From the first day of business school, we’re taught that the four major types of resources or assets which an organization can have are land, labor, capital, and enterprise. But, most college textbook authors tend to forget a crucial asset, one that is intangible and is a major factor determining the success or failure of a business in the digital era that we live in – ONLINE REPUTATION. Times have changed significantly; what seemed like an ordinary thing in the late 90’s and the start of the 21st century is now something which brands actively try to work on and are even willing to pay for. With the help of real-life examples and professional tips, this blog post will shed some light on the importance of having a great online brand reputation.
Why Your Online Brand Reputation Matters
According to a study by Forrester, about 74% of consumers start their purchasing journey by searching for brands/products online and comparing them with others. But, that’s just the core business aspect – What about the overall reputation of the company? The Harris Interactive’s Annual Reputation Quotient Survey considers “social responsibility” and “emotional appeal” two of the 6 corporate reputation dimensions for determining the overall reputation of American companies. Good reviews, CSR activities, and positive comments about your brand can significantly impact the overall performance of your business. In the age of information, the average consumer considers all aspects of a brand, from their products and services to their very ideology. A brand that posts something offensive on social media should be prepared to face the heat. This distasteful post made by Espresso about an incident where a child lost his life in an accident during political processions in Pakistan is a great example of why your brand can lose everything instantly:
Soon after the tweet was made, a wave of rage was felt across all Pakistani social media platforms, bashing the marketing team of the café/restaurant for their distastefulness and bad humor. A lot of people swore to boycott the chain, while others suggested that they changed their tagline:
The team then came forward with an explanation that their intent wasn’t to make fun of the deceased, but to shame the culprits who got away.
The Dangers of Google & Social Media
While it’s true that the age of information offers a lot of blessings (which we sometimes take for granted), it has also brought along some curses that can become challenging to deal with, especially for brands. A brand’s digital footprint can either make or break its sales and once it goes bad, it can be extremely difficult to set things straight and fix the blemished reputation. It can take a brand years and years to build up a positive image, but only a few seconds to send everything crumbling down. This is why anything an organization posts online, from a single tweet to a GIF on Facebook, should be decent and in good taste. Nothing is hidden from the claws of Google and other search engines, as well as social networks, so even the smallest decisions should be made after carefully considering the impact they will have on the feelings of the masses. At the end of the day, a single bad article or a bad review that makes it to the Google search results can trigger the downfall of your online brand reputation.
Things that Can Ruin a Brand’s Reputation
There are a lot of factors that need to be considered while taking care of your online brand reputation. The following three things are usually the main culprits behind a bad reputation in the online world:
· Poor Quality
There is no shortcut when it comes to the actual quality of your products and customer service. If you fail to provide what you promise or to resolve the problems of your customers, you should be prepared to take the heat and face the bad reviews.
· Baseless Rumors
Rumors can spread like wildfire, especially on social media. Businesses are always in danger of becoming the victims of baseless rumors. For example, recently, a video of a Ferris wheel malfunctioning in India was circulated on Facebook with the caption that it had happened in Askari Amusement Park, Karachi. Many people actually believed it until the management came forward with a clarification that the incident did not happen at their park.
· Bad Social Media Management
Social media is the first line of contact between a brand and its followers. With poor social media management, a brand can hurt its online reputation. Things like not responding to queries, posting offensive/inappropriate content, being rude to customers, violating privacy, etc., must be avoided at all costs if a brand wants to build a positive reputation.
Some More Examples of Bad Online Reputation Management
History is full of bad instances of online reputation management, which serve as great lessons in what not to do to try and win the hearts of consumers. Here are some interesting examples:
1. JPMorgan Chase’s Online Grilling
In November 2013, the American investment banking giant, JPMorgan Chase & Co., tweeted about a Q&A session with Jimmy Lee, one of their top executives. The company hoped to work on its public relations after some unfortunate events had damaged its reputation.
At first, the company seemed confident that this tactic of having a one-on-one conversation with the public would be a step towards positivity. However, they had no idea that they were about to be publicly humiliated. JPMorgan Chase received a lot of negative replies and rude queries which questioned some sensitive areas. A total of 88,000 responses were received, of which over 66% were negative. The company realized that it had made a big mistake and decided to cancel their Q&A session with the following tweet:
“Tomorrow’s Q&A is canceled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.” This embarrassing incident is a classic example of why a brand needs to be extremely careful while trying to repair its reputation online.
2. NRA’s Blunder
On 20th July 2012, during the screening of the movie The Dark Knight Rises in a movie theater in Aurora, US, a mass shooting took place in which 12 innocent people lost their lives and 70 were injured. On the same day, the National Rifle Association (an American organization that promotes gun rights) tweeted the following:
“Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” At first glance, it’s obvious that the social media team of the organization was unaware of the incident that had taken place that day and that the tweet was pre-scheduled. But that still did not stop the public from going into a fit of rage and calling out the NRA for their lack of empathy. The twitter account was deleted the same day. The incident serves as a great lesson to consider all possibilities before scheduling a post for the future.
