Chapter 12: Reputation Management on Social Media

Have you ever noticed that bad news or negative experiences/reviews about a product or a brand spreads faster when compared to the positive or good qualities of the same? For example, you go to a restaurant and spend a good time with your loved ones there, you probably will remember the experience; however, in most cases, you will not really share it; alternatively, if overwhelmed, you will definitely share it with your friends when there is a discussion on food or restaurants in your city. On the other hand, when you face a bad experience, you will want to share it with a lot more people so as to caution them to not to eat food at the restaurant that has not treated you well.

What It Was Before?

Let us date back to the generations of the past, when my parents and grandparents had negative experiences with the street-side storekeeper or at the hotel they visited; they used to caution us and also inform the neighbors about their negative experiences. That is the limitation of negative word of mouthunless media intervenes and it goes mainstream. However, things today have changed.

What It Is Now?

With the advent of technology and the reach of social media, people from all over the world share their negative experiences with the global audience just soon after the incident takes place. Thanks to smartphones that make sharing of these experiences handy and thanks to social media for making them reach the mass. If you keenly observe your friend’s activities on Facebook or Twitter, you will notice that many of them love to share their travel, movie, food, or day-to-day experiences. In their activities, you will always find more complaints than appreciations. It is simple, when a customer is agitated, he or she is the weapon against the business and the brand really needs to pacify him or her to control the negativeness of the scenario. This process of brands pacifying customers who talk negatively about their brand on social media sites or sharing their negative experience with the brand is called ‘social media reputation management.’

Case Study 12.1: How Leading IT Company, Manages Its Reputation on Social Media

This case study of online reputation management is based on my personal experience.

What Actually Happened?

I was very excited when I had received an Indian IT giant as my client while working with the marketing process outsourcing company CMO Axis, an agency located in Chennai, India. I was working on building an external community of top-management-level individuals of leading banks worldwide.

Excited, while I was strategizing the social media marketing for the brand late night and was deciding on the best practices of community marketing I had tweeted “working on the social media marketing of ‘name’ brand” and went to sleep. I woke up to a call at 8 AM from my boss. He was furious and wanted to me to reach office as soon as possible. I could sense from his tone that he was literally angry and it perplexed me more. I was scared and rushed to office to realize the project on which I was happily working on was put on hold just because I tweeted about it. According to the privacy agreement as an employee of CMO Axis, we were not supposed to reveal the name of the brand that we were working with. In addition, ignorant of this fact, I had tweeted about it—to a global audience!

How Did They Figure Out My Tweet?

The leading IT giant had set up social media listening tools on their brand’s name that helped them receive updates made by people globally using their brand name. My single tweet went as an alarm bell to all the senior officials as no leading corporate with a huge workforce would want the world to know that they have hired an external agency to manage their social media marketing, it was a matter of reputation after all!

What Was the Conclusion?

I was first asked to delete that tweet from Twitter and later after detailed conversations, we became more cautious about privacy concerns! Well, we really got the project back again. I really do not know how, thanks to my ex-boss Vinod Harith!

In an online reputation management process, a brand manager fixes listening tools and runs a sentiment analysis to understand the level of positive and negative conversations across the web on different social media channels. Through these listening tools, one can also track the concerns based on geographies and set up a mechanism to address the issues raised by customers.

If your brand is not available on social media, that does not mean that people will not talk negatively about your brand; they will anyways do. It is advisable to establish your brand’s presence on social media at least to listen to your customers talk negatively about your brand and to try solving their concerns. This will help control the reach of the negativity. The quicker you pacify an angry customer, the lesser the negativity reaches.

Why Is Reputation Management Important?

