Reputation Management Using Social Media

by Eric Tsai

Recently I purchased a new vehicle and was excited about the whole experience. I’ve had many cars in the past and the part that always annoys me is feeling the pressure to buy from the sales people on the floor.

But this one is different.

It was like two friends talking about cars and with no initiation about buying. She wasn’t worry about selling.

Obviously I purchased the car and about 3 weeks later I had to go in for some service and again the experience was painless and I even got a loaner car to drive for a few days.

I was so thrilled that I wanted to endorse them by leaving reviews on their social network profile. Then I discovered a string of negative reviews online and what’s worse is that they received an average of 2 out of 5 stars on multiple websites.

So I called the sales person that sold me the car and she said she will help me pass it to her corporate marketing executive. Below is a slightly altered version to keep both the dealership and sales person confidential:

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Dear Jenny (not real name)

I’m a happy customer because I had a great experience buying a vehicle from you. It was enjoyable and I felt no pressure or that I wasn’t been judged.

When I came in for a service a month later, your service department was superb not to mention I can talk to the technician forever. The car was serviced promptly and the entire process was painless.

With such exceptional service and people, why is it that your dealership only gets

  • 3 out of 5 stars from Google?
  • 2.5 out of 5 stars from Yelp?
  • 3 out of 5 stars from Edmunds?

The reason is simple. No one is managing your company’s reputation online.

People typically would only review something when they’re either excited, happy, satisfied or vice versa; frustrated, angry or dissatisfied. Looking at some of the reviews you will find YOUR NAME is all over the positive side, which is the reason why not all the reviews are negative.

As you can see the negative reviews out weights the positive reviews. Nobody from your company is defending the dealership brand and it’s unfortunate because your car manufacturer makes a product that practically sells itself.

But does your dealership have any loyal fans that would refuse to go to other dealerships because they love you guys so much? Does your dealership have any advocates internally or externally that promotes the positive things about your company?

Does your management care? And what are they doing about it? Is the entire business run on listing cars on websites, classifieds, and print advertising? Then why should I come back to buy my second and third vehicle from you?

There is NOTHING on your website that shows credibility of your great sales people, hardworking service advisers, happy technicians or a sense of strong community. Just bunch of product photos, inventory listing and resources that every other car dealership has on their website.

How can I trust your brand? I only walked in your dealership knowing there is a deal NOT because I know Jenny Smith, the awesome sales person was there. If your dealership competes ONLY on price, then it’ll be very difficult to build value in the business because there won’t be any long-term customer relationship forged that way. And that’s not what your GM wrote to me in his thank you email.

Unless you’re selling a commodity such as water, people don’t buy what you sell, they buy the experience! And even water brands are working hard to differentiate from the competition, what marketing efforts are you doing to differentiate? What reasons are you giving me to talk about your company and your people?

Now, would I recommend your dealership? Sure but I would tell people to ask for Jenny in sales and Kevin in service.

Sincerely,

Eric Tsai

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Reputation Management is Marketing

It should come to no surprise that reputation management is marketing. And crisis management cross over to reputation management as well, thus it should be considered as marketing too.

Take a look at the recent two big crisis for these two brands: Tiger Woods and Toyota. One is a billion dollar personal brand and the other one is a multi-billion dollar consumer products brands.

For Tiger Woods, he opted to go with the silent treatment, laying low to let things wane a bit and the conversation just kept going. Even after his public statement, the damage has already been done, sponsors dropped him and fans still skeptical on his integrity.

With Toyota, it’s indicative that there is no magic solution to fix a fundamental problem on a technical issue on the accelerator. The key is to manage the crisis in a way to mitigate negative press going viral as it did on Twitter just check the #Toyota hashtag.

According to AdAge, “on Jan. 22, the day after the recall, buzz within the social web skyrocketed, with the number of posts about the automaker going from less than 100 to over 3,200. With the stop-sale announcement four days later, online chatter shot from about 500 posts that morning to more than 3,000 by that afternoon.”

In both cases, the respond time is  just as critical as what’s been communicated.

As we continue to transition to the social and relationship-focused era, companies will no longer be able to ignore social media and online marketing because the truth of the matter is the more social you are and the more transparency you expose, you’re more likely to convert the sales and retain loyalty.

And if you’re able to provide a community for your fans, customers, staff or even vendors to interact and engage with each other, they’re also more likely to buy repeatedly not to mention providing you with referral business as well.

