As most marketers are well aware, when consumers have trust in a brand the products associated with this brand are capable of delivering higher margins than the competition and sustaining adverse economic conditions without loss of their market share. Unless consumers consider a product/service to be a commodity, or choices are limited by regulatory authorities, brand reputation often outweighs price considerations.
Historically, brands managed their reputation mostly by means of PR and advertising efforts. However, with the advent of Social Customer these efforts became much less effective.
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As more customers become publically vocal about their experiences many brands started to see their reputation as being threatened. Since publically expressed sentiments often do not match customer satisfaction data collected by a company, it easy to adopt a defensive attitude toward social media word of mouth. Some marketers feel that social customers are there to rant and most of the online feedback is negative. The data does not support this theory – of over 49 million reviews for products left on Amazon, the median Liekert score is 3.78 (out of 5). The analysis of customer reviews posted on Yelp and TripAdvisor provides similar results.
Here are few ideas for managing brand reputation in the Age of Social Consumer:
- Accept that you cannot control customer behavior. Word of Mouth has been around for a very long time. In the past, very few people could hear it and it was easy to out scream it with paid PR. You cannot control it anymore. The more you try the more your brand reputation suffers. If , or should I say when, you get caught manipulating Word of Mouth, it will damage your brand reputation a lot more than a bad review.
- The best way to improve the social reputation of a brand is not to hunt and attempt to destroy the negative comments of customers who were disappointed with their experience. The best practice is to understand the root cause of their disappointment and correct underlying problems with your product or service. If you do that and let them know publicly, the social reputation of your brand will soar.
- Most negative reviews point businesses to ways of improving their offers. They also help consumers decide if negative comments resonate with their own expectations or not. Consumers are smart enough to understand a difference between legitimate grievance and angry rant.
- Public sentiment, regardless the measurement scale, may not match your internal Customer Satisfaction or NPS® scores, but they often correlate. Most importantly, consumers trust social sentiment more than a brand’s internal metrics. Resistance is futile and amounts to the Ostrich Strategy.