Social media is a necessity for businesses. Whether you're using it for customer support, sales, marketing, or community outreach, social media has become a major focus of marketing strategies for businesses throughout the world. And while there are hundreds of advantages to social media, there are many disadvantages, too. One major concern of businesses when it comes to social media is brand reputation and how to maintain it. A famous Warren Buffet quote comes to mind - "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it."
People tend to believe what they read on social media and it only takes one mishap, or one hacked account, or one fake account, to begin changing the perception of your brand. According to a study by Proofpoint, between April and June of 2016, almost 600 new fraudulent brand accounts were opened on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram on a monthly basis. Pretty astonishing, right? You need to constantly be looking for ways to build and improve upon your company's reputation, so you can hopefully be one of the lucky brands not impacted by one of the many credible threats out there looking to damage it.
Do Routine Social Media Audits
You should, on a routine basis, search each social media platform you are on for duplicate pages or profiles. You might be surprised how many results you come across if you have not done this before, and how you see your company is being represented as a result. It's possible some duplicate pages might just be there from employee mishaps, while others could be from people trying to use the name of your business to increase traffic to their website or even criminal implications where phishing scams are in place or people are trying to sell knock-off products, which is surely damaging to your company's reputation.
So it is important you remain vigilant and spot these duplicate pages in a timely manner so they can be reported and removed before traffic is diverted to those pages instead of yours. And not only that, but having multiple social media pages with the same name can be confusing to search engines and then they are forced to pick which one is the correct fit. You should also have a social media policy in place that your employees sign with an understanding that they are prohibited from creating social media pages with your business name to cut down on one source of duplicate pages.
Double Check Your Content For Spelling & Validity
The credibility of your content means everything. Literally. If your content is not credible, people are not going to take your brand seriously, and your company's reputation will suffer as a result. Of course, larger companies have people whose jobs are dedicated to checking content for validity and spell checking it before it goes out, but most companies do not have the budget for that, so take the few extra minutes to double and triple check everything you post before you hit that publish button, as all of the gloves are off, so to speak, once that happens. And people can be pretty unforgiving on social media.
Just take this tweet from Total Beauty, for example. During the 2016 Oscars, they confused Oprah Winfrey with Whoopi Goldberg. Pretty big oops, don't you think? As a result, they went into damage control mode, and offered to donate $10,000 to a charity favored by the two stars.
Don't put yourself in a position where you have a big "oops moment" like that because you didn't take the time to proofread your content and then you need to go into damage control mode, because that won't always reverse the harm you did to your company's reputation because of your social media mishap.
Know What To Do If You Are Hacked
In an attempt to avoid being hacked, don't have an easy password. If your password is easy for you to remember, chances are it is going to be easy for someone else to figure out. You should also use different passwords for each of your social media accounts, so if one password is figured out, it cannot be used to access all of your social media accounts. And you should only share your social media passwords with a select few inside your company. If someone isn't going to be posting on a regular basis, do they really need the password to the account? Probably not. Changing passwords from time to time is another good idea, as well.
But, in the event you are hacked, the first thing you should always do is change your password. If you are unable to log into your account at all, immediately contact the support team for that social media network so they can verify your identity and work with you to help you regain control of the account. You may even want to consider changing the email address on file with that particular social media account if you have another you use on a regular basis, just in case that email has been compromised, this way the reset password form cannot be used to regain access to the account.
In the event the hacker posted on your social media page, you will want to send out a message letting your followers know that your account was compromised and those messages were not from you, they have been deleted, and you apologize for the inconvenience. You should also visit the applications page for the particular network that was hacked and remove any applications you are not familiar with. As well as run a virus scan on your computer, as it is possible a virus was used to gain access to the account, and if it was, you need to get that removed as quickly as possible.
Engage With Your Audience In A Timely Manner
Social media is all about engagement. If a customer posts on your page asking a question, has a complaint, or sends you a message, they expect a response. What is the point of having a social media page at all if you are not going to engage with your audience? In fact, not doing so can have a severe negative effect on your company's reputation, as an upset customer will spread the word to their friends and family about the experience they had, and that's not the kind of word of mouth advertising you are looking for.
If you come across an upset customer on social media, the idea is to swiftly address the issue before it turns into something bigger. In most cases, you can turn it into a positive experience, which actually builds brand loyalty. Minor customer support issues can be addressed publicly, but in most cases, you will need to engage the customer in a private conversation to solve the issue, similar to what Zappos has done in this example:
Taking the time to address issues like this offline shows customers that you care, which portrays a positive image for your company's reputation, and will lead to repeat business. But your focus shouldn't be only on engaging with customers who reach out to you for customer support purposes. If a customer simply leaves a general comment on your page, or tweets at you, or provides feedback on something you posted, always reply back.
You should also take the time to respond to both positive and negative reviews, and actually share positive reviews on your page, as customer testimonials are an awesome form of user-generated content. And when possible, address the customer by his or her first name. Little things like that make customers feel appreciated, which again builds brand loyalty, and portrays a positive online reputation for your company.
Avoid Controversial Content
Political and religious content, unless directly tied to your brand, are a big no-no on social media. People have very, very strong feelings on both subjects and that's not something you want to toss your company into the middle of. You can very easily alienate a portion of your target audience with a single mishap, or offend a religious group, by posting political or religious content. Crisis management is something you want to avoid at all costs, as unfortunately some companies are not able to recover from the damage they cause to their reputation by a single post they published.
Other content you should steer clear of includes racial slurs, unethical graphics, crude jokes (you may find them funny, but others may not, so keep them to yourself), cursing (again, this may be the norm to you, but others do not approve of it), fake news, angry rants (many company's reputations have been ruined by angry rants - you can delete them, but the general public doesn't always forget and forgive), confidential information, risque photos, and confidential information. In additional to avoiding posting controversial content, you should also avoid getting into arguments with your customers via comments to any content that you have posted. That is just as bad, if not worse, than actually publishing controversial content in the first place.
People will not think twice about taking a screenshot of a comment you made to a customer and sharing it on their social media profile, and the next thing you know it that screenshot is going viral and your reputation is going down the drain. So always approach social media with a customer-centric approach, and a calm, cool, and collected attitude to ensure your reputation remains exactly the way you want it to.