This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
A positive public reputation is a crucial element of business success regardless of a company’s size. This is especially true in a digital world, where customers increasingly care about identifying with brands and where news about a business’s successes and failures can be broadcast on social media in an instant.
In this age of the Internet, Fortune 500 companies have had to adopt some calculated reputation management strategies in order to keep wide and varied customer bases happy. Though operating on a smaller scale, SMB owners could apply many of these same practices to keep their own online reputations strong. Listed below are some of the most useful things that Fortune 500 companies know about reputation management.
Common Fortune 500 reputation management strategies
1. Show authenticity on social media
According to research commissioned by Stackla, 86 percent of consumers—and a full 90 percent of millennials—consider authenticity important when choosing a business.
It also turns out social media is a big driver of brand perception. Some 20 percent of consumers will stop following a company on social media if they feel that its posts are inauthentic.
Most corporations that successfully maintain a reputation for authenticity online do so through brand consistency. Clear sets of unchanging core brand values and a sustained show of commitment to these values on social media plays a valuable role in earning customer trust. These companies also aim to maintain consistency between what they advertise and what they provide to customers.
2. Be transparent about mistakes
When Google’s mobile vehicles mistakenly broke privacy law in 2010 by picking up personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, Google publicly admitted its mistake and quickly dealt with the matter.
Consumers continue to respond favorably to transparency of this nature. However, problems can arise for a company of any size if mistakes go unacknowledged, or worse, if company executives attempt to bury the issue without addressing it.
SMB leaders should take cues from their larger counterparts and respond to news about their mistakes quickly and frankly. Any misinformation spread in the wake of a scandal should be addressed and corrected.
3. Embrace charitable causes
Consumers continue to place a growing value on companies that engage in philanthropy. According to a Unilever Consumer study from 2017, a third of modern consumers actively choose to purchase from corporations they believe are contributing to the advancement of societal or environmental issues.
Philanthropic involvement may even reverse the direction of declining public favor, as seen with the change in perception of Microsoft beginning in the mid-to-late 1990s. Where the software giant was once considered to be a greedy corporate machine, investing in charitable organizations ultimately affected a radical shift in its reputation.
SMB leaders should look for opportunities to give back to their own local communities to earn customer appreciation and loyalty.
Common Mistakes that Fortune 500 Companies Make
1. Mishandling customer criticism
It can be difficult to determine the best way to handle customer feedback that is less than complimentary, but responding appropriately to customer anger online is key to reputation management.
As an example, in 2012, the insurance company Progressive responded to angry commenters on their social media pages in an extremely tone-deaf way following a scandal that involved a deceased policyholder. This caused the company to suffer major reputation damage and lose a number of customers.
When SMBs inevitably encounter negative customer feedback, three things must be kept in mind when formulating responses. Companies addressing these issues should
- Maintain a polite and respectful tone in responses
- Approach the situation with honesty and humility
- Work resolve the problem with the commenter one-on-one, ideally offline
2. Ignoring online reputation damage
Almost as harmful as responding to negative feedback inappropriately is ignoring customer complaints on online platforms like Facebook, Google Reviews, and Twitter. Turning a blind eye to online feedback prevents a company from having input in the narrative created through these comments.
Companies that ignore the input of disgruntled customers are also often seen as having bad customer service. According to a 2018 ReviewTrackers survey, over 50 percent of customers expect a response to a business review within a week. The same data suggest that responses to negative reviews make people 45 percent more likely to visit a business.
By ignoring the bad, businesses lose an opportunity to take control and turn the situation around. SMB leaders should make sure that they’re making an effort to engage with clients who leave reviews—both positive and negative.
3. Capitalizing on sensitive social or political movements
Sensitive current affairs should never be used in an attempt to create relevant and engaging content for product promotion.
One example of this mistake is Pepsi’s 2017 ad that suggested the soda as a symbol of peace between police officers and a group of protestors meant to resemble the Black Lives Matter movement. Many people considered this action to be in poor taste and were deeply offended, causing the company severe reputation damage and even calls to boycott the company.
Taking advantage of a political or social movement to turn a profit is an almost universally bad idea. In doing so, SMB leaders put their companies at risk of being exposed as an inauthentic or insensitive brand.
Fortune 500 reputation management strategies for your company
1. Show that you value people over profit
Showing your customers that you care can have a powerful effect on your reputation—both online and off.
A 2015 Meaningful Brands study indicated that consumers are more willing to spend money with a business if they feel that the firm offers value in three key areas:
- Provision of quality products
- Willingness to connect with customers and personalize the experience
- Amount that the company gives back to the community
By making an effort to connect with consumers and formulating an operational structure that makes room for both profit and goodwill, SMBs are better poised to create a business with a reputation for valuing people more than money.
2. Proactively monitor your online reputation
Routinely monitoring what is being said about your business online allows SMBs to respond to negativity before it spirals out of control.
The easiest way to begin is to monitor negative remarks about your business or products on Google, blogs, forums, and review sites. Tools like Google Alerts and Mention.com notify you when content about your company appears online. Sites like Hootsuite and Sprout Social can automate and centralize the process of keeping up with social posts about your business.
3. Designate a reputation management team
Maintaining an in-house reputation management team like a Fortune 500 company is unlikely to be affordable for a small business. However, you do have options. ReputationDefender offers a range of online reputation management services designed specifically for SMBs. Give us a call today for a free consultation on how to develop a reputation management plan that fits your business’s needs.