission), retweeting their tweets or adding one of their content links to your site or blog.
- Monitor negative posts and reviews. In order to respond promptly to negative press, set up monitors that will alert you. I recommend Google alerts . This is a free service where you can set up keywords that you would like Google to monitor for you online. As soon as those words or phrases come up in a post or anywhere online, Google will immediately send you an alert with the link to check out the post. Be sure to include your company name and any possible misspellings, as well as industry keywords.
To control the spread of negative press, you must have an action plan in place and respond swiftly. I suggest using the A.R.M approach--first Acknowledge the Pain, then Respond Politely and Make it Right. This simple system can help you maintain brand control and avoid permanent brand damage.
- Search blogs on Technorati . You can enter keywords on this site to search blogs that have mentioned your brand or are talking about you online. This is also a great way to follow the major conversations within your industry and area of interest. Furthermore, you can submit an application to become a writer for Technorati or to add your company's blog.