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Why Online Reputation Management is critical for growth?

The concept of Online Reputation Management is still confusing for a lot of people. Most tend to confuse this concept with social media monitoring/analytics and a lot of them tend to mix it up with Public Relations. What most people fail to understand, are the dynamics of ORM, which is widely divided into two main dimensions namely engagement based ORM and customer support based ORM.
The difficult part about reputation management is that it is determined by your customers more than your efforts. However, it is in the company’s hands to make sure that your brand is perceived in a positive manner. Along with great actual service, making sure that every negative conversation about your brand is dealt immediately can help increase the positivity around your brand.
Let’s understand what Online Reputation Management means!
Google your brand. What do you read about yourself on the first page results of Google? Is it good or 9 out of 10 posts about your brand is negative? This is what determines your online reputation. If most conversations about your brand has been mentioned positively, you are a likeable brand and have a good brand reputation online.
On the other hand if your brand has been spoken negatively about in most cases, your brand’s reputation needs repair. This can be achieved by monitoring the brand’s online activities and the way people are reacting to the same. In case of negative conversations about your brand immediate actions to curb the problem should be taken.
In addition to googling your brand, try searching your brand name on Twitter or Facebook, do you see any difference? Twitter and Facebook are becoming increasingly relevant compared with Google for finding out what people think about your brand. This is because Twitter and Facebook are more real-time than Google.
But why do you need Online Reputation Management?
Selling on Internet has changed over the past years. From a top down approach, where customers could only purchase online and not share their experiences, the increasing use of social media has led to a market scenario where selling is led by customer choices. In fact it wouldn’t be wrong if we say that each customer is being paid attention personally by customizing communications to suit their time and place of availability.
With so much investment going in to reach each customer, losing even one can affect the company’s business. Therefore, online reputation management! It helps keep track of what each customer/prospect is talking about your brand and allows you to interact with them directly. This also helps in taking care of your unhappy customers and responding to them immediately to solve their problem and reducing the negative comments/reviews about your brand.
How to perform good online reputation management?
The best way to make sure that you do not miss out on any conversations about your brand is to use an ORM tool. These tools help track all conversations that involve your brand, unless it is a private conversation or a post where your brand has not been directly tagged (these are limitations from the social media platform’s end).
The basic “mantra” to amazing ORM is the “Track, Respond and Resolve” philosophy. Good social monitoring tools can, not just track mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like but also identify conversations on various review sites/discussion forums and more.
A dedicated team who are experts in the customer relationship management field should be deployed to take care of any form of negative conversation instantly. This not just increases customer satisfaction rate but also reduces the chances of the negativity spreading further.
Examples of Bad Online Reputation Management  
Social media is a place for the smarts! Your customers are extremely vulnerable and are prone to get hurt even with the slightest amount of criticism. Some companies, in the past have goofed up when it came to handling customer criticism/feedback. Well, you might have an extremely creative and sarcastic giant sleeping inside you, ready to slash back every time a customer speaks badly about you. But, it is best you gulp your ego and be polite! Here are a few examples of how companies suffered great loses financially and reputation wise when it came to handling online conversations.

  1. 1. Nestle: When Nestle suffered the “Palm Oil” related crisis (related to use of palm oil that was picked from deforested areas), people started complaining in masses. This was also accompanied by creation of tarnished images of the Nestle logo and putting it up as the profile picture by many. Here’s how Nestle reacted to the same and fell trap to something unimaginable. In the end they had to shut down their social media channel! Sigh!

