Social media has had a remarkable impact on the way companies build and maintain their brand reputations. Traditionally, firms would rely on word of mouth, recommendation and the occasional positive media report to improve their standing among consumers, but the Internet has changed all that. Using networking websites, individuals have the unprecedented power to shape wider opinion over a particular company or organization.
All they have to do to influence a company’s reputation is jot down a few thoughts in a Facebook message, write a quick review, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a brand or publish their musings in a 140-character Twitter post. The nature of social media dictates that consumer opinions can be read and digested by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other people in a few short moments. Should a particular comment strike a chord with enough other people, it can quickly go viral.
How does this affect businesses?
From a business point of view, this can have strong positive or negative repercussions, depending on the content of social media messages. If for instance, a particular brand receives thousands of Facebook ‘likes’ in a short space of time, this may alert other people to its successes. In an instant, there could be a rush of new visitors to their website or store, eager to know what the fuss is about.
But similarly, if a bad news story about a company–such as an example of poor service–gains traction, this can prove costly to the business. Negative comments can quickly cause severe reputational damage to a business, costing them revenue and customer loyalty. In the worst cases–where customers head to a rival firm en masse–this could derail the company altogether
How can companies mitigate the risks?
Businesses are well aware of the potential marketing benefits of social networking sites. By setting up accounts and communicating with consumers over a platform they are comfortable with, businesses have the opportunity to secure their loyalty. Firms are frequently advised not to seek direct sales over this platform, but by establishing stronger relationships with the general public they can encourage sales indirectly.
But similarly, being an active contributor on social media gives companies the opportunity to ‘fight fires’ in the event they do face negative press. Simply by accepting fault and apologizing to consumers for any mistakes they may have made, the business can potentially minimize its losses. And by being open and transparent with customers, the firm may even be able to develop additional trust, turning a negative into a positive.
But what about malicious content?
One of the risks associated with social media is that opinion can quickly find itself being passed off as fact, and vice versa. Sometimes it is not easy for users to differentiate between the two, and this provides an opportunity for people with malicious intentions to pursue their own dubious agenda.
Third parties–potentially business competitors or consumers with an ax to grind–may use social networking sites to create negative sentiment towards their rivals. This can involve repeat attacks on a company’s reputation, or the publication of false and defamatory statements. Either way, companies need to know what is being said about them in order to take the appropriate action.
With hundreds of social media websites to choose from, companies have a major effort on their hands keeping tabs on what is being said about them. The vast majority of companies cannot afford to pay people to spend all day monitoring social media for commentary on their activities. And even if they could, the business may receive thousands of unique mentions per day–making this a hugely difficult task.
Social media monitoring services
Companies need to adopt a more scientific approach–such as the use of social media monitoring services. By subscribing with CSC, companies gain access to focused, detailed reporting on all social media mentions of their brands and trademarks. The service identifies, tracks and consolidates mentions of companies’ brands in the growing social media realm. Data can be refreshed every four hours, every day, or every week, according to the needs of the client.
CSC monitors online posts, blogs, tweets, articles and other types of social media mentions on behalf of its customers, and analyzes commentary to see whether it is positive or negative. This gives businesses additional insight into their existing marketing and customer relationship management strategies. If they are receiving negative reports, and the views are objective, the company knows it must take steps to improve performance.