3 steps to manage your brand’s online reputation

In this article I’ll describe 3 steps to help you manage and measure your brand’s online reputation and give you a few ideas a brand matters.

 

The 3 Steps to manage your brand reputation

 

Three main steps build great brands.  First, your promise is expressed through your value proposition, tagline and all advertising material.  Your promise sets an expectation for how a customer should expect to be treated.  Second, is the experience that your company creates when it delivers the promise?  Traditionally, this experience was delivered in-person by your staff, but more often this experience is first delivered through online channels.  (Please read ZMOT or the CDJ) Third, is listening for customer perceptions about your company.  Your customer’s perception of your company is made when they compare their expectations with your promised experience.  In all likelihood there is a gap between your perception of your brand and your customers perception of your brand. To narrow the gap between perception and reality, you’ll have to actively listen to your customer’s feelings towards your brand.

 

Step 1. Make a promise

 

Blogging be one of the best ways to help you make a promise to your customers.   Blog’s are online journals that allow you to write articles, post videos, share images and set up lead capture forms.  Blogs are a practical and low-cost way to help you position your message, develop ideas, showcase testimonials, differentiate products, open discussion and add a low-cost customer service platform for your company.  As a core element of content marketing, a blog can help your company improve the SEO of your website and develop a distinct voice in the market.

There are lots of great online blogging platforms   I’m partial to WordPress, but I’ve heard lots of great things about TumblrSquarespaceBlogger and Posterous.  It’s worthwhile to take time reviewing the platforms and picking the right one for your needs.  Set a two-week deadline for yourself.  Whichever platform you choose, the most important thing is to start blogging and learn how to tell a story.

 

One Measurement of Success:

Employee Engagement = # of Employees blogging/month

 

Allowing employees to blog on behalf of the company can help align them to the values of the company and stimulate innovation through sharing of ideas.  IBM is one of the most innovative companies in the world and is ranked the third most valuable brand in the world for 2012.  Their promise, THINK, helps guide their 100,000+ internal bloggers.   To mitigate any risk for rogue employees, you can create a social media policy like the one below and set up an administrative checkpoint through WordPress roles.

 

 

Step 2. Optimize online experiences

 

Lets say your brand promise is to give unrivalled customer service. Your online presence should re-enforce this promise.   In this case, you should allocate a significant part of your marketing resources to creating a remarkable, online, customer service experience.  By remarkable I mean that you literally and intentionally try to get customers talking about you.  This is called earned marketing and is a powerful way to build trust into your brand.

 

One of my favorite personal examples was with Best Buy’s online army of customer service agents called @Twelpforce.  I wanted to mount a pair of surround sound speakers in my basement without punching holes in the wall for the wires.  I asked the Twelpforce team if they could recommend any solutions.   Within one day I had 5 responses and a warm fuzzy feeling that motivated me enough to go to their store.  Unfortunately, my local store didn’t have the part…but that’s another story.

 

The takeaway point here isn’t to get you to start a Twitter account for customer service.  Instead, I’d ask that you spend time to understand where your customers are.  Which networks do they commonly use? Are they mobile? Which browser is most common? Knowing the answer to questions like these will help you allocate the time, people and financial resources needed to best serve your customers.

 

One Measurement of Success:

Unrivalled Customer Service = # of delighted customers served online  / month

 

Step 3. Listen & loop

 

Listening is not the same as hearing. A deaf person can’t hear, but they certainly can listen. Listening is the active process of concentrating on communication and learning from it.  Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound.   It’s really important to understand what your customers say about your brand and your industry.

 

If you are truly getting better at serving customers, you should hear more of them telling happy stories about you. McDonald’s recently won the marketer of the year award for their campaign Our Food. Your Questions.  In my experience, I’ve heard more of my friends speaking positively about McDonalds because of this campaign.  From McDonald’s point of view, I’m willing to bet that they are using all the feedback they got from this campaign to help them improve their already amazing customer service system.

 

By loop, I mean repeat.  Listen to what your customer says then go back to the experience you created for them and improve it.  The loop phase is the most critical element of the process.  This feedback loop is the mechanism that allows you to match your real customer experience to your promise.  The feedback loop is what transforms hearing into listening and is critical element to your brand’s reputation.

 

On digital platforms, listening takes may forms.  Here is a list of my favorite online listening tools.

 

Google Alerts – Scans the web and alerts you for any search terms you set.  When you get negative feedback or reviews do this .

Followerwonk – Analyze your followers and those you follow and those who follow you to gain more insights into where people are from, sex, conversation topics, time of day most active on Twitter etc.

Compete – Is a paid tool that can help you track visitor traffic to your site and compare it to competitors.  You could use this data as a form of listening to measure the impact a traditional media campaign is having on website visits. When coupled with Google Analytics, these two pieces of information could help you measure the ROI of traditional media on your conversion funnel.

Google Analytics – Can tell you a lot about how people are getting to your site, how many people visit your site, where they go and how quickly they leave.

Google Consumer Surveys – Research isn’t expensive anymore. This new tool from Google offers very affordable and statistically analyzed results to the questions you have about your business.

Hootsuite – Is a customizable social media management dashboard that can used by teams to monitor and respond to several accounting includinge Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress.

Netvibes – Is a customizable desktop dashboard that monitors YouTube videos, RSS feeds, Twitter streams, blog posts, news stories and a lot of other content from around the web on one screen.

Social Mention – Measure the sentiment, reach, passion and strength of the online conversation around your brand.  You can also set up email alerts to give you daily updates.

Survey Monkey – Online surveys are a great tool to help you gauge how well you’re doing against your own customer’s expectations.

 

Online channels are built with binary language that contains lots of zeros and ones.  This means that every little pixel on your screen, every conversation that you have, every survey you produce contains thousands of bits of data.  The challenge with data is that it is not information.  You’ll need someone to extract the information from the data before you can use it to guide your decisions.

 

Three Measures of Success:

$ invested in training your people to produce business intelligence

# of  insights / month

# of referrals / month

 

The benefits of a great brand

 

A brand is the gut feeling a customer has about you and that feeling can have a big impact on your business. A brand can influence, good or bad, the price customers are willing to pay for your products and services.  A strong brand can help your company weather a downturn in the economy.  A mission lead brand outperforms its competition nine to one.  Highly branded companies deliver more shareholder value. Last but not least, a brand can help you align employee behaviour to consistently delight your customers.

 

I think this system is a great way to help you build your company brand, measure it and manage the online reputation.

 

 

What do you think about this 3-step system?  Is there a better way?

 

 

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