3. Nestle’s Childish Behavior
The Swiss foods and beverages giant, Nestle, is renowned for being a major contributor towards the destruction of rainforests. Palm oil is a major ingredient that is used in most of their products and they buy it from companies who are responsible for ending widespread areas of rainforests, which also happen to be the natural homes of Orangutans. In 2010, Greenpeace launched a campaign, urging Nestle to “Give the Orang-utan a break…” Here is a screenshot from the ad, showing a man eating a finger of an Orangutan out of a KitKat wrapper:
The ad caused an uproar on social media, with people protesting against Nestle for being environmentally irresponsible. Nestle, instead of coming up with an excuse or an apology, started deleting negative comments and continued to hold their stance. This only resulted in further heat.
4. Ogilvy’s Mattress Disaster
The advertising, marketing, and PR agency, Ogilvy, is famous for generating some really creative gems for different brands. But, the ‘creativity’ of Ogilvy India went a little over the top with the way they promoted Kurlon mattresses. Here is the ad:
The ad depicts Malala Yousafzai being shot in the head, falling on a Kurlon mattress and “bouncing back” to health. It sparked rage around the globe, with people calling out Ogilvy for their lack of professionalism. A spokesperson from Ogilvy later apologized to the public, saying: “The recent Kurl-On Mattress ads from our India office are contrary to the beliefs and professional standards of Ogilvy & Mather and our clients.”
5. Volkswagen’s Lies
In 2015, the German automobile giant, Volkswagen, which is the parent company of huge names like Audi, Bentley Motors Limited, Bugatti Automobiles, Lamborghini, Porsche, and many others, confessed to lying about the harmful gas emissions of its diesel vehicles sold in 2009. The company wrongfully used special detectors which altered the data regarding gas emissions. News of their blunder spread like wildfire, with people across all social media platforms shaming Volkswagen for their dishonesty and lack of integrity. According to reports, the negative mentions of Volkswagen on Twitter jumped to 61%. This damaged the reputation of the company and all other names associated with it.
6. Kenneth Cole’s Hashtag-Jacking
Kenneth Cole is an American fashion company with products catered to both men and women. In 2011, someone at the company decided that it was a great idea to use the 2011 Revolution of Egypt for the marketing of their spring collection. Using the #Cairo hashtag, the following tweet was posted on their official Twitter account:
Touching a sensitive and serious topic with humor is considered highly offensive and extremely unprofessional if done by such a huge brand. Kenneth Cole received massive backlash for their tweet. A half-apology was issued shortly, followed by an official apology that was published on Facebook. This online brand reputation disaster goes to show that hashtag-jacking isn’t such a great idea after all.
How to Manage Your Reputation Online
Mending and maintaining online brand reputation is something that a company cannot ignore. And doing it isn’t straightforward – there are no shortcuts. To put it simply, it’s a marathon, not a race. Thankfully, by following these few tips, any brand can build up a positive reputation for itself:
1. Be Active Across All Online Platforms
Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest or YouTube, you have to maintain a strong and active presence across the internet on all platforms. Responding to the audience should be the highest priority and content should be updated on a regular basis.
2. Monitor What Goes on Your Social Media Accounts
Anything that is posted on social media accounts should be carefully monitored. Try to polish your content as much as possible and maintain a neutral tone while discussing sensitive topics. Avoid highlighting controversial things unless absolutely necessary and consider the current events before publishing anything.
3. Do Not Retaliate Against Negative Reviews
A surefire way of damaging your brand’s reputation is to react negatively to bad reviews. Maintain a positive and professional tone while dealing with negative reviews. Investigate the case/dispute and if it was truly your fault, take responsibility and treat it as a lesson to further improve yourself.
4. Create a Blog and Update It Regularly
You cannot neglect the power of a quality blog that is updated on a regular basis. Try to target positive keywords, provide the audience with valuable content which they can use to their advantage, and highlight the achievements of your business. Not only will this increase organic traffic to your website, it will also create a positive image of your brand among its followers.
Online brand reputation is the one asset that can truly impact the very foundations of a business. It can either lift a brand to new, unseen heights, or it can destroy the hard-earned goodwill of the people and send everything crashing down. The key is to take appropriate precautionary measures before designing products/services, creating and releasing marketing material, interacting with the public, and publishing content on social media accounts. A prompt response to the queries and complaints of customers is also mandatory. These are the first and most important steps towards building an impeccable image of your brand online.