  1. Social Media Reputation Management (SMRP) Takes Your Brand One Mile Ahead: Imagine that you are walking by road along with a friend complaining about how poor your air conditioner is and all of a sudden a person dressed in professional attire bumps in and introduces himself as the service manager of the same brand whose air conditioner is poor and extends his hand to serve your problem, how satisfying you would feel? In a social media scenario, a listening brand can easily listen to the concerns in conversations (on social networking sites) or the not-so-direct casual concerns (but brand manager gets to know by running a research on the brand name using listening tools) and reach out to them with the solution or pacify customers that the brand is concerned about the problem faced and it shall be soon solved. A brand talking to its customer on social media is definitely the first step to humanize the brand and it also takes your brand one mile ahead.
  2. SMRP Controls the Negativity in the Air: On social media, a conversation spreads like wildfire; the sooner the brand intervenes the negative conversation, the faster it’s controlled. If a brand takes necessary steps to find out the root cause of negative conversations on the web, it can contact those individuals and try to control the negativeness to spread further.
  3. Reputation Management May Bring Positive Word of Mouth: When a brand manager contacts the customer who has suffered an issue and tries to get the issue sorted in time, the unhappy customer overwhelmingly reports back to the social media on how the brand had responded to its concerns and solved it. This in return helps save the brand’s reputation as the one who was cribbing about it is now talking good about the brand. This completely helps brand save its reputation online. Provided that the company representatives should request customers to share about the concerned solved issue on social media. Airtel practices this in India while solving customer issues via social media.
  4. Online Reputation Management (ORM) Makes Your Brand Distinct and Visible: Today, every industry has many players and customers have a wide variety of choices to pick from the brands of their choice. For example, in telecom, apparels, fashion, food, and retail chains, each and every category has got many players. Shifting brands or products is an easy choice for customers; to retain the loyalty factors of customers, a brand goes an extra mile by having better customer support, giving extra warranty, offering free services, etc. Reputation management on social media can help your brand be visible and distinct and gain attention of marketing thought-leaders. Reputation management tactics helps in reputation enhancement.

Nine Tips for Reputation Management on Social Media

  1. Listening Tools: Set up listening tools for your brand that will help you track the conversations on social media. Some of the tools will also help you dig out all the conversations from across the web. Below are some tools that you can use them for free or pay a premium to access:
  2. Run Detailed Search: It is recommended to do a detailed search on social media by using company name, company URL, name of the products, competing products, phrases such as “company name + sucks”, “company name + rocks”, and “company product + review + sucks” to track all the mentions about your brand on web.
  3. Take It Personally: The complaints, bashing, and dissatisfaction of the customers should be taken as opportunities and not as problems, as there are chances that a customer can turn into a fan. Consider the problem as a personal problem with utmost concentration on solving the concerns raised.
  4. Be Quick: The sooner you handle the concerns raised on social media, the easier they are resolved. Appoint a higher authority to respond to the complaints than having an executive-level individual or an agency who would delay the responses, waiting for the hierarchy to respond internally in the organization to the concerns raised on social media. It is recommended that brands should not concentrate on customers to remove posts but must work harder to handle the situation and solve customers’ concerns. Social media platforms are built in a way that complaints raised are very much transparent and can be heard by anyone; the quicker your brand responds to the concerns and solves it, the less the community intervenes.

For example, Natchi Lazaruss, an entrepreneur based out of Chennai, had posted on Subway India’s Facebook Business Page about how they boast about their home delivery system but do not really door-deliver the subs when customers ask for it. As I was connected to Subway India page and other common friends of Natchi were connected to it, the conversation triggered about how poor Subway is from a customer service perspective. If the administrator of Subway India would have responded to the concern raised by Natch, the conversation would not have been triggered and made into a big issue; it would have helped Subway save a customer.

