Brands are dynamic. Customers use our products and services. They like or dislike their experience and they say so, publicly. This type of customer engagement directly impacts your brand. In this way, your brand is being created with or without you. You can’t control it. What you can control is how you deal with it.
You’ve probably heard the saying “feedback is a gift”. It’s also a gift that you can’t return or exchange if you don’t like it. It’s yours to deal with whether you like it or not. Since most brands have some sort of an online presence today, customers have a very public option when providing feedback. They can leave their comments on your 1-800 customer feedback line or send their concerns to some anonymous email. More likely, however, they will post their issues to a website, blog or user group.
When customers provide this type of public, direct feedback, we basically have two options:
1. Engage – and hopefully influence the nature of the discussion
2. Remain passive – and let the discussion continue without us
I encourage companies to engage in the discussion. That’s the point of the internet, social media and online communities. We have the capability to have these discussions in real time with many more customers than we could have ever have done in the past.
Yet, there are hundreds of examples where companies have had negative comments appear online about their products and they chose not to engage, or even acknowledge, the feedback.
In most cases this sort of “head in the sand” approach doesn’t work out very well for the companies involved. They appear aloof, disconnected and uncaring. Customers post comments on corporate blogs and social media sites, and the damage is done. Companies then spend a ton of money and time trying to “manage their online reputation” – which usually means feeding good content into these sites in order to push the negative stuff off the first few pages of search results.
While this may work in some cases, it seems to be that it is a lot more effective, not to mention efficient, to just engage in the conversation to begin with! Here are some ideas to help you proactively manage your brand online:
- Pay attention: create Google alerts for your company name, brand names, etc. Monitor where you brand is being mentioned and in what context. It’s next to impossible to influence how the brand is being represented if you don’t know where you’re being mentioned.
- Be active: identify the key places where your brand is being mentioned and get involved. Participate in discussions relevant to your brand but not where you are directly mentioned. You will get insights into the tone of the conversations and understand more how to position your brand appropriately.
- Acknowledge feedback: when someone posts something negative, acknowledge their issue. Let them know you heard what they were saying. Explain your response, but don’t try and justify your position, as you will only serve to annoy them further.