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I was recently hired by a company to establish, teach them how to maintain, and leverage social media into their overall marketing campaign. Before heading to my client’s office, I did a quick internet search for any information on their business, social platforms they might already be involved in and to see if they had any online reputation. Boy, did they!
During the course of my discussions with my clients, I learned a lot about their background. Their place of business is gorgeous and it’s obvious they put a lot of money, time and extreme effort into their passion. But their online reputation creams them! Criticism of their establishment ranges from being overpriced to putting out an inferior product. On one site, their overall rating is a 67 percent. Ouch! Although the overall comments about their staff and their physical location border on rave reviews, the negativity stops many folks from even walking in the door. They are losing customers before they even step in the door.
If we remember that over 85 million people have smart phones and that our social media reputations are transparent, then we can all agree that something has to be done to help this business or they simply won’t make it. They simply won’t be even given a second glance. So, here’s how I started.
1. Take steps to improve and solve the problems in the business.
No matter how hard we work on our social media presence, if the underlying problems continue, so will the negative comments. The underlying problems have to be fixed before we can continue. If the problem is inconsistent food, for example, then we must work diligently on consistency. If the problem is customer service, get busy training the staff and take control.
2. Respond promptly and courteously to all comments and complaints.
Interact with your clients/customers showing them you value their opinions and that they individually matter. Offer to fix things where you can and let them know you hear them and are taking corrective actions. Consider creating press releases of great things in your company. Let the world know if Betty Smith made manager or you hired Joe from Seattle or your new customer service manager. Put these press releases out to local newspapers and online sites such as i-newswire.com and pr.com.
3. Begin doing some community good and capitalize on any and all publicity.
It’s easy to do a donation to a domestic violence center of old clothes or toys for children, or to a soup kitchen who may be low on volunteers and supplies. Donate some gift certificates to the local elementary schools and see what those parents do to support their kids. Put your name out there doing good for the community and people will start talking. Contact the local newspapers and let them know of the good community will.
4.Create Press Releases of great things in your company.
Let the world know if Betty Smith made manager or you hired Joe from Seattle for your new customer service
manager. Put these press releases out to local newspapers and online sites such as i-newswire.com and pr.com.
5.Put on your Polyanna glasses and flood those social media platforms with good.
Polyanna is a movie about a young girl who had a positive take on everything around her. Spin anything into a positive light. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google Places and niche related sites for the written word. Make short videos of any of your great things, including some customer promotions, and place them on youtube or vimeo.
6.Create a small well done (preferably professional) postcard-sized or baseball card asking your best customers/clients to comment about you on social platforms.
Don’t put all of your platforms on one card. Maybe one or two of the sites most needing your attention. Until you are confident that you are on the road to improving your reputation, be picky about who you hand these out too.
7.Review your progress frequently and make adjustments to your plan of action.
Any plan of action will take tweaking as the plan unfolds. Be ready to see and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses and take action when it’s needed or called for. Set up a google alert page letting you know when comments are being made on the internet about you or your company.
8.Be teachable and consult with other professionals.
Networking with like-minded folks is a great thing. It may help you to see things you never thought of. Keep an open mind and be willing to take direction.
Keep in mind these are not quick fixes, but will take a little bit of time. It doesn’t take long to fall into the bad
reputation pit. It takes longer to dig out of that pit. But any action is better than no action.
Kim Tranter is a Non-Credit Social Media Instructor at Herkimer County Community College. Kim teaches
Social Media in private seminars from Central New York to Los Angeles to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Kim not only teaches how to implement a successful social media campaign, but she uses these same successful tools in her physical brick and mortar business. Along with her husband, she has owned and operated a successful chain of restaurants for over 20 years and knows first-hand what works and what doesn’t. She authored and published the “The Social Media Ultimate Success Guide” which is available on Amazon. You can connect with Kim on LinkedIn and Twitter @ULrnSocialMedia. Please visit her website at www.ULearnSocialMedia.com
A lot of companies ignore their online presence, but the truth is a lot of people first Google, then buy. And if that potential client runs into a forum about your company and he sees 10 pages of “their services are horrible” you can be sure he’ll look for someone else.
And i’ve found it really difficult to change these perceptions once built. It’s best to prevent than to fix later.
You are absolutely correct! One of the reasons why I talk to clients about 20-30 social profiles is because they have a good likelihood of being on the first page of Google. That means you will have a chance to show people who you are. Not somebody else.
Great article Andy. I’ve had personal experience in this area since the last corp job I had was for a company who’s reputation was also “creamed.” They actually have a foundation and have raised billions (yep, “B”) for charity, but that didn’t outweigh the serious internal problems. Unfortunately they’re continuing to struggle and recently the head of the company was named one of the 5 worst CEOs of 2011. Sounds like your new client did the right thing by hiring you!
Thanks so much for the replies to this article. I’m very honored that I was able to do a guest blog for Andy. This company has definitely been one of my biggest challenges. Claire, you are so right. If only most businesses would recognize the importance of being proactive and getting involved before this happens to them! Whether a business is actively involved in social media or not, social media is happening all around them and about them!
Thanks again Andy. You do an amazing job!
Thank you Kim for the awesome article! Much appreciated!
I worked with a major wiki site that does a lot of stuff hand in hand with Wikimedia Foundation and their site dealt more with fandoms. Believe me, fans of anything are kind of crazy. It was a big challenge as the original founder and team was always pulling in information that was controversial and made people mad.
When I got on board, it was a tough job. I had to do a lot of outreach to the communities covered that had reacted negatively and work with them to get the idea that they can contribute positive information to their fandom in the wiki and balance out the bad and good.
It was tough and I had several other projects to boost and try to get covered by other reputable sources. We were covered by YPR and Mashable for research done as well as Michael Jackson’s passing. A load of his fans came in and contributed to the wiki to make even even more complete than Wikipedia’s page…lol.
The main problem was that in this case, the founder was afraid of contacting people to see what the problem was and how to tackle the issue. For me, I had no problem doing that part and it literally saved the website from collapse as it is one of the top ten largest self-hosted wikis.
It takes a lot of courage to face the problem and correct it. Thank you for sharing this article.
It is amazing how a little outreach can completely save a business or website in this case. All people need to do is pick up the phone and find out what is happening. That is what most clients and fans want to know. What is going on. I know their are times when I fail on follow up, and those are the times when I have the customers who do not like what is going on. Once I talk to them things can change for the better.