  1. Talk to the Customers First: Besides responding to any negative comments on social media, it is recommended to figure out a way to talk to the customers discreetly via e-mail, phone, or direct messages, as quickly responding to a negative concern of the customer will raise more curiosity.
  2. Share a Lot of Good Stuff about Your Brand: Start collecting customer testimonials, positive feedbacks, video record your happy customers, and upload them on social media channels. The more you share them, the more positivity you create in the air. Recommend your happy customers to write a review about your brand and share their opinion on your social media channels. Doing so will help you outweigh any negative post.
  3. Learn to Avoid: Not all complaints made on social media channels are an opportunity. There are chances that some people might just complaint creating fakes profile to damage your brand’s reputation; therefore, you will have to decide to walk away from it once you run an detailed analysis on the credibility of the customer complaining (If his/her profile is too fake, avoiding is a better opportunity). Apart from fake ones, there are some customers who are only interested in creating a fuss; just stop engaging with them.
  4. Accept Your Fault: There is no point of arguing with the customers on social media when they raise a concern. If you think that your brand or product would have created the glitch, do not hesitate to apologize and accept the fault. For example, in the above example of how Natchi Lazarus faced an issue with Subway delivery, the franchisee head of Subway in Chennai, Mr. Vipin, finally responded in an apologetic tone:
  5. Request for Removal of the Negative Statement: Once you have solved the customer query and have made the customer happy with your customer service, you may politely request them to remove the complaint raised on social media or go and share about the complaint being solved. Whenever, I raise my complaint to Airtel (@Airtel_Presence) on Twitter, my issues get solved and I am also politely requested to report back to social media if the complaint is closed.

Case Study 12.2: How Café Coffee Day Managed Its Damaged Reputation on Twitter – #CCDSucks

This is one of those incidents that can be marked as the first milestone of online reputation management in the Indian social media history. This incident took place in the early 2010 and triggered a mass conversation over Twitter.

How Did #CCDSucks Come into Place:

#CCDSucks is a hashtag (most commonly used on Twitter to aggregate content) started by a few influential bloggers/tweeters based out of Chennai in response to a bad experience. They had a tweetup (when group of tweeters met in reality, it is called tweetup) organized at Café Coffee Day (CCD) in Isphani Centre, Chennai. This incident took place when a group of bloggers/tweeters were asked to shell out a cover charge if they wanted to use their premises for a tweetup, failing which they should vacate the space. The angry tweeters left the venue after paying the first bill for the coffee and snacks they had and decided to vent out their anger against CCD on Twitter.

Result of the Anger:

On the evening of the incident, the tweeters vented their anger out by expressing their shock in 140 characters.

65% of the respondents were talking negatively about the brand.

Out of 754 tweets, 153 were made by high influencers, 214 by influencers, and the rest by casual Twitter users.

CCD that is also active on Twitter with @CafeCoffeeDay had responded to the tweeters by apologizing on the next day morning.

Result of the Conversation

The Brand responded as quick as possible to the concerns raised, being apologetic, thus gaining a reasonable number of followers.

Despite after apologies made by brand, the conversation did not die, which showed that the customers were really angry about the incident. However, it did raise many supporters supporting CCD. They were advocating the issue and tweeted in favor of CCD.

CCD’s apologies were very much appreciated by many. The brand drew more than 300 followers.

#CCDSucks became a phenomenon for many; until a week at least, people at CCD with any negative experience started using #CCDSucks in their tweets.

Source of the Café Coffee Day Case Study and Pictures: http://www. slideshare.net/saltsocial/when-cafe-coffee-day-had-to-defend-itself-ontwitter-3605195#btnPrevious

Case Study 12.3: @Airtel_Presence Solves Issue on Social Media?

Airtel, which is one of the – most popular and strongest telecommunication networks in India, has a very encouraging and engaging presence on social media, especially on Twitter and Facebook. The main objective of Airtel using social media is not to promote its products or services alone, but to offer customer service to the social-media-savvy customers. In a country where mobile penetration will take up 72% share in the year 2016, the competition among network providers is increasing day by day; in addition, as per the June 2011 statistics, Airtel has taken about 28.26% of the total Indian telecom usage market share, which comprises to about 160 million users that is totally 50 million more than the total internet penetration in the country, which is about 110 million as per the recent statistics, of which around 40–50% of users are social media savvy and use social media extensively for day-to-day communication. Despite Airtel being greatly penetrated in India compared to internet, it still has its evident presence on social media serving its niche social media savvy customers and there could be various reasons behind it, which we shall explore in the following story.

