As B2B companies develop social media strategies, there is a real need for monitoring the social space using tools that have been designed for the task. This is the beginning of a new series that looks at various uses for social media monitoring in the context of B2B. Each post in the series introduces a single topic. This first post will discuss reputation management.
The idea of reputation management is not new with the advent of social media, it just requires more vigilance. PR pros have always kept their ear to the ground through their sources to discover what was being said about their clients. Beyond those sources, the offline world presents challenges to find mentions of your company, unless they make it to some form of published media. In some cases, when it reaches that stage is too late. And you would never know that an individual was talking about your brand. There has never been a public platform to amplify those opinons to others beyond a single conversation. Now they are having those conversations online using Twitter, blogs, community forums, Facebook and LinkedIn. This should not be a surprise to anyone reading this blog. Your customers now have a voice to express the positive and negative about your company and products. Some have even gone so far as to say that we have all become publishers on the social web.
The first step in online reputation management is the discovery phase. You need to discover what people are saying about your company and your products. While many communications people start with Google by doing searches and setting up Google alerts, if you are serious about social media monitoring, you need to explore social business tools for the job. When you read the recommended list below, you will understand why you should explore social media monitoring tools to properly manage the incoming data. The shortcoming of Google is that its search results are based on returning the most relevant results for your queries. This is based on a variety of factors including your own search history and how Google determines relevance and authority of links. This approach may not yield the mention on an obscure site that is relevant to your industry. Plus there is not a good way to manage the data.
Here are some suggestions of the kinds of things you should be listening for:
- Company or Brand Name: You are interested in the mentions of your company name or brand name. Include both if they are different, as well as any variations or common abbreviations.
- Product or Service Names: People are as likely to mention products or services by name and not mention the company name at all. This is even a good idea to monitor these if your product names, or product lines, feature numbers rather than descriptive names.
- Common Product or Service Terms: Many times customers have their own terms for your products or services. Include those as well.
- Top Executives’ Names: If news or comments surface about one of your executives, you want to be the first to know. Tragedy and scandal travel faster than ever with social media.
- Main Competitor Names: Many product or service comments are tied to comparisons with your competitors, sometimes without ever mentioning your company or product names at all.
- General Industry Terms: Listening to discussion around several terms that describe your industry are also a good source of commentary.
Once you start discovering tweets, posts, status updates and comments across the social web, you must now determine how to deal with all this data as it affects your online reputation. This first step of setting up a listening post is a good way to respond to the naysayers who say that your customers are not talking about you. Even if it is not your customers, there are very likely people talking about your industry and looking for product recommendations. As you develop processes for dealing with the online mentions you need to take a triage approach.
First, identify the negative comments and handle them immediately. These can get passed to customer service pros who understand customer issues, but make sure they have social media training so they know how to deal with customers in public. Convince them that every word they say will be posted online. This is their new challenge.
Second, identify the positive comments that need to be responded to. If these people support your company and products, make sure they know you are listening and engaging. A small online conversation goes a long way to building that relationship. Advocates can easily become influencers for their networks.
Third, identify comments that do not need a response, but are just part of the general conversation around your industry. These comments show up on summary reports and dashboards shared with executives as additional relevant social data, but it is not actionable. This information can help support the need to dedicate resources to social media.
This should give you a basic understanding of using social media monitoring tools to manage your online reputation. What is unique about your company or industry that makes social media monitoring tools a requirement for online reputation management?