According to the latest report from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate, “social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of… 60% of respondents claimed their Facebook fandom increased the chance they would recommend a brand to a friend. Among Twitter followers, that proportion rose to nearly 8 in 10.”

Social Networks Continue to Grow

And it helps that social network giant like Facebook is now just as popular as Google according to Hitwise,”Facebook reached an important milestone for the week ending March 13, 2010 and surpassed Google in the US to become the most visited website for the week… Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week.

Just look at the chart below and you’ll see how Facebook have exploded while Google maintains its steady traffic. Why the exponential? For one, Facebook is a great way to get started with social media since most people will already have a couple of hundred friends that they can talk to about anything.

For businesses in the offline world to reach customers they would have to make hundreds if not thousands of phone calls or send out loads of flyers that would cost lots of money and resource. Now companies can do that a couple of times a day for free through a Facebook page or a Twitter tweet.

The take away: All businesses should start exploring with social media to find their sweet spot. Traditional media channel such as advertising on TV, magazines or billboards can still be expensive with unpredictable results. Social media has a low barrier to entry (yes it’s cheap) and allows you to meet people in a fraction of the time that it would take in the real world to start building meaningful relationships.

However; you must factor in the the resources and time spent on social media marketing, because it can get out of hand which can lead to inefficiency and ultimately costing you more.

You don’t even need to have a profile on every social network like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Simply focus on one that you’re comfortable with, develop a process in which you can implement a systematic approach and see what results you get. If you get the result you like, keep doing it. If you don’t, try something else.

Whether you like it or not, people will continue to talk about your brand and you can either choose to ignore it or do something about it.

Further Reading



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6 Comments

  1. BeAloud   •  

    This is a very good post. Every business should be aware of what is being said about them on the internet, then I guess that Social Media aren’t for everybody. When in-house skills in PR, social media expertise, community management, etc. are not available, then you have to hand your reputation management to an agency. It can be dangerous, but probably it’s better than giving social media responsibilities to your new marketing intern. I don’t know who is taking care of Nestlé’s Facebook Fan Page (another example of bad reputation management) and I don’t know who made the calls, but as you said, social networks continue to go and it’s vital for businesses to “manage” conversations with consumers on the platforms they choose to talk about the company (that’s where business will see interaction and results.)
    .-= BeAloud´s last blog ..Nestlé’s Facebook Fail =-.

  2. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    BeAloud,
    The problem is businesses look at it as an added cost and resource rather than making adjustments to current budget. Now I can’t say every SMB needs social media but there really isn’t any excuse when the barrier to entry is so low and plenty of resources online.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Julius   •  

    this post has provided me with a good introduction to the details of reputation management. I also like the tip about focusing on just one social network.
    .-= Julius´s last blog ..A Day of A Deaf Blind Person =-.

  4. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Julius,
    It’s funny how people don’t like others talking crap about them behind their back and yet when they get a chance to defend themselves and “COMMUNICATE” properly, they often shy away. Nestle recently done that as well, here is an excellent post from Olivier Blanchard on the recent Nestle PR crisis.

    It’s often not about right or wrong when things happen, it’s where and how you deal with it, where your focus is. The same can be said about focus in social media as well.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. Ronni   •  

    Sure, companies should spend some time and money managing their online reputations. Customers would rather rely on gossip about a company than find out on their own, it seems, especially because the web has made gossip universally accepted. I must question, though, the idea that “traditional” advertising like TV is way too expensive for businesses. TV production is really cheap through great agencies like Cheap-TV-Spots.com and BareNakedAds.com . If companies skip the traditional ad methods, like TV, they miss out on getting their name out there in the first place. TV can set the tone for the customer interaction by showing that the company knows what its customers are looking for, offer them deals, and tell them how to find them. That’s what a great TV ad can do, and why businesses should get an ad – and it doesn’t have to break the bank if they go to the right TV ad agency for affordable TV advertising.

  6. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Ronni,
    Traditional ad channel costs are coming down and it’s simply a result of cause & effect with demand (where the eyeballs are at). TV is still the leading media behind digital media as digital has overtook traditional channels like print media like newspaper and magazines. In general, it’s just harder for SMBs to go after that without experience and real guidelines to craft effective campaign. I do recommend to look into places like SpotRunner just to lay all your cards on the table. Now with the announcement of Google TV, it’ll be interesting to see how TV will transition, thanks for your comments.

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