My experience with Airtel customer service traditionally had always been bad. If you are an Airtel customer, you might probably know what my feelings are. There are times when I call them and figure out routes to reach to the customer service executive, the numbers to reach is like a maze that you can get lost in and most of the times the call gets disconnected once you figure out what number to press to speak to a customer service executive.

If by luck you get a chance to speak to the executive, you further get annoyed by their scripted tone. Some usual questions they ask to verify us are irritating enough and they irritate more, as some answers you seek from them are not in the script they handle. Look at the following cartoon to get a hang of how they usually behave.

Well, in most cases, they do not have a quick solution to your problem and there is a standard process of complaint registration, complaint number, automated text message on mobile about the complaint made, and ‘Wait,’ ‘wait’ until you really get it solved, especially if issues are related to billing, shifting landline, issues with pre paid number, etc.

The above was my case until I start registering my complaints on Twitter. My perception about Airtel’s customer service has changed after that. I had registered a request to shift my Airtel landline connection to my new office and I was told within a week this shall be solved after doing a feasibility check on the location of new office and they promised to call me within 24 hours to let me know the status of the feasibility check they shall do. Apparently, they did check feasibility only upon following them up on the third day of the complaint made; I was told that the feasibility was checked and they have assured me that on the given location the connection shall be shifted in the stipulated time.

It was April 1, 2012 and we were hoping to have our Airtel connection in place; my colleagues and employees were excited to start working at the new office; however, later, we realized that Airtel has not transferred the connection yet. I tried calling the customer service people and apparently they told me that based on the feasibility check, they cannot transfer the connection to our place; we would have to go for a new connection which we weren’t agreeing to and a complaint was registered and as per the customer service, it could have taken 24 hours to resolve this issue up.

It was a completely uncertain situation! First day of office, no internet and Airtel perplexed me by scripting their customer service guys! It was a panicking situation. All I did was vent out my anger and I had sought for help from @Airtel_Presence on Twitter and the conversation goes this way:

Within 2 hours, I had got a call, they took responsibility of the issue and within 8 hours, the issue was resolved. I was getting constant calls from the central office to check if the issue has been resolved and when I told my issue was resolved, they politely requested me to tweet about the closure of the request made, which I had happily did! Thus, managing to save its reputation!

The complaints made in the past cases were very much one-to-one reaching to the executive level; however, complaints now we register on Twitter/social media channels make it very much public. By using social media, you are registering a complaint in front of the audience who use the services/products of Airtel daily and it becomes the brand’s compulsion to listen to the customer’s concern and respond to i it on time in front of all the audience.

Case Study 12.4: Starbucks India’s First Social Media Failure:

As discussed earlier, the online reputation management is the most crucial aspect of strategic social media marketing. How much ever you invest in social media marketing, if you fail to manage your reputation online and do not meet your customer’s concerns on time, all your efforts of spending on an online channel for promotion is worthless.

I always used say that “if your brand has faced a negative concern from your customer, solve it than delete or defend it” to avoid nuisances. Here is a perfect example of the same, Starbucks India quickly deleted one of the post made by their angry customer and that triggered a viral rage on Facebook and Twitter. Let us look into what has happened:

Issue Faced by Customer (@ArmaanKapur):

The above concern was posted on ‘Starbucks’ Facebook page on February 7, 2013 and the post triggered 5,100+ likes and 250+ comments within a few hours. Armaan awaited response from the brand and later posted a screenshot of the post made on Starbucks India on the Global Starbucks page on February 12, 2013. Both Starbucks and Starbucks India removed the post from the wall, as it was getting more attention than their regular updates, triggering more criticism against the brand. Angry @ArmaanKapur had by then tweeted a screenshot of the post made on the Starbuck India’s Facebook wall that also showed a number of likes and comments received, which got him more attention from the Twitter Community resulting in further damage of Starbucks. The following are some screenshots and responses from the active Twitter community:

Starbucks India did not respond to the issue on Facebook and deleted the post made by Armaan. It stayed silent on Twitter despite many people asked for a response to the issue. Starbucks India remained thickskinned and continued to do its other social media marketing content activities! This is definitely shameful! Yes, it is!

