By Carlo Pandian
Reputation is everything is everything in business, and nowhere is this more true than online. While online retail is one of the few growing segments in the economy (local, national or global), building trust and maintaining it is a hard task for start-ups and established businesses alike.
Brand is not always enough to convince customers that they can trust you, and if you are only just establishing a brand then creating a trustworthy presence on the web is essential. In addition to many bright and shiny new internet marketing techniques you should also look at one of the oldest tricks in the book; word of mouth.
The growth of social networks (and social network marketing) allows you to use this tool even today in the age of global marketing. Managing your reputation online using Twitter and other social networks is one method that you can’t afford to ignore.
Owning your Brand
If you aren’t actively managing your company profile on a range of social networks, the danger is that somebody else may be. Even if you don’t intend to start a full blown social networking marketing campaign from day one, you need to own your brand name presence on some of the main social networks; Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn should be your immediate focus but Quora, Tumblr, Pinterest and Fancy should also be considered.
If you haven’t signed up for a company profile on these sites a competitor could do so and begin eroding your reputation whenever they like. If your company name or brand is similar to others there’s also a danger that not owning these sites could mean that search engine results could include competitors with similar names, rather too close to your own results. By having a presence on several platforms you’ll increase the chances that your brand will appear in numerous channels in the search results.
There’s a range of tools to help you track mentions across a host of platforms including mentions in blog posts, on Twitter and Facebook. This is crucial for any business and some major players including Dell and Amazon have made massive efforts to track and monitor comments about their brands. By finding negative comments you can address them quickly. This can be crucial when it comes to defending your company reputation. There are two approaches to managing your reputation in this way. For bigger problems, a site that’s collapsed for example, you can keep customers updated via social networks.
For specific customer issues you can respond initially on social networks and offer a direct route for the customer to contact you. This has two effects, firstly it shows that you’re reliable enough to be concerned and secondly it gets the conversation ‘offline’, or at least away from public view. As long as you handle the complaint well, the chances are that the formerly unhappy customer will be singing your praises online once the complaint is resolved, and this is called ‘free advertising’! Google Alerts is a great basic package to monitor mentions and is worth signing up to for any business.
Good Airtime and Bad Airtime
It’s a well-established fact in customer service that one bad customer experience gets rather a lot of “airtime”. A good one gets less, but by using social media to identify issues you can turn the bad into good and manage the process for maximum effect. Most customers who have been at the receiving end of this kind of customer service are not only surprised but become extremely positive ambassadors for your brand, which is something that no business can afford not to capitalise on. Managing your reputation online via social networks not only allows you the chance to create a trustworthy brand but effectively help to spread the word about your company – in a good way.
Social networking is the ‘word of mouth’ marketing tool of the 21st century. Allowing you to manage, defend and promote your brand online, whatever size of company you run. Remember, if you’re not part of the conversation, you may well be the subject of it.
Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer based in UK and blogs about business, accounting software and marketing covering everything from tutorials on QuickBooks Online to social media management tools.