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Net Gains: 4 Steps for True Online Reputation Management

15 Jan, 2010 By: James Palmer Response

James PalmerIn March 2006, Chevrolet ran a social media promotion where consumers could create their own ads for the new Tahoe. Anti-SUV activists took up the call, creating ads that portrayed the Tahoe as a gas-guzzling monstrosity that caused global warming and destroyed the environment. These negative ads became popular and quickly made the rounds on YouTube.

Instead of pulling these negative ads, Chevy openly acknowledged them on the company’s blog, dealing with the issues brought up in the ads and highlighting the new Tahoe’s good qualities, such as the fact that it gets 22 miles-per-gallon (MPG), can run on ethanol, and has a high safety rating.

By keeping the dialog open and addressing these legitimate concerns people had with their product, Chevy was able to turn a potential negative into a positive. Online reputation management means addressing consumers’ concerns and showing them how your company is striving to make things better. Here’s how to implement an online reputation strategy at your company.

What’s the Buzz on Your Company, Product or Brand?
Before you can turn negative press into positive spin, you need to know what is being said about your company and its products and services. Fortunately, this is easier than ever thanks to the same media that people are using to complain about corporations. A Twitter tool called Summize lets you search Twitter for what people are talking about, including your company, products or services, while another app called Monitter offers a live streaming view of what Twitter users are saying about your company in real time.

In addition, Google recently announced that it would begin indexing Twitter posts, or tweets. This should make it really simple for companies to track what is being said about them in the social media space.

Get Involved With Social Media
You can also create your own corporate blog where people can leave comments. Not only is this a great way to build goodwill with your customers, it also allows you to respond to negative comments before they spread across the Internet.

Let your customers interact with your company or brand. Give customers a forum where they can ask questions, share successes, lodge complaints, give compliments and interact with other customers. Cable provider Comcast, itself the subject of a social media-based smear campaign when an unhappy customer made a video of a Comcast technician sleeping on his couch and posted it on YouTube, has a Twitter page for its customer service department that offers assistance to frustrated Comcast users (

Encourage Brand Evangelism
People will line up to complain more often than congratulate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love sharing positive experiences. They just need a little more encouragement. Create brand evangelists by giving them incentives to spread the good news about your brand. Give them free samples or special discount coupons if they tell three friends about your product or service. Hold a contest for the most creative video commercial featuring your product.

Fight Bad Press With Good Press
If your company is under attack, ignoring the complaints and burying them in PR fluff is probably the worst thing you can do. Instead, try to turn a negative into a positive, like Chevy did with their Tahoe ads.

Highlight the good things your product brings to the table. Or acknowledge any shortcomings and solicit feedback on how to make things better. Develop a strategy for addressing the concerns of your customers, and make sure everyone — from your salespeople to your customer service department — knows how to communicate this strategy to your customers. Create a dedicated page on your Web site or blog that deals with this issue and highlights the specific steps your company is taking to fix the problem or show the benefits your product provides.

Companies don’t have to be afraid of what consumers might be saying about them online. By being proactive and knowing what is being said, getting active in social media, encouraging brand evangelism, and letting customers know the good they do, corporations can turn negative press into positive feelings for their product or brand.

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