The tweet made by @ArmaanKapur had received 211 automated retweets and more than 70 manual retweets, which included tweets from many influencers and RTs obtained via them, thus making this incident reaches thousands of individuals including journalists from the mainstream media and triggered awesome support from the Twitter community.

The brand that has just established its presence in India had a great opportunity to show people that they do not only claim to sell the best coffee in the world but also offer best customer service—even on social media. However, I always believed that many Indian brands lack social media etiquette especially when it comes to ‘social media and customer service’. Starbucks India has just fallen into that category—may be this could be a part of glocalization!

The Best Way Starbucks Could Have Handled This:

  1. By taking a call personally/offline with a customer and solving the issue amicably, requesting him to remove the post himself.
  2. Identifying those bouncers and manager involved in the scene, recording an apologetic statement from them and posting the video on YouTube—just going one step ahead to showcase ‘the best customer service’ practice. By the way, Starbucks later claimed that they did not delete the negative post that was going viral! Therefore, my question is “Then who did?”

Remember, the bigger you become, the bigger the responsibilities, expectations, and repercussions are to meet. Looks like some brands found this out the hard way thanks to their social media presence. Having jumped into the bandwagon, they found that the gap between them and their customers was bridged beautifully, thus being subjected to open criticism, abuses, complaints, etc. like never before.

Come to think of it, all these years, when you had a grievance on the brand, you had to write a letter, post it, and wait for the response. For how many days, weeks, months, or years – no one knows. You would not even know if they had received it and if they were ignoring the letter or answering. And then, social media marketing came along, changing everything. You could clearly see if they have ignored you, take proof and give it to the press and see it become a headline the next day. The replies will come then, battered and bruised.

Therefore, when it came to responding and engaging, which is what social media was all about, it was no surprise that many brands failed miserably. It gave us a picture of what really went behind the glass doors and exposed their vulnerability in handling negative feedback, criticisms, and comments.

Case Study 12.5: Volkswagen Goes Sexist

On September 11, 2012, Volkswagen’s print advertisement in the Times of India shocked and annoyed a million people. A gizmo attached to the paper vibrated and the Ad reads as “Feel the shiver of excitement?” This prompted not one but too many reactions and the Twitter bashing began. After many ‘vibrator’ jokes, the social media executive lost it and said:

Belatedly realizing the horror, Volkswagen tried to cover up by saying

A brand calling women dumb, #sexist saying they do not have real driving experience, is another fail and deliberately using #PunIntended, is yet another fail.

Lesson

Do not take negative comments and feedbacks personally and most of all, never get angry and lash out foolishly—you will pay a huge price for it later

Brands that try to hide their negative feedbacks or ignore them, especially in a medium as transparent as social media only go down infamous. Moreover, many brands are finding this out the hard way. In addition, at the end, better apologize than running away!

Case Study 12.6: The Curious Case of the Audi at Midnight

Vishal Gondal, CEO of Indiagames and managing director of DisneyUTV Digital, had given his Audi Q7 for service in an authorized Audi service station at Kalina. On November 23, 2012, Friday at around 3.30am, he received an automated message from his TechnoPurple GPS tracker that his Batmobile is being taken for a joyride. The reports generated by the tracking software helped in verifying the route and the stoppages of the car. An online map indicated that his car was driven from Kalina to Juhu, Marine Drive, Ghatkopar, Chembur, and Kurla. Moreover, the car was stopped in a scrapyard for a short while.

Being a very influential social media person, he updated on his Facebook and Twitter profiles, including Audi India’s Twitter account, promptly, replete with every location the car went to. However, the timely response cost Audi badly. It replied after a long 3 hours; by which time, BMW grabbed the opportunity and presented Gondal with a Mini Cooper as a comfort car for a few days.

When customers, connect with a brand on its social media site, they expect an immediate reply and an honest reply. A delay in reply and manipulation of the truth can make your case worse on social media.

Source of Images: From Omkar’s Blog:

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