Managing reputation on your online business

Friday, 1 July 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

When companies start relying on online sources for brand mileage and product promotion turnover, they are also asking for the recipients to be favourable of their branding and image. Reaching out to the potential customers is far easier online due to the less cost per head, multiple networks and accessibility. 

The sources a company prefers to adopt for online communication could differ according to the business it is in. for instance, a more B2C oriented business would place itself on Facebook whereas if you are more B2B and corporate, you would choose ‘LinkedIn’ for also the ability to obtain human capital apart from only promoting a brand or corporate image. 

The world of reputation – Online

The bitter sweet concept of placing a company online is due to its vulnerability of image exposure aspect is higher compared to using traditional channels. E-reputation, or managing corporate reputation online, should be consiaxdered by every company which has marked its presence on the internet. 

One may argue that most of the Sri Lankan consumers with purchasing power may not have access to the internet and therefore justify that such an extent is unnecessary. Here, it is the decision of the marketing team to decide if 20% of the profits come from the 80% who use traditional channels, or 80% of the profits come from the customer segments which do use social media even though it’s only 20% of the customers.

Broader aspects of reputation 

Credibility (self trust): If your marketing resources are afraid of the mere aspect of taking the brand online, maybe it’s time you considered a training programme to get them to indulge in interfacing with social channels more. As the rule of thumb goes for personal branding, if you are not on Google, you do not exist. Let’s face it, today the easiest way to follow a supplier/customer lead is to hunt for it online. 

Whilst it could be perceived that being able to be present in a social media channel would also mean your brand is strong enough to ‘mark the presence,’ consumers, whether it’s B2B or B2C, want a personal interface with their brand or your company. They’d love to be a part of what it does, where it goes, who ‘likes’ it or who ‘tweets’ on it.  Kelly Felder is a brilliant example of having a personal one-to one-contact through its Facebook page, where customers get a chance to discuss a new top/pair of jeans, also positioned to a very ‘hip and stylish’ party wear and formal wear segment.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to let all the invitations into the company profile, filtering can always be enabled to allow customers to your profile who are likely to be shopping with you. Loyalty card bases could probably be used if the base is larger to identify. To strengthen this, there are also online communities which are gated, so that in-depth conversations can be allowed only within the secluded communities. 

Just as much as the exposure that it would get, it could also be threatened by negative percepts. 

Reputation (market trust): How does your company deal with the first negative press coverage reported? Call a press conference to negate the damage done to it? Or quickly post a status update on it? 

A similar occurrence had taken place with a leading mobile networking community, where after a negative status update on the company profile, all employees tweeted in to negate the impact. This action had increased the number of daily tweets by two times. However, controversial actions are not strategic and should not be encouraged on the social media to increase traffic, but the point that should be taken home is that any disastrous news, comments or publicity can always be dealt with at lesser cost and with a stronger impact.

Alignment – Organisational trust: Reputation is an art, not a science. It can be influenced and managed, but it can never be created or designed. Just as respect to individuals is earned, so is reputation for a company. Being a company representing the employee and customer identity online, information share and obtaining should both be managed. 

At times the rate of engagement on the social channel maybe high, but productivity is measured on how relevant the engagement rate is to your stakeholders. Organisational trust is built upon relevancy; this is also a means of avoiding online hiccups. 

Integration for market trust 

Four years back, social media meant only Facebook. Today we have mobile enabled e-mailers, location-based services, Skype calling services integrating with social media, location markings like Foursquare, social games, blogs, video sharing and networking sites and devices become more adoptive to these services, smart phones, i-Pad and the Tab. 

To manage all of these are separate designations such as the ‘Director of Mobile Strategy’. Evidently, every possible channel is more integrated and integration is increasing. Used properly, leveraging on your corporate e-reputation can be a blessing. 

Conclusion 

E-reputation would soon become a necessity for a corporate and designations would be created for managing this. It is important for every company not interested in being left behind to brace up and move on.

 

(The writer is a Chartered Marketer and holds a BBM from the Bangalore University. She could be reached via fernando.romanthi@gmail.com.)

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