Think just hatching a Twitter account will catapult your company to the top of everyone's mind? Or your sporadic Facebook posts will bring your brand's reputation to the next level? Try again.
The web is littered with good companies that failed to take charge of their brand and wound up as reputation road kill.
To not end up as the next travesty, avoid these seven deadly sins.
Not understanding your audience. Who is the prime audience for your company? While you may instantly be able to verbalize the traits of a perfect customer, they only make up a small portion of your online audience. Bloggers, journalists, business partners, employees -- even jilted lovers -- all have a say in your reputation.
As a business owner, you should know where your customers hang out on the web, what social networks and blogs they frequent, and make it part of your business plan to get to know them.
Not building a presence. Once you understand where your audience likes to hang out, you should make sure you put your “open for business” sign in the same locations. If your customers tend to migrate to Facebook, then you should make sure you have an active Facebook page. If they favor LinkedIn, then that’s where you should invest your time.
You don’t need a huge budget either. Mya-Moe Ukuleles is a small, custom ukulele builder, yet has built a vibrant Facebook community with stunning photos, informational videos and product demos. Take note.
Failing to be congruent. It’s likely you’ll find yourself engaging with your audience in more than one location. When that happens, be sure to provide a congruent experience so that you don’t send mixed messages about your reputation.
Coca Cola and McDonalds both do a great job of this. Whether you visit their Facebook page, Twitter profile or YouTube channel, you’ll see the same look, tone and discussions going on.
Not being there 24/7. For small businesses it’s impossible to watch the internet all day, every day for conversations about your reputation. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some automated eyes and ears to help you out. Automated social media monitoring tools such as Google Alerts, my company Trackur or Radian6 will listen for any mentions of your brand, allowing you to join conversations you might otherwise have missed.
Taking too long to apologize. When you make a mistake, you should apologize quickly. Think of it as a band-aid on your reputation boo-boo. Rip it off quickly and get the pain over with.
When an Austin, Texas Minibar employee chalked up a beer promotion with the text ”I like my beer like I like my violence: domestic” it could have spelled doom for the drinking establishment. Fortunately, the owner quickly removed the sign, fired the employee and said, “I give my utmost apology and assure it won’t happen again.” He then promised $1 of every domestic beer sold in October would go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the reputation crisis quickly diffused.
Not being transparent. Along with being quick to apologize, you should also offer some transparency. How did this happen and what are you doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Target has done an admirable job explaining what happened with its data breach.
Outsourcing your reputation. The companies that have the best reputations are the ones that don’t hand the reins of their brand to an outsider. When your business is the one connecting with your audience, you learn more about them, which leads to better communication and improved service. When you outsource that to a PR firm, you not only lose that connection with your customers, but you also risk them pulling a horrible stunt.
Related: How to Pull a Badass Marketing Stunt