2. Dark Horse Espresso: Being nice to your customers causes no harm! When a customer is complaining about an experience they have had, it is best to be kind to them and apologize. This leads to making the customer feel more comfortable and also important. About Dark Horse Espresso, when a customer complained about insufficient electric outlets in a rather busy coffee shop, this is what the company came back with. Dark Horse, you could have done better!
3. British Airways: For a service that operates 24/7 and deals with strict time schedules, it is necessary that their customer support operates round the clock as well. How easily they tell a customer who has a midnight flight that they do not operate beyond a certain time limit and hence their problem can be solved only after! Top aggravate the anger, British Airways also responded with canned messages which left the customers bitterly angry. Here’s what happened:
Examples of Good Online Reputation Management
1. Flipkart: They might have goofed up in the past or while running a large scale campaign, however over time this company has learned to play the game smartly. For a company that receives huge number of billing or logistics related issues on a daily basis, Flipkart is actually doing a commendable job. Prompt responses (within 5 to 10 mins), promising results, taking the conversation offline to avoid further damage and providing faster resolution this company does it all. What helps them respond faster is also their specified twitter handle for customer support, which not just helps segregating the messages for ease of response but also keeps the negativity away from their actual marketing page (the face of the company). Kudos to you Flipkart!
2. Air Asia: Even an angry tweet can be addressed with good care and can be converted into a wonderful conversation! Air Asia goes out to prove that immediate responses which are polite and informative can actually solve the problem with ease. Unlike British Airways, Air Asia responds to each customer with individual attention and hence performs better!
3. Amazon: Calm, confident and adding a personal touch always works. Amazon uses this innovative way of adding the name of the representative at the end of every tweet. This adds a friendly touch to the tweet and avoids the mundane canned form of tweeting.
4. Paytm: Although Paytm is comparatively a new brand, they still boast an amazing social customer support domain. Along with providing fast responses, they also follow back to make sure the customer’s problem has actually been resolved or not.
Few Things to Understand about Online Reputation Management
1. Apologize: If it is a mistake from the company’s end it is best to apologize for the same at the earliest. Generally when a brand makes a mistake, it is picked up at the speed of light and before you know the news has spread to cause enough damage to the brand. However it is recommended that to maintain honesty and transparency, the brand apologizes and if possible even cover up for the same by giving the customer some special offer/gift or the like.
For example, when a lady tweeted about her unhappy experience with US Airways, she was not just ignored in the beginning but was also humiliated by posting an inappropriate picture along with their apologetic tweet. This made the airways seem sarcastic and unapologetic and let to a huge uproar among its existing customers and prospects. However, better late than never, US airways cleared the air by apologizing for the same over a tweet and a spokesperson also came forward to explain how the whole process happened due to the mistake of an executive.
2. Hacking: Being careful about your account credentials is something that no company can ignore. This should be backed up by high security anti-virus software, unbreachable firewall for the database and more. Competitor brands are constantly fishing to spoil your reputation. Here’s an example: Burger King’s twitter account was hacked and their logo and handle name were changed to McDonalds. Burger King however, got lucky and gained 10,000 new followers! They sure owe the hacker a huge burger and some fries!
On a serious note such hacking can be dangerous as most come with the intention to tarnish the image of the brand. Burger King reduced the damage by identifying the problem fast and resolving the same.
3. Negative Publicity: It is often said that no form of publicity is bad publicity, however increasing the number of followers by doing something negative does not work all the time! Negative publicity is generally used by celebrities (who are a brand in themselves) mostly. For example: Miley Cyrus did a series of publicity stunt videos/photoshoots with inappropriate dressing and also made public appearances which was not appreciated by the masses. However, this worked in favor of her by increasing her publicity and making her more famous than she ever was.
This philosophy might not work the same way for brands (companies), considering people invest money and trust when they become the customer of a particular brand. In fact, it might reciprocate in an opposite manner and lead to huge losses for the brand.
4. Social Monitoring: Your audience is spread across various social media platforms and it is not enough to simply keep track of Facebook, Twitter and the other popular social platforms. To make sure that you have 360 degree monitoring in place it is necessary to keep track of various review sites, hate sites and on page reviewing(ecommerce sites). These are the places where people tend to rate your products and give detailed descriptions about their bad experiences. According to a research conducted by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers reading online reviews trust them as much as they trust personal recommendations.
The solution to reduce such reviews is formerly to provide impeccable service. Another solution to the same is reaching out to people who review your products negatively on these sites and trying to redirect the same to a personal conversation.
5. Response Time: Understanding which message requires attention and which doesn’t is an important phenomenon to decide which mention requires immediate attention and which does not. However, if a matter is serious and ignored it might lead to a crisis situation and also cause losses to the brand.
A classic example for this would be the Dominos video prank crisis where an employee posted the video of a fellow employee sticking cheese up his nose and putting it on a sandwich later, which was accompanied by text which briefly read that it would be served to someone in the next five minutes and they would be eating it. Although the seniors in the company were made aware about the same, they waited for the CEO to fly down after 24 hours and address the issue. A lot of damage was done to the brand both financially and reputation wise by then, which could have been easily saved by taking down the video and apologizing for the same.
Dealing with Illegal Attacks
1. Increasing SEO: Your company might have received a number of negative reviews and negative mentions on competitor brand supporter blogs/articles. This will lead to a bad first image, with number of negative mentions, when people google your brand name. To avoid this, it is necessary to increase your SEO on the positive elements. Making sure that all the positive articles appear on the first page along with your company’s landing page and the like is only possible with flawless content optimization.
2. Removing Negative Content: Differentiating between genuine complaints and spam content is extremely important to reduce negativity around your brand. Your competitors might have adopted the technique of putting down competition by spreading bad word about you. It is necessary to identify such content/reviews and removing them before they gets shared by your customers. It is however important to make sure that genuine reviews are not deleted in the process as it might backfire and lead to the rise of another negative tide against your brand.
3. Online Investigation: Some reputation management cases might get extremely difficult and might require intervention of technical experts in cyber investigation. Skilled online investigators and analysts can track people from more than just social media, i.e. through email investigation, data cross investigation and more. This allows reaching the root of any cyber infringement and eventually solving difficult reputation management cases, which might require legal intervention.
If your company is not already doing Online Reputation Management, it is high time you started. There are a number of tools in the market which enables easy ORM through a simplified platform which also gives you deeper understanding of your company’s online performance.
Do leave your comments about any doubts or additions you would like to make.

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